Newly hired Gophers men's basketball coach Ben Johnson landed two graduate transfer guards within hours of each other Friday, in Lafayette's E.J. Stephens and William & Mary's Luke Loewe.
Stephens, a 6-foot-3 senior from Plantation, Fla., averaged 16.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists last season. He was an All-Patriot League second-team selection.
Loewe, a 6-4 senior from Fond du Lac, Wis., averaged 16.2 points, 3.2 assists and 1.4 steals last season. He was a second-team All-Colonial Athletic Association selection and made the league's all-defensive team.
"I got a chance to talk with Coach Johnson about what he plans to do with the program and how he's trying to build it up the right way," Loewe told the Star Tribune. "I definitely felt like I found the situation I was looking for in Minnesota."
The NCAA is granting an extra year of eligibility to athletes during the pandemic, which would allow Loewe and Stephens to play fifth seasons of college basketball in 2021-22.
This past season, Loewe scored 20 or more points five times, including a career-high tying 27 points on Jan. 2 vs. Hofstra. He also led the Colonial league in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2).
"Coach Johnson is bringing in some guys," Loewe said. "I bring solid experience to the table playing college basketball for four years. I enjoy playing defense as much as offense, so I'm certainly looking forward to taking on that challenge in the Big Ten."
Stephens, who had two 30-point games last season and ranked second in the Patriot League in free throw shooting percentage (90.4), also sees himself as a two-way player and able to play both point guard and shooting guard for the Gophers.
On Thursday night, Stephens was sold on playing for Johnson after receiving a scholarship offer during a video call.
"I knew where I wanted to be," Stephens said Friday. "I love the vision he has. Getting a master's degree and playing at a higher level is definitely something I was looking for. The Big Ten is the best conference in college basketball. The opportunity to play at that level and showcase my talents, trying to put Minnesota basketball back on the map is something I'm looking forward to."
The Gophers have had six players enter the transfer portal since coach Richard Pitino was fired, but Johnson has landed three new players, including George Washington transfer and former DeLaSalle standout Jamison Battle.