Dartmouth grad transfer Taurus Samuels, who announced his commitment to the Gophers men's basketball team Monday, is likely Ben Johnson's last recruit for the 2022-23 season.
The 6-1, 190-pound senior from Oceanside, Calif., averaged 9.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists while starting 23 games in 2021-22.
After visiting over the weekend, Samuels became the fourth player to join the Gophers' incoming class this spring.
The Gophers, who lost their entire backcourt from last season, needed a playmaking combo guard with experience. Samuels scored 22 points against Stanford and 23 points against Georgetown in nonconference play for the Big Green.
"I had a great visit and was blown away," Samuels told the Star Tribune on Monday night. "It means a ton to be a Gopher now and be able to try to help this team win some games next year. It's very exciting to be able to play at that level on that stage."
Samuels, who has started 52 games in his career, said the Gophers talked during his official visit about needing another veteran backcourt presence. Morehead State transfer Ta'Lon Cooper signed last month, but the other guards on the roster are freshmen Braeden Carrington and Jaden Henley.
"I'm excited to go in and use my experience to help the team," Samuels said. "I think it's a great mix. You've got two transfers and experienced guards coming in, matching with two good young guards who are ready to get after it at the college level. I think it will be a good balance. That's what [Johnson] was trying to do."
Johnson, who also signed former Prior Lake star and North Carolina transfer Dawson Garcia last month, finished 13-17 in his first year last season. His starting backcourt of Payton Willis, Luke Loewe, and E.J. Stephens are out of eligibility. So is senior sixth man Sean Sutherlin. And freshman guard Abdoulaye Thiam entered the transfer portal.
No guard on scholarship next season will have experience playing in the Big Ten. But Cooper, Samuels, Henley and Carrington will all likely get opportunities to make an impact as newcomers.
A three-star recruit out of Vista High School in Southern California in 2018, Samuels played in all 30 games and averaged 16.4 minutes at Dartmouth as a freshman. In 2019-20, he averaged 8.4 points and ranked second on the team with 60 assists while starting 28 games.
Two years ago, Ivy League winter sports shut down for his entire junior season during the pandemic, but Samuels now gets that COVID year back. And he's eager to test himself at a higher level.
Cooper, who ranked seventh in Division I with 5.9 assists per game last season, is a strong candidate to be the U's starting point guard. Samuels said he's been primarily a floor general since high school, but he's comfortable moving to the off guard spot with the Gophers as well.
"With my size I think naturally I go to that point guard position," Samuels said. "But I feel like my IQ is high enough where I can play on and off the ball. I really just want to try and come in and help the team any way I can."
The Gophers haven't signed Samuels officially yet, so they have 11 scholarship players on the 2022-23 roster. Johnson said Monday at an event in Chaska they don't feel pressured to fill the last two open spots for next season.
"We have probably two [scholarships] that we could technically use," said Johnson, who couldn't talk about Samuels until he signs. "But if at least you get that [backcourt] piece you don't have to do that."