Four-star basketball recruit from Kentucky talks second Gophers visit

For the second time this offseason, Gophers basketball coach Ben Johnson and his staff hosted four-star Kentucky forward E.J. Walker on an unofficial visit.

The 6-8, 220-pound junior at Lloyd Memorial (Ky.) spent last weekend with the Gophers, which included attending the Eastern Michigan football win Saturday.

"I had a good visit," Walker told the Star Tribune. "The football game was a lot of fun. Enjoyed watching practice as well."

After receiving a scholarship offer from the Gophers in October, Walker and his family followed Johnson's program and visited the U for the first time in early June. They were able to spend more time with the staff and players on the second trip to Minnesota recently.

"I got to know [assistant coach Dave] Thorson more and took a tour of the campus," Walker said. "I also hung out with the players this time."

The aspect that most stood out for Walker about the Gophers is Johnson and his staff. That includes assistant Jason Kemp, who flew to Kentucky to see Walker's high school workout this week.

"They're real big on relationships and family atmosphere," Walker said earlier. "I like what Coach Johnson does with his hybrid [power forward] position."

One of the top power forwards in the 2025 class, Walker has other Big Ten offers from Ohio State, Purdue, and Wisconsin. He's also being recruited by Xavier, Notre Dame, Iowa, Tennessee and Arkansas.

The Gophers are likely done recruiting high school players for the 2024 class with Cherry guard Isaac Asuma and Alexandria forward Grayson Grove expected to sign in November.

But Johnson and his staff are working hard on landing their first commitment in the 2025 class, especially recruiting outside of the state. No juniors from Minnesota have offers from the home state program, but the Gophers have offered 10 players in the class from eight different states.

IMG Academy (Fla.) four-star forward Amari Allen visited the Gophers unofficially in August. Three-star 7-2 Brewster Academy (N.H.) center Daniel Jacobsen enjoyed his official visit with the Gophers last month, which included attending the football opening win vs. Nebraska.

Non-conference schedule set

The Gophers secured their final opponent for the 2023-24 nonconference schedule, which will be a Dec. 9 matchup with Florida Gulf Coast.

Florida Gulf Coast is led by former Penn State coach Pat Chambers, who went 17-15 in his first season with the program in 2022-23. The Eagles were known as "Dunk City" when current USC coach Andy Enfield made a Sweet 16 run in 2013. They last made the NCAA tournament with East Carolina's Joe Dooley in 2016 and 2017.

The highlight of Gophers' non-league slate will be a Nov. 16 game vs. Missouri at Williams Arena, which was part of a home-and-home agreement to also be played in Columbia in the 2024-25 season.

The Gophers begin the regular season Nov. 6 against Bethune Cookman at Williams Arena. Prior to the opener, they'll host Division III Macalester on Nov. 2 in an exhibition game.