Since the Gophers men's basketball season ended in early March, Ben Johnson and his staff have been scouring the transfer portal looking for possible additions.
In the meantime, returning players have showed up for individual workouts this week.
Johnson, who finished 9-22 this past season, now knows who he lost to the transfer portal and which players will be back with the team next year, including leading scorer Dawson Garcia.
In a Q&A with the Star Tribune on Thursday, the U's second-year coach touched on topics from his ever-changing roster and NIL impact to transfer portal recruiting. Johnson also highlighted the potential of his freshmen and conversations with four-star incoming recruit Cameron Christie, who will compete in the national high school three-point contest Friday near the site of the Final Four in Houston. The event will be televised noon Sunday on CBS.
Here is the second part of our conversation with Johnson, which has been edited for length.
Q: Do you expect recruit Cameron Christie to make an immediate impact in the backcourt?
A: Yeah, and I think he wants that. I think he's a competitive kid and he's gonna want to come here [play]. So, I've had a lot of talk with him about working on your body. I think that's the biggest thing is for him physically to get strong and work on just fundamentals. He adds a talent. He has size and length. He knows how to play, he has high IQ, and I expect him to come in here and compete and push guys.
Q: Did you think leading scorer Dawson Garcia was playing like one of the best players in the Big Ten at the end of the year?
A: It really does take time to adjust. And I think the five games that he missed [with a foot injury] took him off rhythm. He battled back, and then once he got back again, he got comfortable and into that rhythm. And we saw that's the player that he's capable of being. Now it's about can you be consistent with the details, the intangible things and production? I think those are gonna be his biggest goals. I'm excited to see where he could take it.
Q: Can talented freshman Pharrel Payne become a dominant Big Ten big man next year?
A: I think everything that he experienced with just going against the bigs that were in our league was a great learning curve for him. I thought he really did a good job battling, competing and playing through being banged up and extended minutes and being able to play with and without Dawson. I just think he showed that you know he can be a dominant player. So I expect him to have a really good off-season and be so much more confident going into next year because he experienced so much.
Q: Do you think freshman forward Kadyn Betts will have a big role after redshirting?
A: KB really took advantage of his of his redshirt year. Got stronger, got confident with his game. He understands now how hard you got to play. He's a competitive kid, too. So, he's gonna come in looking at this thing as I'm gonna try to push guys. I don't care if you're a walk-on, freshman, redshirt or grad transfer we're gonna play the guys that earn it. And KB wants to go out there and earn it.
Q: I bet you have to limit how much Parker Fox tries to dunk coming off two knee surgeries?
A: Yeah, he's getting it back. I think it is more on him. You do it a little bit in one workout. And then you push and see if you can do it again in back-to-back workouts. And he's also learning with his body, what he feels comfortable doing at this stage.
Q: Are you also looking to add frontcourt depth for next season in the transfer portal?
A: Yeah, we'll probably go for one in the frontcourt. I think we need that especially for practice purposes. Would definitely look to add one frontcourt guy.
Q: What's the next step for former Minnesota Mr. Basketball Braeden Carrington?
A: The biggest thing is just is getting Braeden back where he's just feeling healthy, so he can have a really good off-season. He was a guy from really beginning to the end was always in and out [injuries and illness]. And he could never get a consistent month of good work in. And I know it was frustrating to him. He's a competitive kid. He's anxious to get back out there when he's feeling good. His ability to shoot the ball I think we saw in the Big 10 tournament. He can be a difference maker.
Q: How about the next step for another freshman, Joshua Ola-Joseph?
A: I think he's really versatile. Can he expand his game a little bit to the perimeter and be a [small forward and power forward] guy? I think that was our talks I've had with him. He loves the game. He's super competitive. I think he's got a bright future, if he again continues to just put his head down and work. And that's working the weight room, too.
Q: Have you met the new women's basketball coach Dawn Plitzuweit?
A: I was actually on the road recruiting when she had her press conference. I think she's been traveling. I was able to text with her the day she got it. Super excited for her. I know she's excited to be here. I've heard nothing but good things about her. Looking forward to working with her. I know we'll catch up once things slow down. I know what my first two months were like. Definitely giving her space. She's trying to keep a team and add to the team — figure this whole deal out.