The day before his opening workouts Monday, Gophers new men's basketball coach Ben Johnson had a meeting with his players and felt for the first time like he was leading a program.
"It's exciting," Johnson said. "It was good to finally get all of our guys in the same room. … It's the first time you feel like you're coaching a team."
Looking around the room, though, Johnson knew he would not have a full roster on the court any time soon.
The Gophers have only nine scholarship players on campus right now for summer school, including two transfers recovering from injuries. The lack of depth in the frontcourt also means there could still be key additions before the 2021-22 season.
"We're missing one guy right now," said Johnson, referring to Stephen F. Austin big man transfer Charlie Daniels. "And potentially at the most adding one or two more. We probably won't be full go, I would say, until probably mid-July potentially."
Daniels, a 6-9 senior, is expected to join the team later this summer after finishing two online classes to graduate, he told the Star Tribune on Monday.
Mahtomedi native and former Division II Northern State All-America Parker Fox is sidelined all summer and possibly the season after knee surgery. Irondale native and former New Hampshire guard Sean Sutherlin, who missed last season with a torn labrum, worked out on his own Monday morning before the rest of the team.
"He's progressing really well," Johnson said about Sutherlin. "He'll be able to go limited, strictly because the summertime you want to get better, but we want to be smart with it, too. He looks great. He's ahead of schedule and he's excited."
Johnson and his staff landed eight transfers this spring and kept Alexandria's Treyton Thompson, who was part of the U's original high school recruiting class.
Several players made a solid first impression with their new head coach Monday, including Thompson, lone returner and junior forward Isaiah Ihnen, and George Washington transfer and former DeLaSalle standout Jamison Battle. All three showed off impressive size and shooting range at 6-7, 6-9, and 6-11, respectively.
"Guys who can shoot the ball make up for a lot of deficiencies," Johnson said. "When you have a couple guys who can shoot it on a team or in a workout, I think it becomes contagious. It carries over to the other guys. We have a lot of guys with the ability to shoot the ball. Treyton Thompson can shoot it. Jamison [Battle] can shoot it. Isaiah is becoming a much better shooter and more consistent."
The Gophers' plan is to bring in at least one more potential starting frontcourt presence this summer. A possible candidate for that spot is 7-foot North Carolina transfer Sterling Manley, but he's competing this week in his second predraft combine.
Last week, Manley told the Star Tribune he would probably decide his future after the Myrtle Beach International Combine ends Tuesday. The deadline for players to keep their college eligibility is July 7.
"It's really week to week," Johnson said. "As the draft gets closer guys will be making decisions and figuring out am I in the mix or not in the mix. We'll be monitoring that."