Davonte Fitzgerald and Reggie Lynch were hoping to accomplish big things together as two transfers bringing an impact to the Gophers this season.
But knee injuries have sidelined them both in the past two weeks, most notably Fitzgerald, who suffered a season-ending torn ACL for the second time in his career, coach Richard Pitino announced Friday.
"I hate delivering the difficult news about Davonte Fitzgerald," Pitino wrote on Twitter. "He is without a doubt the hardest worker in the program and would have been an extremely valuable piece this season."
Fitzgerald, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, tore his ACL and the medial and lateral meniscus in his left knee in a drill during Thursday's practice. It was a serious blow for the Atlanta native since he also suffered a torn ACL his freshman season at Texas A&M.
Lynch, a 6-10 junior center, is expected to return at the end of the month after meniscus surgery on his left knee last month. He had already missed a few months earlier in the year after rotator cuff surgery. The Edina native couldn't practice this summer while suspended over an arrest on suspicion of sexual misconduct, which resulted in no charges.
A year ago, Fitzgerald and Lynch were preparing to sit out the season together, knowing they had to wait to help the team. They bonded while sharing that experience, even playing games of 1-on-1 away from practice. "We were close from the beginning, just knowing we were going to be junior transfers," Lynch said in February.
At one time, Fitzgerald and Lynch were projected starters for 2016-17. Lynch will be the Gophers center if he's healthy enough to play in the Nov. 11 season opener. Fitzgerald's role would've been as backup at small forward and power forward, the deepest positions on the team.
Fitzgerald averaged 7.3 points and 2.3 rebounds as a freshman at Texas A&M before his first knee injury in 2014. Arriving at Minnesota weighing 205 pounds, Fitzgerald needed to bulk up for the Big Ten. He weighed 220 at practice last week after work in the weight room this summer. Fitzgerald proved versatile enough to defend the perimeter and post, blocking 6-11 center Bakary Konate's dunk attempt in a 5-on-5 drill Tuesday in practice.
Pitino said Fitzgerald sent him a text message after learning the MRI results Thursday, telling his coach he would work hard to come back even stronger for next season.
"What nobody noticed was Davonte clapping and encouraging his teammates on [in practice], even though he knew he was about to sit out a second straight year," Pitino wrote. "No feeling sorry for himself. He's a special person and I know he will back better than ever next year!"
Scrimmages on Oct. 22
Gophers fans will get their first look at the men's and women's teams at the same time during a joint open scrimmage Oct. 22 at Williams Arena. The free "Homecoming Tip-off" will begin 20 minutes after the conclusion of the Gophers' homecoming football game against Rutgers, an 11 a.m. kickoff across the street.
The teams will scrimmage separately. Pitino and women's coach Marlene Stollings will be on microphones, and an hour-long autograph session with players and coaches will follow at the Sports Pavilion.