To say this is a new era for basketball at the University of Minnesota would be an understatement heading into its season opener at home on Tuesday against Kansas City.
It’s a challenge to find anything at all that’s returning for the Golden Gophers from last season following an offseason that saw Richard Pitino get fired as head coach and star guard Marcus Carr headline seven players that transferred from the program.
Replacing Pitino is former Minnesota standout Ben Johnson, who spent the previous three seasons as an assistant coach at Xavier.
“I’ve got a different team, but a team that I love,” Johnson said at Big Ten Media Days. “A team that every day comes ready to work with the right attitude, the right mindset. We all kind of have that chip on our shoulder. I know we all want to do things that I’m sure a lot of people don’t think we can do, and that’s OK.”
Needing bodies just to fill out the roster, Johnson turned to the same transfer portal that so many players went to in leaving Minnesota after last season.
Forward Jamison Battle arrived at Minnesota after averaging 17.3 points per game last year at George Washington, guard Luke Loewe (16.2 ppg) came from William & Mary, while E.J. Stephens (16.4 ppg) came from Lafayette.
The only player returning that saw extended playing time last year is senior forward/center Eric Curry (3.7 points).
Minnesota hopes to open its new era on a positive note against a Kansas City team that went 7-7 last year in Summit League play.
The Roos were picked to finish sixth in the league’s preseason poll.
Leading the way for Kansas City is junior forward Josiah Allick, who was named to the Summit League’s first team in the preseason.
Allick averaged 15.0 points and 6.0 rebounds last year for the Roos.
“I am happy for Josiah as he proved last year to be one of the most difficult matchups in our league,” said Kansas City head coach Billy Donlon, who is entering his third year as head coach. “He will have to make an even bigger jump this year, and I believe he has worked hard and is ready to make that jump.”
–Field Level Media
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