SporSports Odds and Ends
There are approximately 100 African American and other student-athletes of color this 2023-24 school year at the University of Minnesota. In an occasional series throughout the school year and sports year, the MSR will highlight many of these players. This week: Gopher basketball players Cam Christie and Kadyn Betts.
Cam Christie is a first-year Gopher, arriving at Minnesota as one of the top prospects out of Illinois last season. Kadyn Betts is a red-shirt freshman, who skipped his high school senior year (2022), and reclassified last season to enroll in Minnesota, and spent last season learning the college game.
Both players are eager to help turn around Minnesota’s fortunes this season. “We definitely improved from last year,” said Christie.
Added Betts, “Losing games last season makes you hungry to spend as much time as you can in the weight room. Makes you want to get better.”
The MSR spent time with both Gophers before they headed to the weight room. Both said they fully bought into Head Coach Ben Johnson’s big-picture vision for the basketball program.
“I was confident in the decision I made,” said Christie on coming to Minnesota. A two-time first-team conference honoree, the 6-foot-6-inch guard helped lead his high school to consecutive state championship appearances and a state title in his senior and junior seasons. He also received a Scholar-Athlete award for having a GPA of 3.5 or higher.
“We really enjoyed being around each other,” stated Betts, a 6-foot-8-inch forward from Pueblo, Colorado, on this year’s Gopher team. He, too, was an excellent student and helped his high school team make the state’s final four. His junior year, Betts led the state of Colorado in double-doubles (points-rebounds), and was tops in his class in blocks.
Both Betts and Christie believe their scoring abilities are their greatest strengths. “My best strength is driving to the rim and being able to score and get a bucket,” noted Betts.
“What I definitely need to work on more is my ball-handling and my [defense]. You can always get better at something and focus on getting better at everything.”
“My strength definitely is my shooting, a high IQ,” said Christie. “Things I can improve on is working on my defense this year.”
When asked about their degree plans, both said they want to be involved in sports in some form or fashion after they have stopped playing basketball.
“I want to get into coaching,” said Betts.
“I want to play as long as I can,” said Christie. “After that I want to be in sports, whether it’s coaching or…involved in the sports industry.”
As for both players’ expectations, college has been what they wanted on and off the court.
“It’s been super fun, so far,” said Christie.
“I expected I’d have to work, compete with the best players at this level,” said Betts. “It’s really fun and exciting.”
Diamond Awards for Lewis, Watkins
Among the recently announced recipients of the Minnesota Twins’ annual Diamond Awards for the 2023 season are rookie infielder Royce Lewis and Third Base/Outfield Coach Tommy Watkins.
Lewis is the winner of the Bill Boni Award for the team’s Most Outstanding Rookie. He batted .309, hit 15 home runs, had 52 RBIs, 36 runs scored, six stolen bases, seven doubles, a .372 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage. The 24-year-old also ranked first in batting average and slugging percentage, second in OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage), and third in on-base percentage among major league rookie leaders.
Watkins is the winner of the Kirby Puckett Award for Twins Alumni Community Service. Among his efforts are his participation in the team’s annual free glove giveaway, mentoring Northside youth athletes, visiting childhood cancer patients at local hospitals, and speaking at Twins youth camps.