Gophers junior forward Jarvis Omersa decided to opt out of playing the rest of the basketball season "due to personal health concerns surrounding COVID-19," the team announced Sunday.
The 6-foot-6 Omersa, a fan favorite and emotional team leader, is especially known for his athleticism and highlight-reel dunks.
A former Orono standout, Omersa was part of Richard Pitino's all-Minnesota high school recruiting class in 2018 that also included Daniel Oturu and Gabe Kalscheur.
"He didn't feel comfortable," Pitino said. "I respect his decision. I know it's a tough decision for him. I know he would love to be around his teammates, but what we got going on right now is not normal. Certainly we respect the decision he's making and want what's best for everybody in our program."
The NCAA passed a rule this year that allows players opting out during the pandemic to still remain on scholarship. Omersa is still on scholarship for this season, according to the Gophers.
But his scholarship could become available if he decides to enter the transfer portal. He's on track to graduate this year.
Omersa expected to have a bigger role in his third season with the Gophers and recently met with Pitino to discuss his frustration, sources told the Star Tribune.
He was averaging 1.7 points and 2.3 rebounds in 9.9 minutes through seven games. He went scoreless with two rebounds in eight minutes in Tuesday's Big Ten-opening 92-65 loss against Illinois.
With 7-foot Drake transfer Liam Robbins starting this season, Omersa was an undersized backup center. He also played that role last season behind Oturu, who left early for the NBA draft.
Omersa averaged four points, four rebounds and 2.3 steals in 15 minutes through three games this season. He didn't play more than eight minutes in the past four games, but still leads the Gophers with 1.3 steals per game.
Playing in all 31 games with one start as a sophomore, Omersa averaged 1.9 points and 2.5 rebounds and ranked second on the team with 16 blocks. He had a career-best game against North Dakota with 11 points and nine rebounds.
This offseason, Omersa was active in the community supporting social injustice causes and local peaceful protests after George Floyd's death in police custody.
He took pride in a leadership role from the bench to provide energy, especially with no fans being allowed at home games during the pandemic.
Tucker calls game
Former Gophers All-America guard Trent Tucker, who has his No. 32 jersey hanging in the Williams Arena rafters, was asked to help cover Sunday's game for FS1.
Tucker helped lead the U to the 1982 Big Ten championship and that year was the No. 6 overall pick in the NBA draft by New York. During his stint with the Knicks, he played for Pitino's father, Rick, from 1987-89.
"I really enjoyed playing for his father," Tucker said. "His father was the first guy who really instituted the press, trap and three-point shooting style of game.
''How the Golden State Warriors play today, that's how the Knicks played at that time."