Busting Brackets

Minnesota Basketball: Breaking down early 2024 transfer portal moves

Minnesota v Michigan State
Minnesota v Michigan State / David Berding/GettyImages
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Being a Minnesota native with deep ties to basketball inside the state was a major selling point for Johnson when the Gophers hired the first-time head man three years ago. That's why it was particularly disheartening the program saw a trio of Minnesota natives, all who had played multiple years under Johnson, hit the portal to begin the offseason.

The Joshua Ola-Joseph decision didn't come as much of a surprise considering he saw his minutes drop off a cliff deep into the 2023-24 campaign, but the departures of big man Pharrel Payne and Braeden Carrington were serious blows. Payne in particular seemed to be developing into one of the most formidable bigs in the conference and another full offseason with the program could have been just what he needed to fulfill his vast potential. Instead, he's since pledged to play for Texas A&M in 2024-25, robbing the Gophers of their key cog in the middle.

But, even more painful for Gopher fans was the decision just last week from point guard Elijah Hawkins that he would be hitting the portal, despite the veteran indicating multiple times he'd be back for 2024-25. Hawkins was a huge get for this staff prior to last season, giving them a savvy playmaker who had no troubles adjusting to life in the Big Ten, setting a new school record for assists in a single season. Unfortunately, it may be the case that he was too productive for Minnesota's own good, resulting in numerous programs likely swinging serious NIL money in his direction.

Alongside those four, forwards Isaiah Ihnen and Kris Keinys also hit the portal. Neither came as serious blows and both were expected, but it does hurt the depth in this frontcourt. Ihnen has since announced his intentions to play at Liberty, while Keinys, who is from Lithuania, has an uncertain future.

Between Hawkins, Carrington, and Payne, Minnesota loses their floor general and two other high-impact pieces, one of whom (Payne) that was almost a certainty to start this upcoming season. It's not the worst portal result we've seen in the league, but there's no denying its significant and will have Johnson and staff working hard in the coming weeks and months.

If there is a silver lining to be had, the staff can now sell transfers on immediate playing time, especially in the backcourt now that former Pepperdine transfer Mike Mitchell Jr. is the only returning guard with significant experience. With so much left to unfold, that's at least something to take forward and build on as this roster fills out.