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Coming back home

The last time Austin native Both Gach was playing a game in Williams Arena, he was a problem for the Gophers.

Now he’ll be a problem for Gopher opponents.

Gach, who put up 19 points and four rebounds for Utah in a 73-69 win against the Gophers on Nov. 15, is now transferring from Utah to Minnesota, where he will be much closer to his hometown after three years out west.

“It’s a blessing for me to come home,” Gach said. “I feel like any kid would love to come back to their home state and play college basketball.”

After playing games at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. local time and being 1,200 miles away from his family, Gach will now be just an hour and a half drive from Austin, where he got his start.

Austin’s Both Gach looks for room to move against the Marshall defense in the first half in the semifinals of the Minnesota Class AAA Boys State Basketball Tournament at Target Center in Minneapolis. Herald file photo

Gach had offers from several Division I schools after entering the transfer portal. His other top choices were Maryland, Creighton, Auburn and Iowa State. In the end, he chose to return to his old stomping grounds.

“I had some great, great teams on my list, but at the end of the day, I had to look at wanting to be closer to home during these difficult times with the pandemic and a lot of things going on,” Gach said. “I’m going to be back home playing in front of my family and friends and I’ll have a chance to be around them.”

The Gophers went 15-16 overall last season, but the team has gained some momentum this offseason after adding two transfers in forward Brandon Johnson from Western Michigan and center Liam Robbins from Drake.

Gach has put in a waiver request with the hopes of playing next season for Minnesota.

“They’ve got a lot of good players coming back and we’ve got some other transfers coming in. We have a lot of depth and we’ll have a team that can possibly make a huge run,” Gach said. “I’m glad to be back home.”

Gach didn’t draw any Big Ten offers out of high school, but he’s made big strides in the last two seasons, making him a key acquisition for the Gophers.

“I was a late bloomer and I didn’t really get too many Division I looks until late in the spring of my senior year,” Gach said. “A lot of schools already had their guys committed at that time. In my two years at Utah, I showed the kind of player I am.”

Austin boys basketball head coach Kris Fadness rarely brings freshmen up to the varsity squad, but he knew what the Packers had in Gach from the start. He saw Gach’s talent, his drive, and his work ethic at an early age.

“I think I always knew he had a chance,” Fadness said. “My concerns of him not making it were probably more non basketball related. He was obviously extremely talented as a young kid. He was a good shooter and he was very passionate about it.”

Gach’s older brother Gach Gach played with Both for one season when Both was a freshman, but the two have spent countless hours together on the basketball court to prepare for big things. Gach  Gach was only able to make it to one of Gach’s games in Utah, but he’s hoping to be a regular at Williams Arena this winter, if fans are allowed to attend games during the season.

Gach Gach, who is now living in Wahpeton, North Dakota, still stays active in basketball after he played a key role for Division II West Texas A & M for a couple of seasons. He can certainly relate to Both wanting to be close to home as Gach Gach rarely saw a familiar face in the crowd during his college career.

“Family means a lot to us and having us watch him means the world to him. I know he’s glad to come back home and join the Gophers,” Gach Gach said. “It can be difficult (to play far from home) and it kind of brings you down a little bit when players on your team have their family members at the games and you don’t; it kind of hurts.”

Gach Gach has always stayed supportive of Both, and his twin brother Duoth, who was recently named the Mon Dak Player of the Year at North Dakota State College of Science, a school that Gach Gach also played for.

“We spent our days and years living at the YMCA and the high school working on our shot and trying to get better at our craft,” Gach Gach said. “With Both, what helped him out was his growth spurt. He maintained his dribbling skills as he continued to grow. When he was a freshman, he made the goal of playing Division I and getting to the highest level he can go.”

Both Gach’s journey back home

2014-2015

Gach arrives on the varsity basketball scene just a shade under six-feet tall, with a lanky frame and a smooth jump shot. He and Tate Hebrink are the first Packers to play varsity basketball as freshmen since Zach Wessels was brought up in the 2010-2011 season.

2015-2016

Gach grows up to 6-2 and he starts to catch up to the speed of varsity play. He averages 10.5 points, 3 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.9 steals per game.

2016-2017

In Gach’s final season with the Packers, he grows to 6-4 and he emerges as Austin’s go-to guy. He averages 15.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.2 steals while leading the Packers to a second place finish in the Minnesota Class AAA State Tournament.

2017-2018

Gach transfers to Arizona Compass Prep, where he averages 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists per game. He returns to Austin in the spring to announce his commitment to Utah in Packer Gym.

2018-2019

Now grown to the height of 6-7, Gach breaks into the Utes’ starting lineup and averages 7.7 points and 2.1 rebounds per game.

2019-2020

Gach averages 10.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. He registered a triple-double early in the season and he was named PAC-12 Player of the Week at the end of the regular season. After the season, Gach declares for the NBA Draft, then announces he is transferring to the University of Minnesota to play with the Gophers.