Gophers men's basketball coach Ben Johnson filled his biggest need this spring in the backcourt with a commitment Wednesday from Pepperdine transfer Mike Mitchell Jr.
Mitchell, who will compete for the starting point guard spot, was considered one of the top backcourt transfers in the portal. He visited the U campus last weekend.
"I'm just happy I found a home in Minnesota — and I'm very confident in my decision," Mitchell told the Star Tribune. "I think with what we have on the team, with the coaching staff, and the culture, we can do really well in the Big Ten next year."
The 6-foot-2 sophomore from San Jose, Calif., averaged 11.4 points, 5.0 assists, 4.1 rebounds and shot 44% from three-point range this season. He had three 20-point performances and two games with 11 assists, which helped him rank second in the conference in assists per game.
In 2020-21, Mitchell was named to the West Coast Conference all-freshman team after averaging 9.1 points and 4.9 assists. He's started all 63 games in his career the last two seasons at Pepperdine, which had a 9-22 record in 2022-23.
"I'm a hard worker and I give it my all on the court," Mitchell said. "I think I can shoot the ball and see the floor really well. And I make winning plays. That's what I'll bring."
Other schools that recruited Mitchell heavily included Oklahoma, Clemson, San Diego State and UNLV. His comfort with the Gophers grew after they connected early after his transfer announcement on March 13. He talked consistently with Johnson and assistant Marcus Jenkins, a California native.
"I built a relationship with them from day one basically," Mitchell said. "Minnesota was my first phone call when I hit the portal. From there we just really hit it off."
After his official visit last Saturday and Sunday, Mitchell and his family were convinced the Gophers would be the best fit for him moving forward with his college basketball career.
"I felt most comfortable with them," Mitchell said. "Looking at the team, I can see they have great players coming back. We can just make a big run in the Big Ten, I feel like."
What stood out most about his recruiting visit with the Gophers recently?
"Coming from a mid-major, it was the resources Minnesota has and the facilities were eye-opening," Mitchell said. "I already had a great relationship with the coaching staff. I kind of already knew what I wanted, so I didn't want to waste any other people's time."
The Gophers (9-22) return leading scorer and rebounder Dawson Garcia and several talented freshmen, including Pharrel Payne, Joshua Ola-Joseph, and Braeden Carrington.
Carrington, a former Minnesota Mr. Basketball, is the only guard on the Gophers' current roster expected back next season. Senior co-captain Taurus Samuels is graduating. But Johnson landed four-star Illinois guard Cameron Christie, who is expected to help immediately.
Having contacted more than 30 players in the portal, Johnson and his staff still have a few scholarships to work with for the 2023-24 season, looking to add experience to the Gophers, especially alongside Mitchell in the backcourt.
Cooper, Thompson land
Starting junior point guard Ta'Lon Cooper put his name in the transfer portal, along with Gophers forward Jamison Battle, guard Jaden Henley and center Treyton Thompson.
Henley, a freshman from California, committed to DePaul earlier this month. Cooper, who ranked second in the Big Ten in assists, announced Wednesday he was transferring to South Carolina in the same state where he played high school basketball. Thompson, a 7-foot sophomore from Glenwood, Minn., committed Wednesday to Stetson in Florida.