Ben Johnson Optimistic that Worst of Gophers’ Transfer Portal Season is Behind Them

ben johnson minnesota gophers
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

As April arrives and the college basketball season nears its end, programs across the country, including the Minnesota Golden Gophers, will turn their attention to the transfer portal. Many players nationwide have already entered the transfer portal, with some even committing to new schools.

That includes key Gophers. In fact, Minnesota’s entire homegrown class of 2022 — which includes Pharrell Payne, Josh Ola Joseph, and Braeden Carrington — have all entered the portal already. Is that a sign of an ugly portal season for head coach Ben Johnson?

Minnesota Gophers head coach Ben Johnson remains optimistic

He says no. Johnson tells Darren “Doogie” Wolfson (KSTP, SKOR North) that, despite the early portal losses, he and his staff remain optimistic that the worst of portal season is behind them and that most of the remaining contributors will return for the 2024-25 season.

“I think it’s easy to say doom and gloom. I think 90% of the country and their programs and their fans say, oh my gosh, we have no chances its doom and gloom, for us to have retained right now four starters, four guys that logged heavy chunk, a heavy load and production… to retain a Parker Fox, who was so influential down the stretch. And we’re gonna be one of the few programs that can do that across the country so we can keep our team intact and return, you know, those core guys and that number of players that play significant minutes, that’s a huge win. So now it’s like how do we get those guys better?

We have an opportunity to have a ton of experience come back and all the player guys have developed significant roles that are older guys are phenomenal things. How do we add to that development and grow to be better? And again, we were a few pieces away from doing that and that exciting part is now okay let’s dive in the portal and let’s let’s figure out and let’s find out you what we have and what we have added, or use this year that we didn’t [last year] and let’s find that. There’s no rule that says we can’t be better than we were this year.

Ben Johnson (interview with Darren Wolfson)

Ben Johnson appears highly energized and optimistic, seemingly assured that everything will work out fine. It’s as if he anticipated losing some players, recognizing it as the current trend where departures are common. In today’s era, one must anticipate such transitions and aim to fill the gaps through the transfer portal.

It’s already been reported that Elijah Hawkins is coming back. Mike Mitchell Jr’s father said a couple of days ago that his son was returning too. And though it was previously reported that Parker Fox was unlikely to come back, Ben Johnson makes it clear in the video above that he’s under the impression Fox is returning for his 7th year of college basketball.

Related: Cam Christie Doesn’t Appear Interested in Transfer Portal but NBA Draft is a Real Threat to Gophers

We’ve written about the players the Gophers have already contacted. With hundreds of players in the portal, many with connections to Minnesota, it’ll be intriguing to see who Johnson can recruit to further develop his program.

The Gophers are also welcoming incoming freshman Isaac Asuma from Cherry High School in Minnesota, providing them with additional support in the backcourt. Asuma recently led Cherry to a state title and is rated as a four-star recruit on 247Sports.

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