Interview by Chris Monter
Jamison Battle became the first new addition of new head coach Ben Johnson Monday when he announced that he will transfer to Minnesota after playing two seasons at George Washington.
Battle averaged 17.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 0.7 assists per game for the Colonials, who finished 5-12. He shot 47.5% from the field, 35.4 % from three-point range and 78.7% from the charity stripe. Battle was named third-team All-Atlantic 10 this season.
Battle averaged 11.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 0.6 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 39.9% from the field, 36.6 % from three-point range and 84.6% from the free-throw line. Battle was named first-team Atlantic 10 All-Rookie.
GopherHole caught up with Battle Tuesday evening to learn more about his commitment and expectations for the upcoming season.
GopherHole: You committed to Minnesota Monday. What was the main factors in picking the Gophers?
Jamison Battle: I think the main thing was just being able to play at home. It is hard to pass up playing at home. That was what my thought process was and I think that what Coach Johnson has in place and the plans that he has, is just something that I could really, really see myself fitting into. Ben bringing more talent from Minnesota back home.
GopherHole: You had a Zoom meeting with Ben last Thursday, What was that like?
Jamison Battle: It was basically just what his plan was and what his plan was for me. It was cool to see. Obviously, they showed the venues, but I’ve been down there and seen the venues and the campus. You can see the energy of the Barn. It is something that I dreamed about playing for the Gophers ever since I was little kid, watching all these guys play. It’s just cool to see all of that. From that point, I kind of knew and for the past week it was either between Miami and Minnesota and like my head would flip each day. Before I committed, for like the last three days, it had been all Minnesota in my head, so I knew the time was right.
GopherHole: Obviously, Ben also played at DeLaSalle. What was your relationship like with him before he became the Minnesota head coach?
Jamison Battle: I’ve told a lot of people this, I don’t know if he knows this, but he was actually the first coach to come watch me play in an open gym at Benidle. I don’t know if he knows that, but it’s just a cool little fact. Obviously, we have a good relationship. Before he got the job, he was recruiting me at Xavier, so I’ve known Ben for awhile and we have a good relationship.
GopherHole: How many schools did you end up hearing from after putting your name in the transfer portal?
Jamison Battle: I don’t know the exact number, but I heard from a lot, whether it was Arizona, Miami. Virginia hit me up. It was a lot of good schools. I had a lot of options, but like I said, it is hard to pass up the opportunity to stay at home, eight miles from where I live. It’s cool to play at home.
GopherHole: I talked to your former AAU coach Jay Furhman and he said that you had Zoom meeting with Miami and Arizona last week. What other schools did you have Zoom meetings with besides those two?
Jamison Battle: The other Zoom meeting I had was with Butler. I was going to set one up with Arkansas and USC, but obviously they were in the tournament. I just knew that the time was right at Minnesota, so I didn’t really want to waste time or waste people’s time.
GopherHole: That has to make you feel pretty good knowing that a lot of big schools, schools that are still in the NCAA Tournament, were interested in you?
Jamison Battle: Yes, it makes me feel good. It just shows how much work I put in. Out of high school, I was just known for shooting and I think the past year at GW, I really showed I could score at all three levels and I think that is what I showed.
GopherHole: Did you talk much to Coach Johnson about the Minnesota roster for next season?
Jamison Battle: We didn’t talk about it too much. We didn’t talk the staff a lot, but I just know that he is going to do what he has to do and he is going to bring in the right guys to make this thing work.
GopherHole: I know that there was some thought about Minnesota assistants. Did he talk to you much about that about coaches with Minnesota ties?
Jamison Battle: He didn’t talk to me about it, but I have heard about it.
GopherHole: The last time a lot of Minnesota fans saw you play in person was winning the state title at DeLaSalle. What stands out in that title run now that it is two years later?
Jamison Battle: I think it was just the way the year before. We lost in the semifinals to Columbia Heights, a team that we beat by 50 and we beat by 17 the second time. I think it was me and Tyrell (Terry) who came together after the season and we looked at each other and said we are not going to lose in state next year and I think that we were, if not the best team in the state, we beat 4A teams pretty handily. We lost five games, but I think our only in-state losses were to North St. Paul and Minnehaha Academy, but Minnehaha was a good team. We could have got them, but after that Minnehaha game, we kind of flipped a switch and we just knew what our outside goal was and that was to win state, so I think once we flipped the switch, we knew that we were going to win.
GopherHole: You signed with George Washington in the fall of your senior year. You had a strong senior season and they let their head coach go in the spring. I know some Gopher fans were hoping that you might want to stay home back then. Did you give much thought to looking for another school at that time?
Jamison Battle: To be honest, I didn’t think too much of it because I was in the state tournament and that was my main priority. I just wanted to win that being what happened the year before, but I think once Coach (GW head coach Jamison) Christian, he gave me a call during the tournament and I told him after the tournament that I was going to stay at GW, because I believed in what he has and he put me in a good position. All credit to him. He set me up for something really good in the future.
GopherHole: You worked hard to improve your body working with a trainer. How much weight did you end up dropping and how much has that helped your play?
Jamison Battle: I was actually 236 coming back home from quarantine last year and when I went back to GW, I was 215, so that is a significant loss. I think that helped me, like I said, in all aspects of my game. I think it made me quicker. It made me stronger. I think it gave more confidence out there. I think this year showed that I was confident in my ability. I wasn’t just a shooter anymore and I think that I was scoring in the paint. I was scoring at the midrange. I was scoring from the three. It was a tough year, none the less, with COVID and everything and I got a concussion this year, but I still think that I managed to do pretty well this year.
GopherHole: Your scoring improved 5.5 points per game, but the Colonials were forced to cancel ten games, due to COVID-19? How did you feel about your sophomore season?
Jamison Battle: It was up and down. There were a lot of stop and starts. It is hard to play when a global pandemic is going on, but I think overall with the guys, we were a little disappointed that ten games were cancelled. We were kind of hitting our stride after the Duquesne game (he scored 29 points on January 3rd). It was my last game up until mid-February against Rhode Island (on February 21st). I missed a lot of time with the concussion and I feel like if I would not have got hurt, I could have done even more. It could have even been better. I feel good about the season. I feel like we could have done better, but I think it is what it is and I’m on to something else now.
GopherHole: When did you first start thinking about putting your name into the transfer portal?
Jamison Battle: I thought about it throughout the year and I didn’t really let it get to me. I just wanted to finish the season strong and I think once the season ended, I knew that I was going to put my name into the portal. I talked to the coach and told him that I was going to put my name into the portal and things happened from there.
GopherHole: I saw you play a lot at Shakopee in scrimmage versus the D1 Minnesota AAU team and you seemingly never missed an outside shot. What things are you going to working on to continue to improve yourself as a player this offseason?
Jamison Battle: This offseason, I think my big emphasis is defense. Transitioning from the Atlantic 10 to the Big 10 is going to be a tough one, defensively. The physicality of the Big 10 is something I have to get used to pretty quick if I want to make an impact, so I think working on my hips, working on my foot speed, things like that. Things I am really emphasizing this offseason and I just want to keep perfecting my craft on offense. Keep working on my shot. Put the ball on the floor, whether it is creating for me or creating for others, so I think just keep working on that. That is what I am doing this offseason.
GopherHole: What has the reaction been since you committed to the Gophers?
Jamison Battle: I can’t even describe it. I haven’t stopped smiling since yesterday since I called Ben around 2. I know that I made the right choice and I believe wholeheartedly in that and I believe in that the system he has put together and I’m just excited to get started.
GopherHole: I saw that even Liam Robbins, I don’t know how well him before, retweeted that you committed to Minnesota? Have you heard from a lot of current players or even friends and family?
Jamison Battle: Yes. My family is pretty excited. I know Liam, because one of my good friends who went to DeLaSalle, he’s older than me, played at Drake with Liam, so we have got that connection this summer. I got to know him pretty well. I talked to Gabe (Kalscheur) about it. Jarvis Johnson commented on my Instagram post, so I know there is a lot of hype around me coming back home to the Gophers.
GopherHole: You mentioned Gabe Kalscheur, who is another DeLaSalle kid. Did you reach out to him before making your decision?
Jamison Battle: Yes. I texted him earlier yesterday “Yo, I might be coming to the U.” and a couple hours later “I’m, for sure, coming now, so let’s get this thing rolling.”
GopherHole: Your former high school team Tyrell Terry is playing with the Dallas Mavericks of the NBA and the Memphis Hustle of the G League. Does seeing that make you think more about playing professional basketball after your college career is over?
Jamison Battle: Yes, no doubt. I think right now, I’m not too focused on the NBA. I still, I think, a lot to work on before I can even consider myself an NBA caliber player, but it is something that is in the back of my head. It has always been a dream of mine. It has always been a goal, so it’s not like I’m not thinking about it, but I still think that there is a lot of things that I have to do in order to play at that level.
GopherHole: What is it going to mean to play in front of your friends and family at Williams Arena?
Jamison Battle: It is going to mean the world, I called my grandma yesterday and she came out screaming when I told her, so I know that she is happy. Just seeing my mom and seeing my dad in the stands is going to be something that is cool. I haven’t played in front of them. They went to games at GW, but I haven’t played in front of them since high school, so I know that they are selfishly excited that I’m coming back home.
GopherHole: Have you been watching much of the NCAA Tournament? What do you look for when you are watching?
Jamison Battle: I’ve been watching a lot of it and I see one thing is that these teams are just having fun out there. That is one thing I felt was, I felt that I had fun at GW, but not as much fun as I would have wanted to, so seeing the ball move. Seeing the ball skip around, is something I didn’t have a lot of at GW and that is a consistent flow in offense. There’s not a set called every time down the floor, so it’s fun to watch the NCAA Tournament and we can bring the Gophers that.
GopherHole: George Washington hadn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2014 and to be honest, it is tough for the Atlantic 10 to get many teams into the field. What would it mean to get into the NCAA Tournament as a Gopher?
Jamison Battle: It would mean a lot. Seeing the guys play a couple of year ago. Seeing how much fun of a time it is when they beat Louisville. I know the tournament is something that I always wanted to play in as a kid and watching it and being at the Final Four a few years ago here in Minneapolis, it is just something that I want to do and I think that is the main thing, the main goal that I have, is to make the tournament and to just win.