News broke last night that Lofton was dismissed from the Gopher basketball team for failing to live up to the expectations and obligations of the team. Who knows what that might mean, and speculation is of course rampant, both legit and all in good fun:
Sources: Zach Lofton introduced Asian Carp to Minnesota waters. Dismissed from Gopher bball team.
— jdmill (@jdmill) October 30, 2014
Zach Lofton thinks a hot dog is a sandwich. Dismissed from Gophers.
— Cthulu Skullson (@FrothyGopher) October 30, 2014
I can’t believe Lofton was dismissed for running an illegal railroad monopoly!!!
— mVAMPIREofDEADTHINGs (@MVofDT) October 30, 2014
Maybe the reason will come out, maybe it won't, but the main thing is, as the second worst announcer in history likes to say, he gone.
It probably shouldn't be a huge surprise, given Lofton's behavior issues at this previous stop. It was also reported that his body language and behavior at the Gophers' open scrimmage on Sunday was somewhere between terrible and bizarrely horrible, so perhaps whatever prompted this move was already in motion, or perhaps that pushed everything over the top, but now signing him is a clear mistake with consequences both past and future. Wow that was one long run-on sentence. I need an editor.
One issue is 2015-2016 where Lofton was supposed to be able to step in right away and be a big-time scorer since both Dre Mathieu and Dre Hollins will be gone. Not like the team is going to bereft of guard talent with Nate Mason, Carlos Morris, Daquein McNeil, Kevin Dorsey, Dupree McBrayer, and Jarvis Johnson on board, but take a look at those names: as of right now only McNeil has played actual D1 college basketball. Again, not really too worried since Mason, Morris, and McNeil will have this season to learn and those three freshman should be fine, but it'd be nice to have Lofton around and know what you're getting - a moody gunner who can shoot and score. Hopefully somebody morphs into this role, although they can feel free to leave moody at the door.
Perhaps the bigger consequence, and yes hindsight is 20-20 they say, is that by using a scholarship on Lofton the Gophers ended up running out of space before Alex Illikainen had committed. Of course there is no guarantee he would have become a Gopher, but the fact that he chose the stupid Badgers very quickly after the Gophers used their last scholarship offer on Johnson is highly suggestive that he was down to Minnesota and Wisconsin. A choice between Lofton and Illikainen was probably a toss up, and now it's obvious which would have been the preferred outcome. A strong 2015 class backs a solid 2014 class, so losing one player won't hurt the team too much, even one as talented as Lofton. This also gives Pitino another scholarship for 2015, though he's likely lost a lot of momentum on anyone he was chasing given that the team was all full up at one time. I expect that will be banked for 2016 or for a transfer of some sort - hopefully a more reliable one than Lofton.
Here is the spot where I admit to being totally and completely wrong. Here is what I wrote when Lofton was first announced as a future Gopher. Whoops. I still maintain my stance that overall it's worthwhile taking a chance on talented players with questionable mental make-up, but in this case it clearly didn't work out. I said with a number of transfers out at Illinois State a lot of Lofton's problems were likely the coach's fault. I would like to retract that. I also said that if Lofton was acting up and acting like a general shithead that I trust Pitino would handle it. That he did.
That he did.