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In Two Months, Jeff Capel has Pitt’s Best Recruiting Class in Five Years



With the commitment of four-star small forward Au’Diese Toney over the weekend, Pitt now has two players ranked in 247 Sports Top 150 for the Class of 2019, as Toney (No. 114) joins guard Trey McGowens (No. 89).

New head coach Jeff Capel has only been on the job a few months, but he’s already amassed the best recruiting class Pitt has had in several years.

Pitt hasn’t had two players rated in the Top 150 since 2013, when Michael Young (No. 81) and Josh Newkirk (No. 120) were recruited to Pitt by Jamie Dixon, but even that isn’t an apples to apples comparison. In 2013, Dixon had already been at Pitt for a decade and Young grew up in Duquesne, just a few miles from Pitt’s campus.

Put another way: In two months, Capel, who wasn’t even recruiting these players when he was at his former job at Duke, has landed Pitt’s best recruiting class in at least five years. It’s an incredibly promising start to his tenure at Pitt, immediately turning around one of the biggest deficiencies of both Kevin Stallings’ tenure and the end of Jamie Dixon’s regime.

It’s also shone a bit of a light on what Capel considers Pitt’s recruiting profile. Under Dixon, Pitt survived mostly on players from the New York-Washington, D.C. corridor. Stallings cast a wider net, with five international players in his one and only class.

With Capel, it seems that Pitt will be focusing more on the traditional ACC recruiting areas. McGowens is from Piedmont, South Carolina, which is only a 35-minute drive from Clemson. Toney is from Jasper, Alabama, which is actually SEC country, but only a few hours from Georgia Tech. Xavier Johnson, the third freshman in this class, is from the D.C. suburbs, about two hours from Virginia.

It’s not as if Pitt is picking up other team’s scraps in those areas, either. Here’s the high-major offers for each of their three commits.

Major conference offers for Pitt’s three 2018 commits.

In two months at Pitt, Capel has landed the program’s best recruiting class in five years. He’s also gone into areas of the south that Pitt has mostly just dabbled in, and landed kids with other quality high-major offers. Pitt currently has the No. 35 recruiting class in the country, and maybe more importantly, the sixth-ranked class in the conference.

Pitt’s class is ranked higher than Clemson, Florida State, Syracuse and Virginia Tech, all of which made the NCAA Tournament a year ago. Pitt, if you’ll remember, went winless in conference play.

There’s a lot more to the job than just recruiting. Dixon’s Young-Newkirk-Jamel Artis didn’t stick together (Newkirk transferred to Indiana) and couldn’t win when they were upperclassmen. Pitt’s other highly rated classes of Dixon’s later years saw Steven Adams leave for the NBA after one season and the 2011 class of Khem Birch, Malcolm Gilbert and Durand Johnson all left the program early.

So there’s no guarantee that highly rated recruits are going to transfer into instant, or for that matter any, success. But it’s hard to imagine a better start to Capel’s tenure than what’s transcribed on the recruiting trail so far.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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