Ben Johnson says he will speak with players about Daunte Wright's shooting death

Marcus Fuller, Star Tribune
·2 min read

New Gophers men's basketball coach Ben Johnson planned to address his players Monday after a police officer fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center on Sunday.

"We're going to meet today as a team," Johnson said during a video news conference. "It's tough because it's something as a head coach you think and you worry about. Our guys are obviously old enough to drive and will be in cars and out in the streets in the city."

Johnson was on Xavier's staff last year when they addressed the death of George Floyd under the knee of officer Derek Chauvin.

Five years ago, Johnson was a Gophers assistant when they met with players on how to deal with the death of Philando Castile when he was fatally shot by police during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights.

Johnson, who was hired as the Gophers coach last month, hopes to have open discussions with his assistants and players to share their thoughts about incidents involving police being digested publicly.

"It is something you always have in the back of your mind," Johnson said. "Have we done enough as a staff to inform our guys on the realities of what's going on and steps that you can take? You're not always going to be 100 percent safe, but are there little steps you can take to put yourself in the best position to have no issues. Whether that's with police or just with being a citizen downtown going about your day-to-day business."

Gophers 2021 class updateFormer Alexandria standout and La Lumiere Academy (Ind.) center Treyton Thompson received high praise from Johnson on Monday. Thompson and fellow 6-11 senior Kenny Pohto from Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas signed with former Gophers coach Richard Pitino in November.

"He's got big upside," Johnson said. "He's a talented kid. His energy is infectious. I think he bleeds it. It will be good to get his excitement on campus."

While Thompson is expected to join the team for next season, Johnson said Pohto sticking with his commitment was still "up in the air."

Kemp's connectionAnother new member of Johnson's staff, former William & Mary assistant Jason Kemp, said his connection with Johnson goes back more than a decade to when they were coming up the ranks.

Kemp first coached against Johnson when they were on staffs at North Dakota State and Texas Pan-American in 2007, respectively. They stayed in touch until coaching in the same state as assistants when Johnson was at Xavier and Kemp was at Ohio U in recent years.

"There's been a mutual respect for a long time," Kemp said. "I see this as a major opportunity to do really great things."