At the Minnesota basketball team camp last month, Gophers assistant Dan McHale took a gander around the high schoolers present and nudged new transfer Zach Lofton.
"How many of these high schools do you represent?" he joked.
Lofton, who joined the Minnesota this summer, in fact could claim just one as his alma mater -- Columbia Heights High School, from which he graduated in 2011. But the jest was rooted in a fact: the junior shooting guard has moved around a lot. The St. Paul native attended Saint Bernard's for two years until the school closed, at which point he transferred to Columbia Heights. Lofton then attended Quakerdale Prep in Iowa, before enrolling at San Jacinto College-Central, a junior college. After a year, he left for Illinois State, where he played for one season before being recruited by the Gophers.
"He's been a journeyman," McHale said.
Now, though, the lifelong Gophers fan is at the place he's always wanted to call home.
"He's so appreciative to play here," McHale said. "It's always been his dream."
Minnesota seems pretty happy to have Lofton, too. Head coach Richard Pitino has raved about the guard's NBA-type body, telling crowds of fans that attended Minnesota's Gopher Road Trip stops this summer that he thought Lofton had the highest potential of anyone on the team.
Lofton has to sit out one season due to NCAA transfer rules, but the Gophers have high hopes for his expected maroon-and-gold debut in the fall of 2015. The coaches were drawn to his ability to shoot and get to the rim; his athleticism and his power.
"He is very, very talented, multi-skilled," McHale said. "In our system, he's the type of guy that could be really good and sitting out a year could be beneficial for him."
Last year's stats aren't as kind to Lofton as his current coaches' words. With the Redbirds, the 6-foot-4 guard averaged 11.3 points and three rebounds, but shot just 33.9 percent from the field and 29.2 percent from three-point range.
When McHale saw those numbers, he went through the tape and looked through every shot Lofton had taken last year. He saw the guard release in bad situations and with hands in his face, again and again.
"He took a LOT of challenged shots," McHale said.
Since then, the Gophers have worked with Lofton on his shot selection, which they believe will produce a drastic change in his percentages.
"It's not like he's got anything wrong mechanically, or really anything we need to fix," McHale said. "He's got a beautiful-looking jumper. It's just learning how to play ... he's the type of kid who could really fill it up."
The motive, McHale knows, won't be a problem.
"Every day he puts on the Minnesota practice jersey" McHale said, "It means something to him."