With Parker Fox out for season again, what’s next for the Gophers?
MINNEAPOLIS - University of Minnesota men’s basketball coach Ben Johnson made official on Wednesday what was feared earlier this week: Parker Fox is out for the second straight season due to a knee injury.
Johnson told reporters Tuesday Fox suffered an injury to his right knee on Monday in summer workouts. His 2022-23 season is over before it ever got the chance to start.
"We're obviously disappointed for Parker, especially for how hard he worked to get back on the court this year," Johnson said. "We're here to support him in any way we can as he moves forward in this recovery process."
Fox, a 6-8, 220-pound power forward and former Mahtomedi standout, transferred to Minnesota last year after being named a Division II All-American at Northern State. He had interest from several Division I schools across the country, and picked the Gophers. He missed all of last season with a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee, suffered shortly before announcing his commitment to Minnesota.
Fox didn’t play last year, but was practicing with the team by the end of the season and showing off his bounce with athletic dunks before games at Williams Arena. It’s fair to wonder if Fox will ever get the chance to play for his hometown school.
"You talk about a guy that did probably the best job I’ve been around as far as the rehab. When he first did it and he committed, I told him you’re probably out for the whole year. There was never a rush on his end to try to get back," Johnson said. "He was really confident, and he was playing well. You feel for him that he’s even put in this position, I saw the work that he put in last year. It’s just a lesson that you just never know."
So what does it mean for Johnson and the Gophers this season? It’s a big blow, as Fox was expected to at least compete for a starting forward spot. Jamison Battle is the Gophers’ lone returning starter from last season, and he’s the team’s leading scorer.
The news on Fox likely means bigger roles for Dawson Garcia, Pharrel Payne, Treyton Thompson and Isaiah Ihnen. Garcia transferred to the Gophers from North Carolina and was a McDonald’s All-American two years ago. The 6-10 forward will need a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA after using his one-time transfer to leave Marquette for the Tar Heels. He played 16 games for North Carolina last year before leaving school to come home and be with family. He’ll certainly start and play significant minutes if granted the waiver for immediate eligibility.
Thompson played in 19 games last year as a freshman and got his first start against Rutgers, a game where he scored 10 points, got six rebounds and one block. Thompson, at 7 feet and 210 pounds, could be looked at to make a bigger contribution as a sophomore.
Ihnen is coming back from his own season-ending knee injury last year. He played in 29 games two seasons ago, averaging 2.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. He’s shown pre-injury athleticism in summer workouts, and Johnson likes what he sees so far. He could be one of the Gophers’ most versatile players, at 6-10 and 220 pounds.
Payne comes in as one of the more underrated players to come into Minnesota’s program. He’s 6-9 and 230, and Johnson said he’s physically ready for Big Ten play. He averaged 22 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks per game as a senior at Park Cottage Grove. He could be asked to play big minutes right away.