Gophers men’s basketball coach Ben Johnson higher on recruiting class than national rankings

Gophers men’s basketball coach Ben Johnson is higher on his incoming, two-player recruiting class than three outside national rankings.

Minnesota signed guard Isaac Asuma of Mountain Iron, Minn., and forward Grayson Grove of Alexandria, Minn., for the 2024 class on Wednesday. The U’s class ranks outside the top 55 in the nation, according to 247sports, On3 and Rivals.

Asuma, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound guard from Cherry High School, had a great summer with his AAU team D1 Minnesota, Johnson said.

“He’s a top-100 player in my mind,” Johnson told reporters Wednesday. “I’ve watched enough on the circuit to see that. Whatever the numbers are, they are. But to watch him go head-to-head, toe-to-toe, his AAU team was down a little bit and he had to carry those guys in a couple of tournaments. … Our fans are really going to love his grit and toughness and skill level.”

Johnson said the U was “lucky” to get him committed early in March. His offer list included Iowa, Iowa State, Xavier, Butler, Nebraska and others.

Grove, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward, drew interest from smaller schools, including Colorado State and North Dakota State. Johnson compared him to former Northern Iowa forward Seth Tuttle, who was a two-time all-Missouri Valley Conference player Johnson helped coach

“Long, rangy, quick to the ball, just bouncy, he can run the floor, can defend a ball screen,” Johnson said. “He’s got juice. He’s got energy.”

Johnson said both signees are intelligent. “I just think over time, smart people always figure out a way to be successful,” he said.

In high school, Asuma was a running back and receiver in football, and Grove, who needed to rehab ankle surgery in the summer, was a goalkeeper on the soccer team.

“There is something about multi-sport athletes,” Johnson said. “I think it’s part of being a high school kid, working on different things, working on different tools. I also think it allows your body to adapt. … You are working other muscles, you body knows how to fall, your body knows balance. It’s not just one thing all the time.”

Size of classes

The Gophers signed four players in Johnson’s first recruiting class in 2021-22 and two players last year, before Dennis Evans was released from his letter of intent and went to Louisville. Four-star freshman guard Cam Christie is building up toward his season debut.

Johnson said the Gophers do not plan to sign any more high school prospects in the 2024 spring recruiting window but will look for roster additions via the NCAA transfer portal based on needs after the season.

“We want the balance of being youthful and developmental and to stay old,” Johnson said. “We took our big recruiting class (two years ago) and now we are going to add little pieces to that.”

Johnson said future recruiting classes will probably stay at two players for the next few years, with a  bigger class of three or four players a possibility.

“Once we are finally established, I would like to stay old,” Johnson said of having more upperclassmen. “To be competitive, and especially for us in our program, where we are at, that could be an advantage to us.”

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