Gopher red-shirt junior Davonte Fitzgerald suffered another knee injury last week (Fitzgerald hurt his knee as a sophomore at Texas A&M during his sophomore season two years ago) and will miss the 2016-17 season. Coach Pitino talked about the injury and who has to step up in Fitzgerald’s place.
“We were delivered a tough blow last week with Davonte tearing his ACL again,” Coach Pitino said. “Injuries are an unfortunate part of the game. You hate to see a great kid like Davonte go through that but we all know he will be back better than ever next season.
Pitino had encouraging things to say about both the sophomore Gilbert and true freshman Michael Hurt.
“Ahmad always plays with great enthusiasm and wants to win. We have to improve his lateral quickness. When he stays within himself he can be very effective.”
Hurt continues to be a guy that Pitino raves about when it comes to work ethic.
“(A) gym rat! Much like JR (Gilbert’s nickname), Mike needs to improve his foot speed. His shooting continues to be a valuable asset for us. Tough to rival his work ethic.”
Despite the injury Pitino is still very excited about what the team can do this winter.
“I can truly say I love where this team is headed,” Piitno said. “Obviously the injuries to Davonte and Reggie (Lynch) have been challenging but it's an opportunity for someone else to step up.
“This time of year is always fun for the coaches and a bit of a challenge for the players. The guys have done a very good job on and off the court so far. They are extremely eager to show everyone what we are all about.”
Pitino’s Player Comments
Pitino went through each player and talked about what he’s seen from each so far. Here is what stood out to us at GI
Everything that was said about Akeem Springs is very, very encouraging. Minnesota needs a guy that has Akeem’s experience, toughness, and leadership. Pitino’s words about Akeem say it best:
“(Akeem) has the chance to be the heart and soul of our team. It's not too often a fifth year senior comes in and takes over a huge leadership role but Akeem has done that brilliantly. His shooting is improving. He plays extremely hard.”
Amir Coffey continues to play at a high level and his length is a serious issue on defense for others. Pitino talked about Amir needing to shoot more and be more vocal but those are things that have been said before.
The praise of Eric Curry continues. You almost wonder if the comments that have been made about Eric are going to put more pressure on him than Amir has. “I’m really excited about Eric's potential,” said Pitino. “Plays hard, runs great. Makes a lot of terrific moves but has struggled to finish them. That will improve.”
The off-season praise of Dupree McBrayer continues as Pitino once again stated that he has improved the most. “(Dupree) has probably made the biggest jump on the team. (We’ve) been playing him at the 1 and the 2. He's playing great. I told him he was like a great stock that keeps trending upward.”
Pitino also noted that Gaston Diedhiou is “still making the same mistakes as last year but is playing hard and competing” and that Bakary Konate is “trending in the right direction”, “his hands are getting better”, and he’s “become a better shot blocker”.
Finally there is the All Big Ten caliber duo of Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy. Coach Pitino has huge plans for both. “Nate’s playing at a high level right now. When he shoots it confidently he's tough to guard. Doing a good job leading. Murph, like Dupree, is evolving.
“Jordan's going where his bread is buttered on offense, which would be the block. He's becoming a problem for the defense down there. Love the confidence he's playing with. Also showing terrific leadership.”
The Gophers will have an open scrimmage for the public to watch immediately after the football game with Rutgers on October 22nd. It’s homecoming weekend and this scrimmage is a part of the festivities.
Pitino, Mason, and Murphy will represent the Gophers at Big Ten Media Day this Thursday in Washington D.C.