Ben Johnson Landed Macalester Transfer Caleb Williams for Free

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Minnesota
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Johnson and the Minnesota Gophers basketball program are facing a challenging offseason, with several key players departing for the transfer portal for massive NIL deals elsewhere.

Amidst the setbacks, Ben is trying to backfill with as much talent as he possibly can. But in a recruiting world that cares more about the bottom dollar than it does player/coach relationships, that’s a much more difficult task than it might seem.

Ben Johnson, Minnesota Gophers land Macalester phenom Caleb Williams

But recently, the Minnesota Gophers landed a commitment from Caleb Williams, a standout point guard from Macalester College in St. Paul, one of the better players Division III basketball ‘in the country last season.

He averaged 20 points, 4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game last season, a comparable statline to his career at Macalester. You might recall Williams from his impressive exhibition performance at Williams Arena against the Gophers last season, where he scored a shocking 41 points.

How much NIL money was needed for Gophers to land Caleb Williams?

NIL has become a pivotal aspect of recruiting in today’s college basketball scene and recent reports indicate that the Gophers basketball program is struggling with limited resources to attract top talent. It’s a serious problem that Ben Johnson must get figured out, if he wants to keep his job.

Lucky for the 3-year head coach, Caleb Williams was willing to jump across the river and play with the Gophers for free. According to Charley Walter of the Pioneer Press, Williams simply felt at ease and preferred to remain close to home. Merry Christmas, Ben.

Incoming Gophers guard Caleb Williams, the 6-2 transfer who on Saturday was to graduate from Macalester with a double-major in mathematics and physics, is considering a masters program emphasizing mathematics and business for his final season at Minnesota. He had several transfer opportunities out of the NCAA portal.

“When I was on campus, everybody I talked to was really down to earth, and that made it easy to make a decision,” said Williams, 22, who scored 41 points against the Gophers in an exhibition game last season. “You automatically trust the people you’re talking to — it was a sense of comfort. And, wanting to stay home. It’s a great area and great basketball state.”

A NIL deal isn’t expected to be part of Williams’ transfer.

Charley Walters reporting on Minnesota Gophers transfer Caleb Williams

While it’s hard to know how talent from the DIII level will translate, I have no doubt that Williams did have plenty of power-4 options out of the portal, and at least a few probably had decent NIL opportunities. So if Ben Johnson was able to get him for free, then all the better.

Related: Gophers Receive Transfer Commitment from Oregon Guard

And according to Ryan James (247Sports), Caleb is an even better person than he is basketball player. He gets good grades and he’ll do the team’s laundry, if that is what’s required of him.

As good as Williams is on the floor, he’s even better off the floor.  This is a young man who did the team laundry after games and after practice.  He was named an Academic All-American for the second year in a row by the College Sports Communicators. Williams was included on the third team this year and was a first team selection a year ago. Caleb was a physics and mathematics double major at Macalester with a 3.94 grade point average through the Fall 2023 semester.

Ryan James – 247Sports

Unfortunately, Caleb’s commitment doesn’t solve the overarching problem that faces this men’s basketball program, which is an extremely limited NIL budget. An NIL budget that is reportedly four times smaller than that of Purdue and Illinois.

Ben may be proving himself nimble, given his available funds. Williams isn’t the only NIL worthy college basketball player that he has gotten for free (the other is NIL ineligible).

Related: Charlotte PG Lu’Cye Patterson Transferring to Hometown Gophers

So, congrats Ben. You secured a (hopefully) underrated talent out of the portal, for free. What a coup. Now, find some more money so you can pay to put some better pieces alongside Caleb, Dawson Garcia and Parker Fox. It’s a pivotal moment in Minnesota men’s basketball history, and in Johnson’s coaching tenure.

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