Minnesota Golden Gophers star junior guard/forward Destiny Pitts announced on twitter Thursday afternoon that she intends to enter the transfer portal and her career at the University of Minnesota is over. Pitts announced her transfer five days into a suspension from the Gopher team for “conduct unbecoming a member of the team” by Minnesota head coach Lindsay Whalen.
Pitts was taken out of the Gophers 56-54 loss to Northwestern on January 9th with 7:35 left in the game. She would not return as the Gophers came back from a six point deficit to tie the game with four seconds left before a game winning shot by the Wildcats. Whalen said in her post game radio interview that Pitts was not taken out of the game due to injury or illness.
The Gophers traveled to Champaign to take on Illinois last Sunday and Pitts did not travel with the team. a Gopher spokesperson announced approximately a half hour prior to tip off that Pitts was suspended indefinitely for conduct unbecoming a member of the team. Along with Pitts the two Bello sisters, seniors Taiye and Kehinde did not make the trip to Illinois. While no official announcement was made, it was fairly obvious the Bello sisters were sticking up for Pitts and did not travel in protest.
Linsday Whalen had her media availability on Wednesday afternoon prior to the Gophers game against Iowa on Thursday and said that Pitts remained suspended and was not practicing with the team, but that the Bellos were back practicing and their status for Thursday’s game was unclear. When asked if their absence was related to Pitts suspension she replied “Umm, no.”.
Pitts in her declaration to enter the transfer portal laid out her side of the story, and not surprisingly there are more than a few differences that the version we have heard from the U.
I wish Coach Whalen and her staff nothing but the best. pic.twitter.com/8eEpkfeKNG— Destiny Pitts (@desip33) January 16, 2020
Pitts states that last Friday she was informed she was being suspended for her “body language” during the Northwestern game. She says she was blindsides by the suspension as it was her first discipline situation of her career at any level. She said that she has take some time away to determine her best course of action and she has no decided that she wants to “further her academic and athletic journey in an environment that will support me”.
Pitts also states that the Bellos stood up for her and decided on their own to sit out of last weekend’s trip to Illinois in protest of “a suspension they know is wrong”
In all cases like this the trust lies somewhere in the middle most likely, but it never less is a black eye on the Gopher program and the coaching tenure of Lindsay Whalen. It’s never a good thing when your team’s best player no longer wants to play for your team. She was averaging 16.3 points per game this season for Minnesota and was shooting nearly 46% from beyond the three point arc on the season.
From purely a gameplay standpoint the Gophers will need to try and figure out who can step up and try and provide that missing scoring punch. Minnesota has gotten great play from a pair of freshmen in Sarah Scalia and Jasmine Powell, and senior Juco transfer Masha Adashchyk has been the player to see her playing time have the most drastic increase. But none of those players are of the caliber of Destiny Pitts at the moment. Minnesota has tail spinned once again in the Big Ten season losing four games in a row after a 11-1 start to the season.
From a team chemistry standpoint its a huge question mark. Will the Bello’s return to the floor Thursday night and complete their senior year? Most likely they will as they have limited options as seniors but they still can not be happy with how this has played out. Are there other players unhappy with what happened on the roster? All of the other Gophers players played in the Illinois game last Sunday, so a full team mutiny is not likely, but you have to wonder if there are a few of the players who are rethinking if they want to be here after the season.
As for Whalen, this is the first dark cloud over her coaching career thus far. Can she overcome and get her team turned around and refocused in the reminder of the Big Ten season? Or this the first warning sign of something bigger on the horizon? Her unconvincing no when asked if the Bello’s absence was related to the Pitts suspension when its fairly obvious it was is not a great sign, Only time may tell.
In either case, it appears that this is a situation that could have been handled a bit differently on both sides, but unfortunately for both Pitts and for Minnesota that ship seems to have sailed. It will be interesting to see where Pitts looks to transfer, but would one would think a player of her talent will have many potential options. The favorite in the clubhouse has to be Texas Tech where the coach who recruited Pitts and coached her during her freshman season Marlene Stollings ended up.
The remaining members of the Gophers will try and snap their four game losing streak against #22 Iowa at the Barn Thursday night at 7PM.