Gopher Basketball Team Signs Four

The University of Minnesota men's basketball program signed four student-athletes to national letters of intent today. James Davis, Damian Johnson, Kevin Payton and Brandon Smith will be eligible to begin play for the Golden Gophers in the 2005-06 season.

"We're excited to have these four players become Golden Gophers," head coach Dan Monson said. "This class will build on the solid foundation of young talent we already have in the program. It's a group of tremendous athletes who can play a variety of positions and give us flexibility with our lineups in the coming years."

James Davis, a 7-0, 280-pound center from Minneapolis, Minn., who attended North High School, averaged 11.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks for Garden City Community College in Kansas last season. Davis was a preseason Sporting News All-American and was named to the Street and Smith's second team preseason JC All-American team. In addition, he was cited as the top junior college center in the country by Van Coleman of Lindy's.

"James Davis' basketball ability is unquestioned," Monson said. "He has the skills and size to make an immediate impact in the Big Ten. He was our top big man recruiting priority coming into the summer."

Damian Johnson, a 6-7, 190-pound wing from Thibodaux, La., averaged 17.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, six blocks and four assists as a junior for Thibodaux High. Johnson plans on majoring in chemical engineering.

"Damian is one of the more versatile athletes we've signed since I've been here," Monson said. "His length, athleticism and aggressiveness sets him apart from other players. His academics along with his love of the game are two things that really excite me about Damian."

Kevin Payton, a 6-6, 210-pound guard/wing from Camden, N.J., averaged 13.6 points and 6.2 rebounds for Camden High School last season. Payton has played only one season of high school basketball in the United States having spent most of his life in Austria where his father was a professional basketball player.

"Kevin Payton is a tremendous athlete with a very good skill package. He can play anywhere from the point to small forward. He gives us another player who can shoot the ball from the perimeter. Like Damian, his love of the game is very contagious," said Monson.

Brandon Smith, a 6-5, 185-pound wing from Minneapolis Henry High School, averaged 17.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists last season. Widely considered the top prospect in the state of Minnesota in the class of 2005, Smith boasts a 3.8 grade point average and plans to major in business.

"Brandon is another tremendous athlete. His best basketball is still to come. He was our number one priority in the high school class of '05. We feel he's the best player in the state and the type of student and athlete we want to build this program around at the University of Minnesota"

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