New Gophers men's basketball coach Ben Johnson finally is getting some help on the recruiting trail.
Johnson, who was hired last month, officially announced former DeLaSalle coach and Colorado State assistant Dave Thorson and William & Mary's Jason Kemp to his staff on Friday.
But they've already hit the ground running in trying to build the roster together.
Thorson, who coached Johnson in high school in the late 1990s, has spent the last three years at Colorado State under Niko Medved. Kemp has been at William & Mary for the past two seasons, which included coaching new Gophers recruit and graduate transfer Luke Loewe.
On Thursday night, North Dakota transfer Filip Rebraca said he spoke with Johnson and the new Gophers assistants on a video conference call. He's the first recruit to get that opportunity.
"It went really well," Rebraca told the Star Tribune. "I like their plan for my game and development. All of the coaches were very energetic and their vision for the program was great."
Rebraca, a 6-foot-9 junior, has been a hot commodity on the transfer market after averaging 16.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and shooting 37% from three-point range last season for the Fighting Hawks. He's also done Zoom calls with Iowa, Virginia Tech and Tulsa.
"I am looking for a program that has a culture of winning and will allow me to expand my game to the perimeter even more than this past year," Rebraca said. "[The Gophers] plan for me would be to use my versatility at the four and help me develop those skills even further."
North Dakota tried to pull off the upset in December at Williams Arena, but Rebraca's 23 points on 10-for-19 shooting wasn't enough in a 76-67 loss. "I had a nice experience at the Barn this season," he added.
The Gophers have lost seven players to the transfer portal since the end of the season, including center Liam Robbins and guards Marcus Carr, Gabe Kalscheur, Jamal Mashburn Jr. and Tre' Williams.
Johnson was able to land George Washington transfer Jamison Battle, Lafayette transfer E.J. Stephens and Loewe before hiring his staff. Adding them to the mix could get the ball rolling on several others.
Thorson, a Gophers assistant under Clem Haskins from 1990-94, helped Medved turn around Colorado State from 12 wins to 20-12 in 2019-20 and 19-6 last season, including a school record 14 wins in the Mountain West Conference. Thorson was the lead recruiter for former Breck School standout David Roddy, who led the Rams with 15.9 points and 9.4 rebounds as a sophomore to earn All-Mountain West first team honors.
Thorson, 55, won nine state titles in 23 years at DeLaSalle, including with Johnson as a player in 1998 and 1999.
Kemp, a 40-year-old Madison, Wis., native, joined William & Mary as an assistant in 2019-20 when the program went 21-11 and finished second in the Colonial Athletic Association.
In 14 seasons, Kemp also worked at North Dakota State (2007-13), Toledo (2013-14) and Ohio (2014-19). He got his coaching start as an assistant at Minnesota State-Moorhead in 2005-06.
"I am thrilled to add Dave and Jason to our staff," Johnson said Friday in a statement. "These are two exceptional coaches who have strong connections to Minnesota, the Midwest and unique pockets throughout the country. They are outstanding men who care deeply about student-athlete success on and off the court, and they will be tremendous ambassadors for our program, department and University. They believe in our vision – one that is built upon toughness, grit, pride and love of competition – and I look forward to building this program with them."
The third assistant on Johnson's staff is expected to be former Texas A&M associate head coach Jamie McNeilly, who spent more than a decade on Aggies coach Buzz Williams' staff also at Marquette and Virginia Tech.