In Ben Johnson’s opening press conference, Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune asked him about when he is going to start making the necessary phone calls to recruits. Johnson smiles and says,
“We’ve already made those calls, Chip.”
As soon as the plane landed, phone calls to recruits were being made. There is zero doubt that a significant reason that Johnson was hired was because of his recruiting ability and reputation within the state of Minnesota.
TDG has already given you a look at Johnson’s strengths & question marks. We’ve looked at the current roster that will have to be re-recruited. I’ll break this post into 3 sections. We will look at the 2021 class, the transfer portal and then the 2022 class.
But first it is important to know how many scholarships Johnson will have to work with. This is, of course, very fluid because it is unknown which guys on the current roster will stick around and who will transfer. I think I can comfortably predict that Johnson will have at least 5 scholarships available right now. Assuming Curry, Omersa, Carr, Mutaf, Kenny Pohto and Martice Mitchell are not back next year, that leaves the team with 5 and assumes everybody else is going to return (which is not likely). The point is that there will be plenty of available scholarships NOW and likely 9 or 10 to use between this year and next year.
So Coach Johnson has some recruiting to do!
Class of 2021
It is late in the game for recruiting this 2021 class. The spring signing period will be here shortly and most of the class signed their letters of intent back in November. But here are some names to watch.
- Chet Holmgren - You know, just the #1 player in the country who is playing for Minnehaha. Holmgren has not officially signed and it is widely accepted that he is going to Gonzaga. But a phone call has been made and I have zero doubt that people advising him will at the very least acknowledge the Ben Johnson is worth listening to. Will he make the last minute decision to be a legacy recruit in Minnesota? Don’t hold your breath, but the chances have gone up in the last few days (even if only slightly).
- Nate Santos - Small forward out of Connecticut who makes this list only because Johnson was his primary recruiter, trying to get Santos to commit to Xavier. Would Santos consider Minnesota based on his relationship with Johnson? It is very possible.
And after that, it becomes really hard to speculate who else will be pursued this late in the cycle.
With few high school options really out there, the transfer portal is where things will be really fun to watch.
- Dawson Garcia - The former Prior Lake power forward chose to go to Marquette out of high school. But Marquette just let go of Steve Wojciechowski and there is some real steam behind Garcia contemplating a move. This would be very exciting. Marquette’s leading scorer and leading rebounder as a freshman...yes, I’ll take him. Note that Garcia has NOT officially entered the transfer portal at this time.
- Jamison Battle - Another Minnesota kid who left and has been excellent. Battle averaged 17.3 ppg for George Washington this past year and IS in the transfer portal. A 6’7” forward for the Colonials who would have 2 years left to play.
- Race Thompson - Spent his career at Indiana but now that they are also looking for a new coach, Thompson has officially entered the transfer portal. While at Minnesota, it was Johnson who was the primary recruiter for Thompson. This PF returning to the Gophers makes some sense.
- Ky Ky Tandy - One of three Xavier players who have entered the transfer portal. Tandy was a Johnson recruit for the Muskateers. A guard who saw his playing time dip a bit as a sophomore and he averaged around 6.6 ppg in both his FR and SO years. This will be on Johnson to decide if Tandy would be a good fit or not.
- CJ Wilcher - Another Xavier guard, Wilcher was a freshman who didn’t play a ton, but perhaps Johnson believes he has a future on a Big Ten team.
- Parker Fox - A D2 player who is a Gopher fan and getting calls from everybody. Led his Northern team with 22 points and 10 rebounds per game as a 6’8” forward. Steam is picking up that Fox will be a Gopher.
More names will most certainly pop up in the next couple weeks. But this is a good start. I would not at all be surprised to see a point guard get added as soo as possible. And then don’t be surprised to see a couple Minnesota Dudes returning, which will be intentional to start creating a culture of Minnesota Dudes.
Class of 2022
This is where the real building happens. Internally we have been discussing the 2022 class a little bit and how this is a very real opportunity to build the foundation for success for this program. Can this be a hoops Empire class?
Johnson will have plenty of available scholarships and there is plenty of quality talent available within minutes of campus (maybe an hour or two). Here are the seven local names to watch.
1 - Tre Holloman (55th overall)
High School: Cretin Derham Hall
Point guard is always a need and Holloman learning under Johnson would be fun. But this kid is very good and would be a huge priority regardless of who the head coach was. Michigan St, Nebraska, Indiana and Baylor are strong considerations for Holloman.
2 - Eli King (76)
Pos: Combo guard
High School: Caladonia
Ryan James of GopherIllustrated tweeted that King has been called and re-offered. Very athletic and talented kid who could also be playing football at the next level.
3 - Ahjanny Lee (85)
High School: Byron (Go Bears!)
Small town, near Rochester but Lee has offers from Iowa, Kansas and Minnesota.
4 - Camden Heide (97)
High School: Wayzata
Assumed to be a Purdue leaning player. But with Johnson in town, perhaps the skilled forward will end up at The Barn.
5 - Damarion Watson-Saulsberry (109)
High School: Totino Grace
Also offered at Xavier and Watson-Saulsberry has stated that he has a relationship with Johnson already. He has been contacted by Johnson.
6 - Kendall Blue (122)
High School: East Ridge
Currently not offered by Minnesota or any P5 programs, but we are early in the 2022 recruiting process.
7 - SG - Prince Aligbe (125)
High School: Minnehaha Academy
Playing with some ELITE talent at Minnehaha, Aligbe has quite a few P5 offers, including the Gophers.
8 - Braedon Carrington (nr)
High School: Park Center
Not ranked currently, zero stars but has been contacted by Johnson.
You can see that there is a diverse group of players in this class. Are they going to come together and become a class that builds a base for Minnesota to become a great Big Ten program? Are they going to be the first group to stay home and create that culture?
Not exactly their responsibility, but perhaps they’ll be sold on playing for Johnson and wearing the maroon and gold. This class has the chance to set the tone for Johnson’s tenure with the Gophers.