There are approximately 100 African American and other student-athletes of color this school year at the University of Minnesota. In an occasional series throughout the 2021-22 school and sports year, the MSR will highlight many of these players.
This week: Terrill Battle, father of sophomore basketball player Jamison Battle and incoming freshman basketball player Amaya Battle
In his first season of watching Gopher basketball as more than just a fan, Terrill Battle keeps a watchful eye from his seat in the Barn on his son Jamison in his first season as a Gopher.
It’s been a good homecoming for the young man from Robbinsdale and DeLaSalle grad. Jamison transferred after two seasons at George Washington and signed with the Gophers as one of 10 newcomers on first-year Head Coach Ben Johnson’s squad.
The 6’-7” forward leads the team in scoring (nearly 19 points a game) and minutes played (over 37 minutes a contest) this season.
“It’s good to have him home,” said Terrill of Jamison. “Everything is going well. He loves school and he knows what he needs to do from an academic standpoint and what needs to be done from a basketball standpoint, which is continuing to grow and get better.”
Asked if his game-day experience has changed any as a father watching his child play college ball, “It depends on how he plays,” joked Battle. “If he’s playing great, it’s [as] a dad. If he’s playing and I see things differently, it’s [as] a coach and someone who knows the game.”
The elder Battle played college ball for the late legendary Clarence “Big House” Gaines at Winston-Salem, and was a teammate of ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. He also worked in the Minnesota Timberwolves basketball office. He dutifully has passed on his knowledge of the game to his children.
Terrill said he is not surprised with Jamison’s seamless transition to Big Ten basketball: “He works on his game, on the things he wants to get better at. I’m proud of him and how he’s playing.”
Later this year, daughter Amaya Battle will be on the Minnesota campus. She is part of Lindsay Whalen’s highly touted 2022-23 recruiting class, which includes two local Black players, Battle from Hopkins and Niamya Holloway of Eden Prairie.
“It’s interesting that early on in the recruiting process she didn’t want to stay home,” recalled Terrill. “Then as time went on, she started to believe that she could stay home with the other [in-state] girls and make a difference. She feels good about it.”
Last weekend during a big-time girls’ basketball tournament hosted by her high school, Amaya spoke with the MSR on her decision to sign with Minnesota. “I know I can lean on [Jamison] and he’ll protect me. That definitely means a lot, being able to represent my home state, having my friends and family come see me and not have to fly across the country or drive 10 hours or any of that.
“That means so much because I know they’ll be at every game,” said the Hopkins senior guard. Amaya added that she, like her brother, got her share of tutelage from her father. “He usually just gives me pointers on my shot…sends me a text before the game. I always get to ask questions,”
Her brother wasn’t homesick, said Terrill. “He had success at GW. He just told me he wanted something different. And it’s been good for me [as well],” added his father.
Finally, having both his basketball-playing children soon playing at the same college is a proud moment for Terrill. “I think all this happened for a reason,” he said.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.