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Monday, March 27, 2023

A new era of Gophers men’s basketball begins with Ben Johnson

New Gophers men’s basketball coach Ben Johnson has climbed the stairs from the Williams Arena’s locker room to the raised court countless times, but knows this Tuesday will be different.

After 15 years as an assistant, Johnson will make his head coach debut in Minnesota’s season opener against Missouri-Kansas City at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

“(It) would probably mean a little bit more,” Johnson said on Monday. “Maybe there’s a few more fans in the stands, once you see it there’s a different feeling. But once that ball bounces, it’s going to work as usual and try to find a way to win.” does.”

As a Minneapolis native, former U player and assistant coach, Johnson said he tries to cherish his position every day, not just on game day.

“Whether it’s Athletes Village or (The Barn) and you take a different path as head coach versus assistant, you pinch yourself every day,” he said. “Every day is good. I never take the position I’m in, never take the opportunity lightly.”

Johnson’s first Gophers team has 10 new players, including forward Eric Curry and point guard Peyton Willis on a short list of experienced players at Big Ten level. He was made the captain of the team on Monday.

“We are all here playing for each other; This is a new journey for all of us. It’s not just (Johnson),” Curry said. “I think we’re just going to come out and work harder. Just give us what we’ve got and make some improvements we’ve seen from the exhibition game” – 80-67 win over Concordia-St. Paul on November 1.

“I think it’s important for him, for us to play for him, it takes a little bit off the nerves, his shoulders and stuff like that,” Curry continued. “We will definitely come here and play for him.”

Johnson said there would be a substantial amount of family and friends in his presence on Tuesday, and he felt support even from afar.

“What’s been cool for me is just the text messages or phone calls you get from people you know watching Gophers basketball, who care about the program,” he said. “It cares about our people, who wants to know about our people, and I hope it’s up to the state, the community, because I think it’s up to us to really get it where we all Want it to go, we need everyone.”

Johnson focuses on product on the court, but has also focused on the entertainment surrounding The Barn’s visit. He is met by members of the Barnyard student body, the UK’s marketing staff, and others involved in game-day operations.

“I think it’s important,” Johnson said. “I want to make it a show. I want to make it a place that has an entertainment value that clearly coincides with the basketball value.”

World Nation News Desk
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