MINNEAPOLIS — Richard Pitino has landed his first recruit at Minnesota.
Senior Daquein McNeil, a three-star shooting guard from Vermont Academy, has committed to play for Pitino and the Gophers next season, McNeil’s high school coach confirmed. McNeil was originally committed to play for Pitino at Florida International University but will now follow the 30-year-old coach to Minnesota.
The 6-foot-3, 175-pound McNeil has played in the New England Prep School League.
“He can really score in a lot of different ways,” said Jesse Bopp, McNeil’s coach at Vermont Academy. “He’s a kid that’s built a reputation of being someone that really values winning, that really understands team and equates success as a player to how his team does.”
The Gophers were without any recruits in the 2013 class after head coach Tubby Smith was fired following Minnesota’s second-round exit in the NCAA Tournament. Minnesota was expecting the arrivals of Chicago’s Alvin Ellis and Alex Foster of Seton Academy (Ill.), but both players decommitted amid the coaching change.
Bopp said Pitino and FIU made a strong push to land McNeil last summer after he entertained offers from schools such as Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth.
“Daquein feels very comfortable with Coach Pitino,” Bopp said. “I’ve known Coach Pitino for a long time. … I have a great respect for him as an individual, as a coach, as a person.”
From the day he took the job at Minnesota, Pitino has said he plans to run an up-tempo style of play that involves plenty of pressing on defense. Bopp believes that fits well with how McNeil plays and that McNeil will be able to contribute right away as a true freshman.
“You project a kid’s ability to make a transition on what he’s done in the past, playing against a high level of competition in meaningful situations,” Bopp said. “In all those situations, he’s really rose to the occasion.”