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Mailbag: Hoops Recruits, Defending the City, QB Battle and More



I don’t usually do Q&A’s outside of football season, but I was bored waiting for the phone company on Tuesday, so I threw out a signal flare and you folks came through with a whole bunch of interesting topics, so maybe we’ll make this a more-regular thing.

Let’s dive in.

Can they get a big man for this upcoming year?

The big topic on everyone’s mind seems to be Jeff Capel’s recruiting efforts, which is timely, because the Pitt men’s basketball coach missed out on yet another forward recruit on Monday night when four-star junior college center Khadim Sy picked Ole Miss over the Panthers and East Carolina.

It was the latest in a series of such close misses for Capel and company that has been extremely frustrating for those that follow Pitt recruiting to watch play out, and has probably been frustrating for Capel himself, as well.

After Sy spurned the Panthers, they don’t have any more offers out to Class of 2019 high school seniors. If Pitt is going to land a forward, it’s going to be a reclassification or a transfer.

Reclassification has worked for Capel and company before, with Trey McGowens and Au’Diese Toney moving up from 2019 to 2018 and Justin Champagnie jumping from 2020 to 2019. But it’s a bit of a tougher sell at forward, where players are typically slower to develop and have more to learn before being able to contribute at the collegiate level.

I think the most likely scenario is a graduate transfer or two, which would allow Capel to re-focus his recruiting efforts on 2020 big men, like Cleveland forward John Hugley, who has visited multiple times.

Why does Pitt struggle so mightily recruiting big men?

Ross took a more introspective look at the topic du jour. The short answer is that it’s not just Pitt. Big men are the scarcest commodity in college basketball, and outside of Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina, almost no school feels comfortable with their recruiting efforts at forward.

The ability to attract quality forward and centers is what separates the blue bloods from the contenders and the contenders from the also-rans. That’s particularly true when focusing purely on American talent, which has been Pitt’s modus operandi for quite some time.

From the defend your city graphic, who do you think Pitt FB lands?

Changing gears to football, Mike asks which of the players on this graphic created by Pitt creative team will commit to Pitt.

For those that don’t know, that’s Gateway linebacker Tui Brown, Aliquippa linebacker Zuriah Fisher, Westinghouse defensive lineman Dayon Hayes, Mars offensive lineman Michael Carmody, former North Catholic linebacker Nikhai Hill-Green and Woodland Hills tight end Josh Rawlings.

Rawlings is such a perfect fit for the Panthers at such a position of need that I think they will do whatever it takes to land him.

Fisher and Hill-Green are also players they seem to really want, with Fisher taking a few visits to campus since his offer.

Pitt has been recruiting Hayes longer than just about anyone and harder than just about anyone, and to me, he is their local priority in this class, but it is not going to be an easy pull with his offer list.

I think those four, probably in that order, are the most likely commits.

Carmody’s recent Notre Dame offer probably has the Panthers a bit down the list when it comes to his priorities.

Brown is a surprise addition there to me. He doesn’t have a Pitt offer, and is on the list at the expense of a player that does in Central Catholic defensive end A.J. Beatty. I’m not sure which of those players that says more about, buy Beatty certainly noticed his exclusion.

Any chance Pickett doesn’t win the starting job this year?

Coming out of training camp, I think it would take an injury to Kenny Picket for him to not start the opener of his junior year. In fact, if he’s healthy all year, I expect him to start every game.

Nick Patti would be my favorite for the backup job as things stand right now, but I don’t think the competition between the two will be all that close.

Why do you think Pitt baseball got off to such a slow start?

Hey, a baseball question! I dig it. If you haven’t been following along, the early part of the ACC schedule was a disaster for the Panthers and first-year skipper Mike Bell, but things have been rolling along nicely as of late, with three wins over ranked teams — including a series win over No. 11 North Carolina — in the last two weekends.

I think there’s a bit of blame to go around. Dan Hammer, who is Pitt’s most talented pitcher, has really struggled at times as the Saturday starter. Derek West, who is probably the second-most talented pitcher, started the season in the bullpen, which looks to have been a mistake. He’s been the Panthers’ MVP down the stretch. Finally, the Panthers spent a lot of the spring mixing and matching freshmen hitters trying to figure out which ones were going to earn a roster spot, and that took a while.

I agree with the sentiment that it’s a shame Pitt will likely miss the ACC Tournament — the Panthers need a sweep of No. 6 Georgia Tech, for Notre Dame to sweep Boston College and for Virginia to win at least one out of three against Virginia Tech to claim the final spot — because the Panthers could beat anyone in the conference in a one-game playoff with the way they’re playing at this point.

They do have a pretty cool consolation prize with Tuesday night’s Backyard Brawl against No. 21 West Virginia at PNC Park. A win in that game has the potential to do as much good for the program as last year’s tournament run did.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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