Previewing the 2016-17 season player by player, continuing with Davonte Fitzgerald

Next up in the Focus Series is transfer Davonte Fitzgerald. What he is expected to bring to the University of Minnesota next year? The past two seasons Fitzgerald has been a transfer and injured so it’s tough to know.

Statistically Speaking

The Good

As a freshman at Texas A&M Fitzgerald played 16 minutes a contest and averaged 7.3 points per game in the SEC which is encouraging. He shot 60 percent from the foul line as a freshman and grabbed 2-3 rebounds a game. As a sophomore he dealt with a nagging leg injury which forced him to spend more time as a feet-set shooter. His three point percentage improved to 30.5 percent and his foul shooting improved to 67 percent. Used his length to block 17 shots as a freshman.

The Bad

Fitzgerald played six less minutes a game as a sophomore and a decent part of that was the leg injury. He went from taking about a third of his shots at the arc to doing less slashing and shooting about 60 percent of his attempts at the arc. Davonte is a career 36 percent field goal shooter and 29 percent three point shooter in college who had a grand total of seven assists in two years. Yes seven assists total in 617 minutes of basketball played. Average went from 7.3 points as a frosh to 3.5 points per game as a sophomore.

Focus on 16-17

This is very hard to do because there really is so little to go on since his freshman year. As a sophomore he played hurt and as a transfer all I saw him do was play sparingly in two scrimmages when he really didn’t do anything to talk about.

What do we expect him to be? Fitzgerald is said to be a confident shooter with range in a long and agile frame. Knowing that, Gopher fans should expect him to help their shooting problem at the arc and expect him to be a long wing defender that is difficult to shoot over. He should also be a guy that uses his length and agility to jump passing lanes in both the full court trap and the halfcourt defense plus you would expect the length of Fitzgerald to be a problem for the defense when in help, when trapping, and when contesting shots.

What we really don’t know is how he moves. There is no knowledge to suggest what type of defender Fitzgerald is laterally, what he is like going to the glass and bouncing to the boards, what his vertical bounce looks like, and how physical he is going at the basket. We do know that Fitzgerald is a confident shooter who will pull whenever open but we also know that his percentages must improve. He also has to take smart shots and seven assists in two years does not suggest that at all.

Minnesota needs him to be a reliable shooting option and they need him to be a long athlete who is active defensively. This will be his fourth year of college basketball so the experience is there. Minnesota will need him to be a dependable guy that takes smart shots, moves the ball correctly, and knows how to defend. The guy at his position previously (Carlos Morris) wasn’t as tall or long as Fitzgerald but was also a very confident shooter. That can’t have another guy who takes bad shots and is inconsistent defensively.

The Gophers need Fitzgerald to be the opposite and they need his percentages from the arc, from the field, and from the foul line to be better than his underclassmen years. The hope of Gopher fans is that Fitzgerald is the starter at the small forward spot and plays next to Amir Coffey giving them one of the nation’s longest and most agile starting line-ups.

The Stat Line

I would say Minnesota needs Fitzgerald to score about 8-10 points per game, shoot about 42-44 percent from the field, shoot at least 34-35 percent at the arc (better would be nice but let’s keep it simple here), make 70 percent of the foul shots, average at least one assist per game, and keep using his length to block shots and get deflections and steals. Anything less than those scoring numbers means one of two things: other wings did more than expected and Fitzgerald didn’t have quite as much opportunity because of depth OR it means that Fitzgerald’s percentages didn’t improve enough from his underclassmen years.

Fitzgerald is the ex-factor. So many of the other players do things that we are familiar with as we have seen them play. With Fitzgerald we don’t know much about him but we do know that he is in his fourth year of college and he should supply steady experienced play. The Gophers need him to be a factor or the scholarship used to bring him in and give the team a load of forwards would have been wasted.

Fans will be watching him very closely from day one hoping that he can be the shooter and third or fourth scoring option that this team needs.

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