It’s been over a century since the last time Minnesota and Macalester played each other in men’s basketball. Minnesota leads the series (1896-1922) all-time 7-4, but the Scots won their last meeting between the two clubs, 12-11. All games were played before The Barn was built and opened in 1928.
The two schools for the first time ever will play an exhibition game on November 2 at Williams Arena. Unlike the previous 11 meetings, Minnesota and Mac are now led by the two current longest-serving Black male coaches in Minnesota college basketball.
Ben Johnson and Abe Woldeslassie both have successfully forged parallel careers: Johnson played at De La Salle and Woldeslassie at St. Thomas Academy.
The two prep players moved on to college (Johnson first at Northwestern then at Minnesota. Woldeslassie started at St. Thomas and then transferred to Macalester). Both went into coaching and now they lead their respective alma maters.
This is Woldeslassie’s sixth year at the St. Paul school and Johnson’s third year at Minnesota.
“When Ben got hired about three years ago, I reached out to him about starting an exhibition game. Finally, this year we were able to do it,” the Scots HC noted. “I give credit to him and [Assistant Coach] Dave Thorson that really made it happen.”
“It’s always cool to have a guy that I’ve known, that does it the right way,” Johnson said of Woldeslassie.
Woldeslassie pointed out the similarities, “I think us both being Black head coaches at our alma mater; we both grew up in Minneapolis. We both are young head coaches… and both are building programs. It’s a great story.”
Last season Macalester was 15-11 and qualified for the MIAC playoffs for the second year in a row.
“I think it’s a credit to Abe,” Johnson added. “He does a really fine good job. I have a ton of respect for him and his program.”
Minnesota was 9-22 last season and returns seven players from last year’s team, including four that saw significant time during the 2022-23 season.
“For us a chance to play at Williams Arena and to be on that stage—what it’s going to do for our [Macalester] community. It is a great gift for us,” said Woldeslassie.