Today is National Signing Day for basketball and the Gopher program is officially adding 2 local kids to the 2024 class. Ben Johnson has signed 2 in-state athletes, both from northern Minnesota, to his latest class. We covered both of their verbal commitments, but today they officially become Gophers.
Here are your 2 incoming freshmen for the 2024 class.
PG - Isaac Asuma
Verbal Commit article
This program has really struggled to land a reliable and talented, high school point guard since Nate Mason. There is a very good chance that Asuma is finally the answer to this perpetual problem.
Coming to the Gophers from a small town about an hour north of Duluth, Asuma has been a target of the Gopher staff for the last couple of years.
He brings good size (6’3) and strength to the position. He is a floor leader, a smart player, and a kid who will get the Gopher offense into the right spots. He is more wiley and cagey than he is explosive, but don’t mistake that for being slow. It is just the nature of his game.
Asuma is a solid shooter and he will score at this level, but I expect that being the leader of this team in a way that makes everyone else better (and tougher) is going to be his biggest contribution to the program.
This is a great get for Ben Johnson and staff, I look forward to Asuma being a Gopher guard for quite some time. He and Mitchell should share duties next season before Asuma takes over and becomes a real influence on the identity of this team.
PF - Grayson Grove
Verbal Commit article
Grove is the big-man commit of this class and is also a northern MN kid, coming to Minneapolis from Alexandria.
Another commit who is going to be known for toughness, doing the little things, and an asset to the team in all areas of the game. Sneaky athleticism and a high basketball IQ are two prevailing attributes for Grove.
The Class and What Next?
This class brings a couple of very important things to the program and what Ben Johnson is trying to build.
First, these guys are 4-year players in college. This may sound like a negative, but Johnson needs to start building a base, a foundation for the program, guys who are going to be here from one year to the next (and then the next) who can help to forge a program identity. Then the staff has the task of finding dynamic playmakers who continue to improve. But having core players who are solid contributors and leaders are extremely valuable, especially for a developmental program like Minnesota.
Secondly, they are leaders and hard workers. Grove and Asuma are the kind of players who fit that “dudes” mentality that Johnson has spoken of often since he was hired. I really like the current set of “core sophomores” on the roster, they are talented players who will be here for a few years and complement each other well. What I don’t see is that team leader in that group. Again, this is not a negative assessment, those three are valuable to the program in many ways. But Asuma and Grove are going to bring this aspect to the program.
So what is next? Well, the scholarship situation is always fluid and so much less straightforward than it used to be. Officially, all 13 scholarships for next year are accounted for. Technically Isaiah Ihnen and Parker Fox could come back for another season next year, but next year would be the 7th for Fox and the 6th for Ihnen. So it is hard to say if they’ll be back or not. And we live in a world where the only things for certain are death, taxes and the transfer portal messing up your roster.
I’d be very surprised to see the staff adding anybody else to this incoming freshman class, but I do expect you’ll see them active in the portal this spring. Likely looking for a wing scorer and another big man.