With the Gophers men's basketball roster in complete flux, the team received a blast from the past Friday.
Combo guard Payton Willis said via Twitter that he is transferring back to Minnesota after leaving the Gophers last year for College of Charleston.
"Last Chapter" Willis tweeted with the words "Back for More" superimposed over his picture in a Gophers uniform.
The 6-4 Willis can play both point guard and shooting guard but plans to play more point this time around with the Gophers. He averaged 8.6 points per game for Minnesota two seasons ago and 13.4 for College of Charleston last season.
He is rejoining a Gophers team that is under heavy construction for new coach Ben Johnson. Several players have entered the transfer portal, including point guards Marcus Carr (undecided) and Jamal Mashburn Jr., who is heading to New Mexico.
Willis is the sixth incoming transfer commitment Johnson has received, joining Jamison Battle (from George Washington), Parker Fox (Northern State), Luke Loewe (William & Mary), E.J. Stephens (Lafayette) and Sean Sutherlin (New Hampshire).
Besides fitting Johnson's emphasis on shooting touch, Willis can handle the ball, too.
An Arkansas native, Willis spent two seasons at Vanderbilt before transferring to Minnesota the first time. He had to sit out the 2018-19 season for the Gophers under the NCAA's old transfer rule.
In 2019-20, Willis was a backup option for Minnesota at point guard behind Carr. With Carr playing extensive minutes, Willis spent most of his time at shooting guard and was 35.6% from three-point range. He made 40.0% of this threes at College of Charleston.
Willis said he heard from Johnson soon after entering the transfer portal Tuesday. Willis is also reuniting with his old high school friend and former Gophers teammate Eric Curry, now a graduate assistant.
"[Feels] great," Willis texted the Star Tribune. "I'm at a loss for words, really."
Mashburn lands at New Mexico
Mashburn announced via Instagram that he is transferring to New Mexico, where he will rejoin former Minnesota coach Richard Pitino.
Mashburn entered the NCAA transfer portal after the Gophers fired Pitino last month. As a freshman, the 6-2 Mashburn averaged 8.2 points for Minnesota last season and flourished late in the year, averaging 13.6 points over the final nine games.
Pitino signed a five-year contract at New Mexico the morning after being fired by the Gophers. His connection with Mashburn stretches through both families, as Jamal Mashburn Sr., was a star at Kentucky coached by Pitino's father, Rick.
Pohto reopens recruitment
Also, the Gophers have released incoming recruit Kenny Pohto from his national letter of intent, freeing him to sign with another school, a source confirmed. Pohto, a 6-11 center from Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas, signed with the Gophers in November before the coaching change from Pitino to Johnson.
Star Tribune staff writer Marcus Fuller contributed to this report.