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Analysis: What Will Absences Mean for Pitt Basketball?

Analysis: What Will Absences Mean for Pitt Basketball?

Pitt suffered its second and third personnel losses of the 2018-19 season on Monday, when the team announced that sophomore small forward Shamiel Stevenson would transfer and that senior point guard Sidy N’Dir will miss four to six weeks with an injury.

That means that Pitt is down to 10 scholarship players overall, with only nine available through the end of January.

Of course, transfers in can happen just as quickly as transfers out, but there’s not exactly a lot available through the traditional transfer market.

According to VerbalCommits.com, there are 18 Division I players that have already announced their decision to transfer. Two of them are transferring from Pitt.

Of the 16 others, some are certainly worth kicking the tires on, but just one of them would be immediately eligible: former TCU guard Shawn Olden, who had 7.2 points and 2.5 assists per 40 minutes last season for the Horned Frogs.

There’s certainly room for Pitt took look at players like former Texas A&M forward Isiah Jasey (16.9 points, 10.7 rebounds per 40 minutes) and Wichita State wing Chance Moore (six points, 8.4 rebounds per 40 minutes), who would fill a big need for the Panthers going forward despite the need to sit out a year.

There are other ways to fill the roster, and players like junior college bounce-backs and small-school graduate transfers might be able to help the Panthers fill the ranks.

But it looks like, for the most part, Pitt is going to have to find a way to navigate the start to ACC play with what they have. That includes playing North Carolina (KenPom.com No. 4), Louisville (No. 39), at NC State (No. 22) and Florida State (No. 15) without N’Dir.

Pitt seemingly has the depth at guard to overcome his loss, though. Trey McGowens can slide over to the point. Khameron Davis hasn’t played as much as he’s capable of this year. Jared Wilson-Frame hasn’t even been in the starting lineup. 

At forward, things seem bleaker. Ilegomah and Stevenson seemed the be the first two bench options to supplant regulars Kene Chukwuka and Terrell Brown. Pitt’s two bigs have done a good job of staying out of foul trouble thus far this season, with just Brown fouling out one time.

That will now be imperative, as the safety net Ilegomah, and to a lesser degree Stevenson, provided is now gone. If Pitt can’t send out Brown or Chukwuka, they’ll be forced to rely on little-used sophomore Samson George or put 6-foot-6 freshman Au’Diese Toney at the No. 5 position.

Pitt has already struggled with rebounding this season. If the Panthers have to play a zone defense to keep their big men out of foul trouble, that could exacerbate that issue.

While the losses may hurt this season, they should speed up the process of Jeff Capel transforming his team into one that more aligns with his image and the talent level he’s able to acquire.

It’s clear that Stevenson, while showing promise as a freshman last year, was a poor fit for Capel’s up-tempo, four-guard scheme. Ilegomah, whose only other offers besides Pitt were to DePaul, Louisiana-Monroe, Sacred Heart and Saint Louis, seems best-suited to play at a lower level.

Capel will not have five scholarships to work with in the 2019 class, and it’s not crazy to envision him adding to that total. As of right now, he only has about seven scholarship offers out to 2019 players (Precious Achiuwa, Cole Anthony, Kofi Cockburn, Karim Coulibaly, Tre Mitchell, Isaiah Stewart, Qudus Wahab), and at least three of those seem like impossible reaches for Pitt at this point.

If Capel wants in on more Class of 2019 players, a flurry of offers during Pitt’s holiday break wouldn’t be surprising. He also may focus more on the junior college and graduate transfer market to mine players with immediate impact.

It seems as if Pitt it playing from behind when it comes to recruiting in this class, as the Panthers have already lost out to a number of talented players that signed elsewhere during the early signing period or have made their commitment known over the last few weeks.

But Capel’s ability as a recruiter shouldn’t be written off any time soon. Last season, he was able to net Pitt’s best haul in a half a decade, despite not even starting the recruiting process until after the regular season had ended.

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