In her short time playing for Minnesota, guard Destiny Pitts didn't expect to receive a big role with the team, but she has embraced it nonetheless.
Pitts was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year Monday. She is one of four players on the Gophers who average double digits, 13.1 points in her case. Also, she leads the team in rebounds per game with 7.4.
Pitts is the lone member of Minnesota's freshman class on the team this season. Head coach Marlene Stollings said the team had an eye on the Detroit native for around three years.
"We love her physical strength, her ability to shoot and her basketball I.Q.," Stollings said. "Those are things that captured our attention about her."
Pitts is in good company as a Big Ten Freshman of the Year for Minnesota. The other three are Amanda Zahui B., Rachel Banham and Janel McCarville, who are all either current or former WNBA players. She also tied the record for Big Ten Freshman of the Week, winning it seven times this season. Guard Carlie Wagner said Pitts came in ready to play at the college level.
“She is one of those rare freshmen that comes in and doesn’t play like a freshman, doesn’t act like a freshman,” Wagner said. “Giving her confidence was the biggest thing, boosting her up because she is a huge part of this team.”
Pitts was not in the starting lineup right away, but that changed early in the season. She has started 26 of the team's 29 games.
"October was kind of rough," Pitts said about the preseason. "But after I got acclimated, things slow down for me a lot."
Pitts is one of the top freshmen in the conference, but she ranks just fourth on the team in scoring. Guard Kenisha Bell leads the team with 19.6 points per game. Wagner and guard Gadiva Hubbard are also ahead of Pitts.
As the season comes to a close, the Gophers continue to receive Big Ten honors. Along with Pitts, Wagner and Bell were each named to All-Big Ten teams on Monday. The Gophers have relied on their first-year player, but they also have a balanced attack.
Since Pitts is in her first year, she does not have a taste for postseason basketball. The Gophers enter the Big Ten Tournament this season with a double-bye, the first time the team has clinched that in a decade. They did so by defeating Illinois 84-75 Sunday.
“It would mean everything to me," Pitts said about potentially winning a Big Ten Championship. "It would be for our seniors, for our coaches, for our fans. We know we are capable of doing it.”
The Big Ten Tournament starts Wednesday in Indianapolis. Minnesota plays the winner of Thursday's game between Northwestern and Iowa. The Gophers game is on Friday at 1:30 p.m.
“We haven’t really been looked at as a team that can win the Big Ten,” Bell said. “But we want to be seen, we want to be that team that everyone talks about.”