Editor's note: In college basketball, it’s next season already. The 2019-20 season paused into oblivion, now rosters are building busily for 2020-21. Meet the Gophers men’s and women’s teams, new player after new player.
The sports world might be shut down, but the Gophers men’s basketball roster has been changing rapidly.
Another starter from last season, Payton Willis, announced he was transferring last week, but that same transfer market also landed coach Richard Pitino two key pieces — a 7-foot center from Drake and a 6-8 power forward from Western Michigan.
Add an incoming recruiting class with at least one player, Jamal Mashburn Jr., who could make an immediate impact, and the Gophers will have a decidedly different look, coming off a 15-16 finish.
Keep in mind, Pitino went through a similar roster overhaul last offseason, when three starters came aboard via transfer — Carr, Willis and Alihan Demir — and Amir Coffey declared early for the NBA draft.
How might the newest Gophers pieces fit together next season? Here’s an early look:
Marcus Carr, G, 6-2 junior
The Toronto native scored 35 points against Ohio State and set the single-season school record with 207 assists, but the Gophers were 2-10 when he scored fewer than 12 points.
Outlook: Carr was named co-captain last year. Now this is his team. With more offensive efficiency (after shooting 39% from the field) and more rest (after playing 38 minutes per Big Ten game) he could become one of the top point guards in the country, if he returns.
Jamal Mashburn Jr., G, 6-2 freshman
Mashburn is a different player than his father, an All-America 6-8 forward at Kentucky. But as an all-league guard for Brew- ster Academy (N.H.), the younger Mashburn averaged 11 points on a team with several high-profile prospects.
Outlook: The Gophers still have one scholarship available, so this starting spot is no given. Mashburn should get every opportunity to make an impact with his outside shooting and ball handling to assist Carr.
Gabe Kalscheur, G, 6-4 junior
Five consecutive games scoring under double figures derailed Kalscheur’s potential breakout season. But he finished strong with 26 points and a school-record-tying eight three-pointers against Nebraska in the home finale.
Outlook: Kalscheur might see a jump in his scoring as a junior by attacking the basket and getting to the foul line. He had 15 games with zero free throws in 2019-20.
Brandon Johnson, F, 6-8 senior
Johnson is eligible to play immediately as a graduate transfer. He averaged 15.4 points and 8.1 rebounds this season at Western Michigan and received interest from a number of high-major schools before choosing the Gophers on Thursday.
Outlook: A bit undersized to play center, but his athleticism and length should help him compete inside in the Big Ten. He’ll be the only senior on the roster.
Liam Robbins, C, 7-0 junior
He needs to sit one season under current NCAA undergrad transfer rules but is seeking a waiver. He averaged 14.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.9 blocks this season at Drake, earning second-team All-Missouri Valley Conference honors.
Outlook: Robbins is an ideal replacement for Oturu, but will the NCAA let him play immediately for a team that includes his uncle (associate head coach Ed Conroy) and cousin (walk-on Hunt Conroy)?
Eric Curry, F-C, 6-9 junior
Suffered his third injury setback with a torn anterior cruciate ligament last fall. But in 49 career games, the Memphis native has averaged 10.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per 40 minutes.
Outlook: Expected to be fully cleared this summer. The Gophers won’t rush him back, but he could be ready by the season opener.
Tre’ Williams, G, 6-6 sophomore
Started five games, filling in when Willis was injured. Struggled with field goal efficiency (28%), but he had a season-best 10 points and five rebounds against Northwestern in January.
Outlook: Slashes and scores at the rim like few Gophers can. Could be instant offense off the bench once Pitino unleashes his scoring potential.
Isaiah Ihnen, F, 6-9 sophomore
Transition from Germany took time after a late arrival and wrist injury. The U’s sixth man in the last seven games, he averaged 6.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and shot 12-for-29 from three-point range.
Outlook: Top candidate to see a breakout sophomore year.
Jarvis Omersa, F, 6-7 junior
The Gophers were better when he attacked the glass (7-1 when he grabbed four rebounds or more).
Outlook: Being a reliable scorer might be too much to ask yet, but he still could impact games with his freakish athleticism.
Martice Mitchell, F, 6-10 freshman
An incoming recruit from Chicago Heights Bloom, Mitchell played for a team with five Division I recruits and had seven blocks in one game.
Outlook: He needs to add weight and strength, but Pitino said his potential is “off the charts.”
Sam Freeman, C, 6-10 sophomore
He had a quiet season, but his emphatic fast-break dunk was one of the highlights in the home finale vs. Nebraska.
Outlook: The lone center returning, his playing time could be limited if Robbins is eligible and Curry stays healthy.
Bryan Greenlee, G, 6-0 sophomore
Played only 2.8 minutes per game but has second-highest max vertical on the team at 44 inches.
Outlook: Might help in spots defensively with his athleticism.