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Transfer portal losses sting Gophers men’s basketball program

The Gophers men’s basketball team gained two players and lost one via the NCAA transfer portal on Wednesday, but beside simple math, it’s hard to see how the U roster got better this week or over the past six weeks.

Shooting guard Cam Christie, member of the all-Big Ten freshman team a year ago, entered the portal on the final day of the window, while guards Caleb Williams (Macalester) and Femi Odukale (New Mexico State) committed to Minnesota.

Christie stated three weeks ago he would explore the NBA draft while maintaining his collegiate eligibility, so he had already stepped one foot out the door. His exit might have been inevitable at that point, but Wednesday’s news eliminates nearly all hope of a potential return for a high-scoring sophomore season.

Christie wasn’t the only player to change his mind. Starting point guard Elijah Hawkins reversed course in April, entering the portal after saying he would return for next season. He committed to Texas Tech this week.

With center Pharrel Payne entering the portal in late March and committing to Texas A&M in April, the Gophers have lost 60 percent of last year’s starting lineup. The opportunity to make more money via name, image and likeness (NIL) deals was believed to be in play for Hawkins and Payne.

The Gophers’ all-Big Ten forward Dawson Garcia and starting guard Mike Mitchell will return for their senior seasons.

With that top-end turnover, national media outlets have put together articles on transfer portal’s “winners and losers,” with the Gophers mentioned on the short end of the stick.

The Gophers’ bench got a boost with sixth man Parker Fox coming back for a seventh collegiate season. Young forward Kayden Betts is also returning, but reserves Josh Ola-Joseph, Braeden Carrington, Isaiah Ihnen and Kris Keinys each entered the portal.

None of those exits move the needle back a ton. Ola-Joseph signed with California and Ihnen with Liberty, while the other two have not yet found new homes.

The biggest (and potentially best) portal addition is Frank Mitchell, a 6-foot-8 forward from Canisius. He was a monster rebounder at the mid-major level a year ago.

“He does a phenomenal job in the paint and has a great feel for the game,” Gophers head coach Ben Johnson said in a statement. “His ability, both offensively and defensively, translates to winning. Frank was one of the best rebounders in the country last season and can easily go and get a double-double. He has the will, the fight and the competitive motor we were looking for in a player. “

The next-best addition appears to be Brennan Rigsby, a 6-foot-4 guard from Oregon. “I love that he can shoot and score, makes great decisions with the ball, and has good size,” Johnson shared.

The U will bring in two freshmen, guard Isaac Asuma, a Cherry, Minn., native who could see an increased role with Hawkins gone, and forward Grayson Grove from Alexandria, Minn.

The Gophers still have three open scholarships, and while the portal closed to new entries on Wednesday, players picking new schools can take their time to find new homes.

Minnesota will do what it can to improve before next season starts, but it has been a rough stretch since Michigan State coach Tom Izzo projected on March 14 that the U could be a top team in the Big Ten next season — if the Gophers kept the roster intact.

Projected Gophers roster for 2024-25 season

Starters

F — Dawson Garcia*

F — Frank Mitchell

F — Parker Fox*

G — Mike Mitchell Jr.*

G — Brennan Rigsby

Bench

G — Isaac Asuma

F — Femi Odukale

F — Kayden Betts*

G — Caleb Williams

F — Grayson Grove

* — returning player

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