Former Columbia Heights star Lofton visits Gophers

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  • April 21, 2014 - 4:57 PM

The University of Minnesota has yet to pen a basketball recruit in the spring signing period, but coach Richard Pitino and his staff are staying active.

The Gophers hosted Illinois State transfer Zach Lofton on campus over the weekend and could be considering adding the 6-4 guard to their current 2014 class.

It certainly seems the interest is there on Lofton's part. On Saturday, the St. Paul native tweeted "Visit to University of Minnesota was ill."

(Which means he thought it was great for those of you not up on current Hip Speak.)

Former Columbia Heights High School coach Willie Braziel called Lofton, who has two years of eligibility remaining, "ecstatic" to hear from Minnesota.

"That's where Zach wanted to go long before he ever went to Illinois State," Braziel said. "I don't think I can put it any clearer than that -- Zach's original wish was to be a Gopher."

It remains to be seen how interested Minnesota is. Braziel said to his knowledge there has been no official offer yet.

Minnesota has three scholarships remaining for a 2014 class that currently includes forward Josh Martin and guards Carlos Morris and Nate Mason. Overseas forward Gaston Diedhiou has committed, but not yet signed.

Most likely, Lofton would need to sit out a year. Braziel said he doesn't think there are any potential waivers being discussed. The Gophers would need to decide if they think it's worth it to sign a marginal high-major player for 2015 right now.

There are potential off-the-court concerns as well. Lofton was suspended for the final three games of the season at Illinois State for undisclosed reasons. Braziel said Minnesota assistant Ben Johnson reached out to him to ask about Lofton's character.

"When you leave a program you're not leaving usually because things went well," Braziel said. "So [the Gophers staff was] concerned about what may or may not have happened and what makes an athlete transfer. They wanted to make sure-- were there problems with me coaching him? Were there problems with family members? I didn't have any of those problems.

"Academically, I don't think they'll find any problems with Zach [either]."

Braziel said he doesn't think Lofton is talking seriously with any other schools right now. He mentioned Lofton could consider going the Division II route if the right program came along if he decided he didn't want to sit out a year.

The coach also said he thinks Lofton -- who played one season at San Jacinto Junior College (Texas) before playing last season at Illinois State -- is capable of impacting a program at the top collegiate level.

"I can honestly say I've never had a quicker guard," he said. "Basketball IQ? As high as you're gonna get, at any level." 

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