This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

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Guard Daquein McNeil commits to Gophers, high school coach says

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: April 17, 2013 - 1:31 PM

The Gophers will bring in at least one player for next season.

Vermont Academy coach Jesse Bopp confirmed on Wednesday that 6-3 guard Daquein McNeil has committed to Minnesota and new coach Richard Pitino. Wednesday marks the beginning of the late signing period for basketball, which runs through May 15. Nothing official has come yet from the Gophers' side.

McNeil originally committed to Florida International but sought a release after Pitino took the Minnesota job. He had offers from Oklahoma, VCU and Rutgers, among other schools, according to Scout.com. He from Baltimore, but he left home to play for Vermont Academy before his sophomore year.

Pitino and McNeil have been in constant contact throughout the recruiting process, Bopp said, and have talked daily since Pitino decided to take the Minnesota job. It was important for McNeil to feel that the interest was still there in a strong way, and that was shown quickly, Bopp said.

"Daquein is a kid that is extremely loyal," Bopp said. "It's at the core of who he is ... I think that loyalty was built during the recruiting process."

Minnesota was holding four scholarships and had no recruits for the 2013-14 season after both Alvin Ellis and Alex Foster de-committed before news broke that McNeil would be the first Gopher that Pitino brings to Minnesota.

"I think the first thing is just Coach Pitino's personality," Bopp said "and Coach [assistant coach Kimani] Young's ability to connect" the staff's goals and desires in a way that it was meaningful for McNeil.

"Kimani Young did as good as good of a job with any coach I've ever seen," Bopp said.

Bopp also said that McNeil, a quick guard, was drawn to Pitino's up-tempo style of play and system that he established last season at Florida International. Pitino has not specifically talked with McNeil about what position he will play with the Gophers -- whether it be at point, shooting guard or as a combo guard.

"He's a guard. He's a playmaker. He's a kid that can do a lot of different things," Bopp said. "I think they could consider using him at the point, but that's also a lot of responsibility. ... Daquein's got to build that trust."

Here is a highlight video of McNeil from January of 2012:

 

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