With hundreds of Division I transfers looking to find new homes this spring, the Gophers recently got involved with Alabama Birmingham junior point guard Nick Norton.
Norton told the Star Tribune on Thursday that he expects to visit Minnesota’s program in early May, but he doesn’t have an exact date scheduled. The visit was first reported by FanRag's Jon Rothstein.
Norton, a 5-foot-10, 168-pound Bloomington, Ill. native, was released from his scholarship at UAB and announced his decision to transfer April 2.
“The past four years I wasn’t always perfect but I left it all out there and have zero regrets,” Norton wrote in part of his statement on Twitter. “As hard a decision as this is I’m excited and ready to start my next journey to pursue a master’s degree and finish my athletic career elsewhere.”
He had strong ties to UAB since his father, Randy, is the Blazers women’s basketball coach. But Norton has a chance to play at the Power Five level after three solid seasons at a mid-major. He’s also reportedly considering Ohio State, Purdue and Ole Miss. His visits with Ohio State and Purdue will be in April, per reports.
In 2014-15, Norton was named Conference USA All-Freshman team after averaging 7.2 points, 3.8 assists and shooting 39.1 percent from three-point range with 33 starts. His sophomore season, he averaged 8.9 points and 5.1 assists per game, but he suffered a season-ending ACL injury the following year.
Returning from injury, Norton was steady with 7.5 points and 4.9 assists this season for UAB. He ranked second in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.0) and also earned all-conference academic honors (3.5 GPA).
Norton said Pitino and the Gophers started showing interest within the last few days. With senior Nate Mason’s career over at Minnesota, freshman Isaiah Washington is currently the only scholarship point guard on the roster. Other returning guards are sophomore Amir Coffey and junior Dupree McBrayer. Freshman Jamir Harris announced his decision last week to transfer.
Pitino desperately needs to add backcourt depth in 2017-18, but he will have to beat out several top suitors for Nelson.
Two years ago, the Gophers landed a highly-rated graduate transfer with Akeem Springs, whose leadership and impact instantly changed the program. Springs and company enjoyed a 16-game turnaround and reached the first NCAA tournament under Pitino in 2017.
With three scholarships still available for next season, Pitino has a chance to add more experience, talent and depth (along with his 2018 recruiting class) to help the U turn things around again from a 15-17 season this year. Will a graduate transfer again be a missing piece. We'll see.