MINNEAPOLIS - It’s been about two weeks since Ben Johnson was named the new University of Minnesota men’s basketball coach, and he didn’t have to go very far to find his first verbal commitment for the 2021-22 season.
Robbinsdale native and former DeLaSalle standout Jamison Battle spent the last two seasons at George Washington University. He entered the NCAA transfer portal after this past season, and one of the first calls Johnson made after taking over the Gophers was to Battle.
Last week, Battle gave his verbal commitment to Johnson and the Gophers for next season. He’s Johnson’s first commit, and he’s also a Twin Cities native coming back to play for his hometown team.
Battle spoke with Fox 9 Sports Director Jim Rich on Sunday about his decision to come home and play for the Gophers.
"I remember calling him on Monday and he said I was the first person that said I was two feet in, the first person to commit under him. It’s pretty exciting," Battle said. "I’ve known Ben, he was the first coach that actually came and watched me when I was in 10th grade at Benilde-St. Margaret’s."
Johnson’s roster will likely look vastly different than the Minnesota squad that finished 14-15 this past season, resulting in Minnesota parting ways with Richard Pitino. Since the end of the season, Marcus Carr, Jamal Mashburn Jr., Jarvis Omersa, Gabe Kalscheur, Sam Freeman, Martice Mitchell and Tre Williams have all entered the NCAA’s transfer portal.
Isaiah Ihnen and Both Gach are expected to return next season, Kalscheur left open the option to return and the team is waiting on the status of center Liam Robbins.
Last season with George Washington, Battle started 16 games, averaging 17.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game while playing more than 36 minutes per contest. He started 30 of 32 games two seasons ago, and scored 11.8 points per game. In two seasons at George Washington, Battle shot 36.3 percent from the perimeter. It’s something the Gophers need badly after finishing last in the Big Ten in three-point shooting this past season.
Battle says he’s happy to be back home with the Gophers, and excited to play in Williams Arena again.
"You see them play on Big Ten Network, you see them play on ESPN and when you see that and realize I could be eight miles away from my house playing basketball with all my friends and family coming to watch me every game. You see that and you think about it, it’s just cool," Battle said.