Gophers nab Pitino’s FIU recruit

Andrew Krammer

The Gophers’ 2013 recruiting class is no longer empty.

Days after signees Alvin Ellis and Alex Foster decommitted amid Minnesota’s coaching transition, new head coach Richard Pitino netted guard Daquein McNeil, who had previously committed to Florida International University in October. McNeil will claim one of four available scholarships for 2013.

McNeil’s high school coach Jesse Bopp told the Minnesota Daily that McNeil switched his commitment from FIU to Minnesota.

“I think Daquein is a Big Ten-level player,” Bopp said. “I think what makes him the right fit for the Big Ten is the style of play, the style Minnesota is going to play.”

Minnesota has two looming holes to fill in the frontcourt with seniors Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe departing, but the addition of McNeil solidifies a stout backcourt that graduated senior guard Julian Welch.

Bopp said McNeil initially committed to Pitino because of the fast pace the young coach implements.

“I’d imagine at Minnesota they are going to play such a frantic pace that they’re going to play a lot of people,” Bopp said. “It’s going to be very, very hard to play 40 minutes for Richard Pitino.”

Andre Hollins, the Gophers’ starting point guard in 2012-13, is a natural shooting guard. Bopp said McNeil ran the point at Vermont Academy but is a “natural scorer” and can play at shooting guard as well.

“I could see [McNeil] playing at the point and Hollins moving over to [shooting guard],” Bopp said. “All that stuff is totally up to the competition within the program and how those guys push each other.”

Illinois and Michigan had expressed interest in McNeil, Bopp said.

But Bopp said no Big Ten program showed a strong commitment to McNeil. He said Rutgers, Virginia Commonwealth, Washington and Richmond were among the teams that pursued him the most.

McNeil, a 6-foot-3-inch, 175-pound Maryland native, is a three-star recruit, according to rivals.com.