Gophers men channeling an ‘Ultimate Warrior’ mentality this season

Three things to watch — Gophers vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Warrior mentality

Gophers coach Ben Johnson was a big wrestling fan growing up — and his favorite wrestler was the Ultimate Warrior. That helped him come up with an idea to motivate his players.

The Gophers honor their player of the game with a WWE-style replica championship belt.

Following the opening win vs. Bethune-Cookman earlier this month, Dawson Garcia posed with his teammates for a picture in the locker room after posting an impressive stat line with 23 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists. But it wasn’t necessarily those numbers that earned him the shiny hardware.

The social media post of the picture said: “Big warrior,” which came from Johnson, an Ultimate Warrior fan.

“It’s not necessarily the guy who had the leading stat line,” Johnson said. “It’s who our staff feels like for that game kind of embodied being a warrior. Whatever that meant.”

The following week after the victory against Texas San Antonio, Isaiah Ihnen had the wrestling belt draped over his shoulder when he recorded a career-high 20 points on 7-for-7 shooting, including 5-for-5 from three-point range.

And most recently coming back from last week’s loss to Missouri, Pharrel Payne carried the belt after leading the team with four blocks in a bounce back win vs. South Carolina Upstate. Payne ranks second in the Big Ten with 2.7 blocks per game.

“I just think it’s good,” Johnson said. “I want everybody to feel like winning, it takes everybody. It takes everybody doing the little stuff at a high level.”

Can’t wait for Washington State transfer Jack Wilson to win the belt this year. He’s actually bigger than WWE’s the Undertaker at 6-11 and nearly 300 pounds.

The wrestling idea carried over from Johnson establishing “winners week” in September. It was a grueling stretch of early morning workouts in September. Garcia, who could be headed for a breakout junior year, credited that for helping him get in better shape this season.

Scoring in backcourt


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Author : Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Publish date : 2023-11-21 19:09:00

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