Will tonight be the night Jeff Capel gets his man?
Capel arrived at Pitt with the reputation of being one of college basketball’s top recruiters but to this point hasn’t been able to “win” a big recruiting battle. While Trey McGowens and Xavier Johnson had great freshman seasons and have bright futures, neither were considered program changing gets.
Since then, Capel has tried to land 4/5-star recruits Greg Gantt, Anthony Walker, Tyrese Samuels, Kofi Cockburn, Qudus Wahab and Oscar Tshiebwe, but fell short across the board.
Tonight, he’ll have another shot as 4-star JUCO center Khadim Sy makes his college decision. The big center will decide between Pitt, Mississippi and East Carolina.
All three schools will present Sy the opportunity for immediate playing time, while Pitt would present him the opportunity again of playing in college basketball’s top conference.
Why is Sy so high on East Carolina? The reason for that is assistant coach Steve Roccaforte who was the coach that recruited Sy to Virginia Tech a few years ago. Roccaforte joined East Carolina this season and has a strong relationship with Sy. Another small factor could be two of Sy’s former teammates at Virginia Tech, Tyrie Jackson/Seth LeDay, will be joining East Carolina this coming season.
From the outside–for once–this looks like a recruiting battle that Pitt finds themselves as the favorites in.
Not to overstate things but landing Sy has the potential to completely change the outlook for Pitt’s upcoming season. Pitt’s presence both offensively and defensively in the paint last season was non-existent, which is something Sy would change. The six-foot-ten center has an advanced offensive game and shot blocking ability that can dominate the minute he’s on the floor.
When’s the last time Pitt had a center that could do both of those?
The presence of a player like Sy would also open things up for Johnson, McGowens and company to get to the rim or knock down an open outside shot. He would also take pressure off some of the incoming freshman who might feel a pressure to produce immediately.
If you’re getting the impression that I feel as if Sy could dramatically impact Pitt and their win total, you’d be correct. Throwing out a starting five of Johnson, McGowens, Au’Diese Toney, Terrell Brown and Sy would give Capel a chance to be in–and win a lot of games.
Winning a recruiting battle like this would also give Capel and his staff momentum as they recruit the Class of 2020. He’d get that “monkey off his back” and know that he has a talented big man in the middle of his lineup for the next two seasons.
Will Pitt be it today for Sy?
On the decision day for the other big recruits that I listed, I didn’t have a sense or a good feeling about the outcome for Pitt but not on this one. For the first time, I feel confident that Capel is going to get his man and if that happens, it would be the first big step in Pitt turning back into a successful and tournament type basketball program.