The hiring of Ben Johnson appears to be sitting well enough among some former Gophers basketball player that they're trying to give him an assist in recruiting — or at least trying to keep Chet Holmgren, the nation's top recruiting target, from leaving Minnesota for college.
Mychal Thompson, the Gophers' star center from the 1970s, wants Holmgren to be the Gophers' star center of the 2020s. He set things off Sunday with this:
That set off a barrage of likes and retweets from fans ... and from Timberwolves TV analyst Jim Peterson, a Gophers star from the 1980s:
Here's the reality check: Holmgren, the 7-foot center who attends Minnehaha Academy, has included Minnesota among the schools he's considering. But it is generally seen a courtesy, and that Gonzaga is the favorite to get him. He would be the latest of the highest-profile Minnesota prep basketball players: Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga), Tre and Tyus Jones (Duke), Paige Bueckers (UConn) and Matthew Hurt (Duke) to leave the state for a bigger-name program.
The challenge for Johnson and for women's coach Lindsay Whalen, as has been frequently noted, is as much to get the next level of Minnesota players from following that lead and leaving the state.
Their predecessors, Richard Pitino and Marlene Stollings, were viewed as not building the relationships needed to keep Minnesota players from going elsewhere, which has been all the more noteworthy with the Gophers being the only Division I basketball program in the state — at least until later this year when they are joined by St. Thomas.
And Gonzaga, of course, is heading into the NCAA men's Elite Eight as the favorite to win the men's national title. It has won every game this season by double-digit margins. The Zags have become the strongest magnet for the nation's top recruits.
Meanwhile, the Gophers still need to become the strongest magnet in Minnesota.
And, as social media typically does, some fans provided a reality check on Thompson's enthusiasm with this. . .
this . . .
and, of course, this one . . .