Nobody was really sure what Davonte was going to bring to the team considering that he was a transfer last year and suffered an injury as a sophomore at Texas A&M. Fitzgerald recorded a nice shooting percentage as a freshman from the arc and he’s a very long player at 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8.
The word we had received was that Fitzgerald was doing a lot of Paul Carter like things in practice over the past year and moving into this season. Fans will remember Carter being a Gopher forward who played both the three and the four competing with a lot of energy as a defender, rebounder, and active moving off-ball player.
If that is indeed the type of player Fitzgerald now is, that’s a big loss. It’s also a big loss that his three years of college basketball already experienced will not be on the court this year.
That said, if there was a position that Minnesota could lose a guy, it would be at forward. They can not afford to lose a center and they certainly can’t afford to lose a ball handler.
Fitzgerald is a loss but at the small forward spot the Gophers still have a pair of freshman that can play there in Amir Coffey and Michael Hurt as well as Ahmad Gilbert who started six games at the position as a true freshman.
Also, sophomore Stephon Sharp played some three as a worker during the middle of the year and at 6-foto-4 and 220 pounds Akeem Springs certainly has the strength to play the position.
As a Paul Carter type, and considering that Richard Pitino had talked about Fitzgerald playing some power forward, it does hurt the depth at the four. But Jordan Murphy owns that position after a strong freshman year plus true freshman Eric Curry continues to get rave reviews at nearly 6-foot-10. Between Murphy and Curry, as well as the other long freshman wings, and Gaston Diedhiou the team will be covered at the four spot.
What we learned with this injury is that Minnesota lost a high character teammate. Today Pitino called Fitzgerald “the hardest worker in the program” as the coach took to Twitter to express his feelings about this loss.
“I hate delivering the difficult news about Davonte Fitzgerald. He is without a doubt the hardest worker in the program and would have been an extremely valuable piece this season.
“I noticed something remarkable yesterday during practice after Davonte got hurt. He was sitting by himself, icing his knee knowing that it was likely another torn ACL.
“What nobody noticed was Davonte clapping and encouraging his teammates on even though he knew he was about to sit out for a second straight year.
“I called Davonte after he hot his MRI but he didn’t pick up. He texted me a few minutes later and simply thanked me for allowing him to be part of such a special opportunity and promised me he would work even harder to return stronger so he could help his team next season.
“No feeling sorry for himself. He’s a special person and I know he will be back better than ever next year!”.
The question I’ve been asked several times since the injury today is “will he get a sixth year?”
Based on past sixth years given by the NCAA this would fit. There is no guarantee with the NCAA but Fitzgerald is likely a good candidate to petition the league and try and get two more years on his eligibility.
The tough thing is that Fitzgerald has already been through one knee injury in his college career. What we’ve learned from this is Fitzgerald does seem to have the character to fight back and be even better next year.