COLUMN: Elijah Hawkins, football DB portal mission, early Plitzuweit success and MBB scheduling issues

–> It was a busy week of recruiting for Gophers sports. Howard transfer PG Elijah Hawkins (MBB) Craig McDonald (FB), Janay Sanders (WBB) and Ayianna Johnson (WBB) all committed to the Maroon & Gold while the MBB schedule is beginning to take shape.

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Howard transfer G Elijah Hawkins commits to Gophers

The Gophers finally got back on the transfer portal board Monday when Howard transfer PG Elijah Hawkins committed to the Maroon & Gold. Hawkins is more than just a consolation prize. On3sports’ transfer portal rankings sees Hawkins as a better prospect than Pride, Brown II or even Latrell Wrightsell Jr. He was an impressive facilitator on a 23-11 Howard team that won the MEAC and faced Kansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. In two games against Kansas and Kentucky last season, he averaged 13 points 5 assists 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals. He showed elite shooting potential at 46.6% from beyond the line on 3.7 attempts per game. What I am impressed with most is that he is a willing defender.

With two seasons of eligibility remaining this is an impressive pickup for Johnson and the Gophers. They will now have four capable ball handlers next season. Hawkins, Mike Mitchell Jr., Braeden Carrington and Cam Christie are a clear upgrade from what they had last season. With Pharrel Payne and Dawson Garcia both as serious all-conference candidates and Isaiah Ihnen and Parker Fox returning from injury, this team has something. It might not be exactly what Gophers fans were imagining, but still, with one scholarship open, this program has hope.

Gophers defensive back portal mission

Since the Spring transfer portal window opened in April the Gophers have been on a mission to add some talent in the secondary. Auburn transfer Craig McDonald was the latest addition after committing Sunday joining Elon CB Tre’Von Jones and Miami (OH) LB/S Rowan Zolman. McDonald, a former Minnehaha Academy standout will play nickel CB/safety for the Gophers with the versatility to really play wherever in the secondary. He will need a waiver to be immediately eligible because this will be his third school, but with Auburn coaching change his chances are high. With at least two years of eligibility remaining and as many as three, he is an impressive addition to the secondary.

With three portal additions to the defense already, the Gophers are from over. Oregon CB Avante Dickerson, Ole Miss CB Markevious Brown, Tulsa CB Tyler Bride and BYU DB George Udo have all been offered. Cornerback was a clear need and the Gophers have realized that. During the spring, redshirt freshman Tariq Watson was likely the No. 2 option behind Justin Walley, but Fleck clearly wanted to add more depth to that position. If they’re able to add one of the four aforementioned players, this defense could be one of the best in the country again this season.

Plitzuweit adds Janay Sanders and Ayianna Johnson

New Gophers women’s basketball head coach Dawn Plitzuweit has an impressive week of her own on the recruiting trail. On Wednesday afternoon she added App State grad transfer guard Janay Sanders and 2023 (WI) post player Ayianna Johnson who was previously committed to West Virginia while Plitzuweit was still there. The Gophers now have 15 players on their roster and have plenty of talent to work with in Plitzuweit’s first season. Sanders averaged 13.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists last season and has a great chance to start for this team next season. Johnson is a talented 6-foot-3 forward that will provide depth in the post which is something this roster needed. With the talented freshman group; Mara Braun, Mallory Heyer, Amaya Battle and Nia Holloway all returning + transfer post players Sophie Hart and Aminata Zie now able to play next season, it will be a fun season to begin the Dawn Plitzuweit era in Dinkytown.

Men’s basketball scheduling mess

The Ben Johnson era has had its fair share of bumps along the road, but one thing that has always confused me is the scheduling. Outside of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and Gavitt Games, the Gophers have played one (1) major conference team in the non-conference each of the last two seasons. Most other Big Ten teams like Wisconsin or Michigan State typically have four opportunities against major conference teams when you include their holiday tournaments. The Gophers will not be playing in the Continental Tire Main Event tournament with San Diego State, Xavier and Washington like they were previously expected to do. With a multi-team event (MTE) scheduled with Ball State and USC Upstate last week and no holiday tournament on the schedule yet, I expect that we will probably see a similar schedule.

People will ask why does this matter, or wouldn’t you want easier opponents in the non-conference for a rebuilding program? To that, I would say, the teams who challenge themselves in the non-conference tend to do better in conference play. Especially for a team that might be on the bubble, arguing non-conference wins over Western Kentucky or UNLV will not help their case. Big non-conference games also get more eyes on your program. Losing by 15 to Xavier would be more valuable to this program than beating USC Upstate by 15. There is still obviously a chance to get some good opponents on the schedule, but what they currently have is not helping the program.

Big Ten win totals

Many sportsbooks released their annual over/under win totals for the 2023 college football season. There was much discussion about some teams in the Big Ten, especially our friends from across the border who wear red. I for one was a bit confused seeing so much surprise that Wisconsin’s o/u was 9 wins atop the Big Ten West division. I believe Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois will all be vying for the West division crown again this season, but Wisconsin’s total at nine made sense to me.

Sportsbooks are setting lines in hopes of getting equal action on both sides of the bet. No reputable sportsbook will overexpose themselves on any bet and if Wisconsin’s line was set at 7.5 like a lot of Gophers fans are thinking it should’ve been, there was be much more action on the over. Wisconsin is still the biggest brand in the Big Ten West and the general public is going to think that. With Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska all at home, the Badgers got a favorable draw on their schedule. I am not cheering for Wisconsin this season nor rooting against the Gophers, I am just not going to say Wisconsin is overrated because I do not like them.


For most of my life, I have never been a huge fan of big celebrations for a birthday, it is a concept that has never made a lot of sense to me. Most holidays in Western society are just another excuse for people to drink, which I do understand, but people who act like their birthday is an actual holiday and feel the need to make sure everyone wishes them a happy birthday and post it all over social media are not people that I want to hangout with. I do not go around texting all of my friends a Merry Christmas or Happy Easter, so I don’t understand why you have to wish everyone a happy birthday. In the social media/texting era it has completely ruined real birthday wishes. Everyone is just texting you or wishing you a happy birthday on social media just to check off a box, so they can get acknowledged on their birthday and it always seems disingenuous. Just go out to dinner with some of your friends and family or something and move on. I just have never understood why they’re such a big deal for some people.

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