The Gophers men's basketball roster is going to feature a lot of new faces next season, with several players departing to the transfer portal after Richard Pitino's dismissal and several others joining the team via the portal after new coach Ben Johnson was hired.
One face on the team that should be both new and familiar to local basketball fans: Jamison Battle.
After a breakout sophomore season at George Washington during which he averaged 17 points and five rebounds, Battle — who wasn't recruited by the Gophers out of high school — announced recently he is transferring back home to play for Minnesota. He will be eligible immediately and should help Johnson's Gophers team both on the court and off.
Battle, a 6-7, 225 pound forward, was a guest on Friday's Daily Delivery podcast. Gophers men's basketball beat writer Marcus Fuller and I asked him several questions on a wide variety of subjects.
If you don't see the podcast player, click here to listen.
Among the things I was most struck by:
*Even though Battle wasn't offered a scholarship out of high school by the Gophers — most of his interest was from mid-major programs — he has a strong relationship with Johnson on multiple levels. That helped influence his decision to transfer back to Minnesota, as did the knowledge that the NCAA was going to pass a rule to give college players one transfer without a loss of eligibility.
"It just worked out. Ben was recruiting me. He was one of the first calls I took when he was at Xavier, and then him coming to Minnesota just made it sweeter," Battle said. "I had built a relationship because he was actually the first coach that came and watched me in open gym, I think it was in 10th grade when I was at Benilde, and it kind of just shows that the relationship we had continued to build. I'm excited for where this program is going to go."
*Some local athletes don't want to play for the Gophers because they feel like there will be too much pressure. Battle has a handle on that and welcomes it.
"Obviously there are going to be a lot of eyes on me being from Minnesota," he said. "So I think there is added pressure, yes, but I think it's just how people handle the pressure. You can't let that pressure get to you just because you have people watching you and just because you're from the state. I know I want to make the state proud, and I think it's something I look forward to."
*I wanted to get his take on a proposed law — The College Athlete Economic Freedom Act — that would allow college athletes to make money off of their name, image and likeness. Turns out Battle is very well-versed in the concept.
"I'm actually in a sports management class at (George Washington) that I'm just finishing up and that was our final project, talking about name image and likeness," he said. "What a lot of people don't understand is that it's not schools paying you. You can go in, talk with business, talk with shoe companies who are outside, and sign endorsements. That's something that I would like to see. As a college athlete there's not a lot of time for me to make extra money outside of sports. You're in sports all day or doing classwork all day. If you can promote your name, image and likeness I think it's something that would transform college athletes.
*Battle has varied interests. He has gotten into golf in recent years. He likes to play video games with friends. And in middle school and high school he became a pretty good saxophone player.
"I could pick up a saxophone right now and just start playing, but it's something my mom introduced to me very early," Battle said. "I played the piano before I was in the band in school. It's something I learned to do because you don't want to be one-dimensional. You want to be able to do other things. Music is something to me that's very cool."