Ah, the enigma that is Davonte Fitzgerald. Is he a freak athlete destined to hold down a impact role for the Gophers? Or is he simply an urban legend, always close but never really fully available to contribute to the team he’s spent two years preparing to join.
Fitzgerald’s story is an extremely frustrating one. As a freshman at Texas A&M, he was enjoying a solid season before a torn ACL took him down. From there, he transferred after his sophomore season, looking for greener pastures, which forced him to sit out one year before suffering ANOTHER torn ACL last year before the season even started. A redshirt senior now, the NCAA generously awarded him a sixth year of eligibility (cue the Tommy Boy references) and the opportunity to make good on his drive to contribute at Minnesota for the next two years. So it begins.
Fitzgerald is a slim 6-8, weighing in at 220 lbs. He is NOT a traditional power forward. Yes, he is tall. No, he is not a bruiser. Get it out of your head right now that he is an Eric Curry equivalent or replacement. He’ll spell Jordan Murphy on the block, but Fitzgerald is more comfortable taking shots and playing the 3 than banging down low.
REVIEW OF 2016-2017
Just kidding. Sort of. But really, he had to sit out with a knee injury, so there isn’t much to report. But he has said he had time to digest what sort of scheme Pitino runs and what his expectations are.
OUTLOOK FOR 2017-2018
What does a player look like after not seeing game action for two calendar years? There’s sure to be some rust, but Fitzgerald is a high-caliber player who has already spent time at a major program. So it’s not like he’s a freshman stepping on to the court for the first time. Still, it’s likely to be a trial by fire, since he’ll be expected to handle significant minutes as the team tries to replace Eric Curry.
Fitzgerald is a bouncer, a slasher, and a shooter. He’s very athletic and plays above the rim, so you can expect some flash and some electricity. Still, in his time with A&M he was pretty streaky, and by the end of his sophomore season he was seeing only sparse minutes. He’s been complimented on his defense as well, and can create problems with superior length and athleticism.
Whether or not he’s ready, the Gophers will lean on Fitzgerald to do his best Curry impression, or at least carve out productive minutes in his absence. Really, there isn’t much on the bench beyond him and Bakary Konate if we’re looking to spell Reggie Lynch or Jordan Murphy. He’s a veteran on paper, but hasn’t seen game action since March 23, 2015, so it’s hard to say how he’ll look once he finally gets on the court. And that’s not even factoring in that he’s coming back from his second major knee injury. Will he be tentative? Has he lost any explosiveness?
Fitzgerald brings a unique skill set to the team, and has the ability to be a matchup problem as a sizeable 3 or a quick 4. First things first, though; let’s see how he performs once the kid gloves are taken off and he’s thrown into real game action.