Richard Pitino’s future frontcourt officially joined the Gophers men’s basketball team by inking their letters of intent to start the late signing day period Wednesday.
Drake center Liam Robbins and Western Michigan forward Brandon Johnson were two of the top transfers in the portal when they committed to play for Pitino earlier this month. Robbins is filing a waiver to play next season, while Johnson is immediately eligible.
“We set out to add some important pieces to our front court and felt like we did that with both guys,” Pitino said in a statement. “We expect both student-athletes to make an immediate impact on and off the court.”
Robbins, a 7-foot, 240-poud Davenport, Iowa native, averaged 14.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.9 blocks as a sophomore during the 2019-20 season. The All-Missouri Valley second team big man ranked fifth in the nation in blocks. He’s the nephew of Gophers assistant Ed Conroy, and the cousin of walk-on guard Hunt Conroy.
“Liam is dominant on the low block but can also step out and stretch the defense,” Pitino said.
A day after Robbins announced he was entering the transfer portal, he committed to the Gophers. But he received calls from more than 25 schools, including high-profile programs such as Kentucky and Louisville. He was humbled by the interest in him.
Robbins came a long way from having zero scholarship offers after his senior year at Assumption High School in Davenport. At the time, he had grown eight inches in two years to 6-11 and weighed nearly 300 pounds.
"I weighed quite a bit," Robbins said. "I went to Sunrise [Christian Academy]. My uncles helped to get me there. They knew the coaching staff and some people there. The coaches there were terrific developing me and getting me ready to make the Division I jump."
The 6-foot-8, 220-pound Johnson is a graduate transfer who averaged 15.4 points, 8.1 rebounds as a junior last season. The Chicago native also had 92 starts during his three years at Western Michigan.
“Brandon provides a great inside-out attack offensively,” Pitino said in a statement. “He’s tough and physical. His motor never stops running. He will be ready to compete in the Big Ten from Day 1.”
Johnson considered schools such as Dayton, Cincinnati and UConn, but the Gophers provided him the best chance to have an immediate impact on a potential NCAA tournament team.
"I believe in hard work," Johnson said. "Every day, I’m going to strive to do my best to help my team get there to reach our goal. My whole college career, I’ve been dreaming about making the NCAA tournament. Now I feel like I have a great chance of doing that. I feel like there’s noting that’s going to be able to slow me down or stop me to help my team get there."
Robbins and Johnson join Pitino’s 2020 recruiting class, which already includes four-star high school recruits Jamal Mashburn Jr. from Brewster Academy (N.H.) and Martice Mitchell from Chicago Heights Bloom.
The Gophers have one more scholarship remaining for next season. They are looking to fill a key spot on the wing after junior guard Payton Willis announced he was transferring from the Gophers last week. Willis said Tuesday he would play for the College of Charleston (S.C.) next season.