No way could second-year Gophers basketball coach Ben Johnson have foreseen losing two of his most experienced frontcourt players before summer practice was over.
That's the reality for the U after 6-10 German forward Isaiah Ihnen was announced Monday as out for the season after suffering another major knee injury in practice last week.
Ihnen, who missed last season after suffering a torn left ACL, had been cleared for full contact in early June, but he'll have surgery again soon after reinjuring his left knee.
Junior Parker Fox, who transferred from Division II Northern State last year, was also lost for the upcoming season with a second torn ACL earlier this summer. Ihnen, however, has been with the program since his freshman season in 2019-20.
"It's disappointing to see Isaiah go through this after he worked hard to get back on the court this year and made significant strides to his game this summer," Gophers coach Ben Johnson said in a statement. "We will be with him every step of the way in his road to recovery."
After Fox's injury in late June, the Gophers thought about using one of their two open scholarships on another frontcourt player to the roster.
Recently, four-star 2023 recruit Kadyn Betts decided to reclassify and graduate high school early to join Minnesota's team this fall. The 6-8, 210-pound Betts is long (7-2 wingspan) and athletic enough to play inside and outside for the Gophers as a freshman.
Johnson talked last week about the possibility of Betts redshirting, but that was before this second injury opened up another spot in the rotation. The comparison for Betts was even to Ihnen, who played mostly on the perimeter in his first two seasons in college.
"I look at [Betts] as more of a wing to be honest," Johnson said last week. "That's kind of how we're going to develop him. Any time you can get a wing in the Big Ten with his size, it's a separator. And I think that's where his game translates and that's where his skill level is. A big three or kind of that Isaiah-type player. But we're not going to base his future on what we have or don't have."
Ihnen last played for the Gophers under former coach Richard Pitino, averaging 2.8 points and 3.5 rebounds in 29 games in 2020-21. He's the last player on the roster from the Pitino era.
Fox showed his support on social media on Monday for Ihnen, who thanked his Gophers teammate with a message of his own.
"Thanks for everyone reaching out," Ihnen tweeted. "I'm fine, it happened, I'll be back, story's not over!"
Losing both Ihnen and Fox is a major blow to Johnson's depth in Year 2, but he returns leading scorer and rebounder Jamison Battle and promising 7-footer Treyton Thompson.
This summer, Johnson also added freshmen Pharrel Payne, Braeden Carrington, Jaden Henley and Joshua Ola-Joseph. Minnesota also signed transfers Dawson Garcia, Ta'Lon Cooper and Taurus Samuels. Garcia, a North Carolina transfer and Prior Lake product, hopes to receive a waiver from the NCAA for immediate eligibility.
"The one benefit about this year is we have more depth," Johnson said in June after Fox's injury. "Somebody's got to step up. It's going to be an opportunity for somebody to get into a role."