Minnesota’s Ben Johnson is Reloading for Year Two in the Big Ten
Despite departing eight seniors who combined for an average of 21.1 minutes per game, second-year Minnesota head coach Ben Johnson has provided reinforcements through the transfer portal to team up with the Gophers’ leading scorer and rebounder in Jamison Battle. The goal will be simple for Minnesota this upcoming season as they look to improve on their dead-last Big Ten finish from year one of the Johnson era with the big question being will they have the talent to at least compete?
While this year’s squad certainly won’t have the depth that last season’s roster maintained, Johnson has added three pieces with different but key abilities in an all-conference selection, a former top-100 prospect, and an experienced league leader.
Minnesota Transfer Additions:
TAURUS SAMUELS, DARTMOUTH
9.4 PPG / 2.1 RPG / 1.7 APG
TA’LON COOPER, MOREHEAD STATE
9.1 PPG / 4.5 RPG / 5.9 APG
DAWSON GARCIA, NORTH CAROLINA
9 PPG / 5.5 RPG / .7 APG
First to announce their arrival at Williams Arena was Dawson Garcia, a former top-35 recruit with the class of 2020 who spent his freshman season at Marquette averaging 13 PPG and 6.6 rebounds before transferring to UNC for his sophomore season. In year one, Garcia would earn Big-East All-Freshman honors but following that was only able to participate in half of the 2021-22 season due to a family medical issue. Now, Garcia is back in his native Minnesota having grown up in Prior Lake and will provide the Gophers with a versatile and athletic forward who can score, rebound, and defend effectively.
However, this being Garcia’s second transfer in three seasons means he’ll require a waiver from the NCAA to be immediately eligible to participate in the 2022-23 season. But with the official report being he left UNC due to a family medical issue and is now transferring to the school closest to his family, some have suggested this shouldn’t be an issue.
Joining Garcia just days after was Ta’Lon Cooper following a standout season for the Eagles in which he earned a 2021-22 All-OVC selection before an addition to the 2022 All-OVC tournament team. With Minnesota’s biggest need entering this offseason being a ball-handling point guard, Cooper was the perfect fit having averaged an OVC-leading 5.9 APG last season which was also the seventh highest in the nation.
Rounding out the trio of transfers was Taurus Samuels, a two-year starter from Dartmouth who can score effectively and will bring a huge veteran presence to what was essentially an empty Gophers’ backcourt at the start of this offseason. While certainly not the biggest name added to the squad, Samuels has shown his consistency over his three seasons with the Big Green while also bringing flashes of massive talent best highlighted by a 23-point, 5 rebound performance against Georgetown and a 22-point, 6 rebounds, 2 assists showing over Stanford both in 2021.
There are some moving pieces that’ll still need to be sorted out, namely Garcia’s waiver matter and also the potential for Johnson to add another transfer only having 12 scholarship players on the roster. Despite expectations that the Gophers may look to add another big-man (perhaps former Georgia, Hofstra, and LIU standout Isaac Kante?) here is TPR’s projection for next year’s Minnesota starting 5 based on the current roster.
TPR’s Projected Lineup for Minnesota:
Ta’Lon Cooper, G
Taurus Samuels, G
Jamison Battle, F
Dawson Garcia, F
Treyton Thompson, C