MINNEAPOLIS - It’s been a big week for University of Minnesota men’s basketball coach Ben Johnson as he aims to revamp the backcourt after the departures of Payton Willis, Luke Loewe and E.J. Stephens from last year’s roster.
On Monday, Johnson got a verbal commitment from Darmouth graduate transfer guard Taurus Samuels. He’s 6-1, 190 pounds and averaged 9.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 23 starts last season. Samuels scored 22 points in a game against Stanford and had 23 points against Georgetown in his notable games last season.
He started 53 career games for Dartmouth, and gives the Gophers depth at guard for next season.
In late April, Johnson announced the addition of Morehead State’s Ta’Lon Cooper, who will likely be the starting point guard for the Gophers next season. At 6-4 and 190 pounds, Cooper was seventh in the nation with nearly six assists per game last season. He was a First Team All-Ohio Valley pick last year after averaging 33.9 minutes, 9.1 points and 5.9 assists per game.
"That was huge. That was a guy that you watched on film and we targeted right away. He fits everything we needed. He is everything you want in a lead guard. He’s just a hoops junkie," Johnson said last week.
Monday night, Johnson spoke with Fox 9 Sports Director Jim Rich as the Gophers Coaches Caravan, which also included football coach PJ Fleck and volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon, started its 2022 stretch at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska. Johnson could not speak directly about Samuels, as he's not yet officially signed.
The Gophers’ backcourt for the 2022-23 season will now feature veterans in Samuels and Cooper, and newcomers in freshmen Braeden Carrington and Jaden Henley. Carrington is likely a shooting guard after leading Park Center to a state championship as a lead guard, and Henley could be relied on early as a combo guard.
Samuels and Cooper join Dawson Garcia as additions for Minnesota through the NCAA transfer portal. Johnson still technically has two scholarships available for next season, but that becomes one when Samuels officially signs. It’s unlikely Johnson uses the last scholarship for the upcoming season. The Gophers will have 12 scholarship players once Samuels signs.