Richard Pitino didn’t even have enough healthy players to conduct a 5-on-5 scrimmage at the Gophers’ first practice Friday.
Senior center Reggie Lynch, junior guard Dupree McBrayer and junior forward Davonte Fitzgerald are taking it slow after recovering from injuries and did not participate in full contact. Senior center Matz Stockman was not at practice because of a stomach virus.
“It’s been a weird vibe on the team right now,” Pitino said, “because Reggie cannot do contact. Dupree cannot do contact. Davonte — we’re going to be really patient with him as we should be. So there’s not a great flow, just from a competitive standpoint.”
And all of this comes after sophomore forward Eric Curry’s season-ending knee injury last month. Curry had his surgery last week.
Lynch, last season’s Big Ten defensive player of the year, had minor offseason knee surgery for the second straight year. But the 6-10 Edina native did conditioning drills during Friday’s practice at Williams Arena.
McBrayer and Fitzgerald both participated in team drills Friday. McBrayer had been sidelined for a few months with a stress reaction in his left leg, which is a precursor to a stress fracture. But he should be cleared for full contact next week, Pitino said.
“He’s very, very close,” Pitino said of McBrayer. “He could probably fully practice today, but I’m just trying to be careful. [Lynch] will start rolling almost full-go next week. Reggie’s deal was very, very similar to last year. I don’t think it’s anything serious.”
Fitzgerald, who could be a replacement for Curry at backup power forward, was cleared by the team trainer for contact Friday. But the Gophers are being cautious with him since he missed last season with the second major knee injury of his career. The former Texas A&M transfer hasn’t played a game since before transferring in 2014-15.
“I’ve got to be really, really careful with him,” Pitino said. “We have to be smart with him, but make sure he gets into shape and gets that basketball flow.”