If there is one thing new Gophers men's basketball coach Ben Johnson prides himself on, it is definitely shooting the basketball.
The former Gophers guard led the team in three-point and free throw percentage and shot 39.2% from beyond the arc in his U career from 2002-04.
One of the areas where the Gophers are most likely to improve is three-point shooting. It probably couldn't get any worse.
Last season, Minnesota set a program record in futility by shooting 28.4% from three-point range. The worst single-season mark in school history ranked 339th out of 347 Division I teams in 2020-21, including last among high-major programs.
"I think Ben Johnson did a great job in the transfer portal of grabbing shooters," Gophers guard Payton Willis said this fall. "Basically, everybody on our team can shoot."
Willis, a 6-4 senior, is coming off his best season from beyond the arc at 40% for College Charleston last season, including 13 games with at least two threes. In his last stint in Minnesota, he shot 35.6% from long distance in 2019-20, including seven games with four threes or more.
Joining the Gophers from the portal was also William & Mary's Luke Loewe and Lafayette's Eylijah Stephens, who had seasons of 43.9% and 37.1% shooting from three earlier in their career. There was a drop off last season, but they've been given the green light from Johnson to let it fly.
Freshmen Abdoulaye Thiam and Treyton Thompson have been shooting with confidence in practice. The 6-11 Thompson has impressive range for his size. And Thiam comes in with strong credentials after knocking down 54.4% from three-point in junior college last season.
One of the top shooting newcomers in the Big Ten is sophomore forward Jamison Battle from George Washington. The 6-7, 225-pound former DeLaSalle standout set school freshmen records and led the Atlantic-10 with 89 threes on 243 attempts (36.6%) in 2019-20.
"Treyton Thompson and Jamison Battle will be X-factors at that forward position being able to stretch the floor," Willis said. "That can bring that second big man out of the paint."
Willis expects to be the team's best shooter this season, but he definitely recognizes that talent isn't limited to just himself.
The first opportunity the Gophers will get to show off their shooting prowess in front of fans will be the Nov. 1 exhibition against Concordia-St. Paul at Williams Arena.
"I'm always going with myself," Willis said in a three-point contest. "But Jamison, Luke, E.J., Abdoulaye can shoot it very well. Everybody on the team can shoot, so there will be a lot of outside shots being knocked down this season."