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Vukovcan: Is This Just the Reality of Pitt Basketball?



A morning after losing out on another top target, I’d love to know what’s really going through Jeff Capel’s head.

Falling short in recruiting battles is something he isn’t accustomed to after having spent seven years working at Duke.

When Coack K and the Blue Devils went after a player, chances were strong that they’d land them. If they didn’t, there would be a horde of talented players begging to take the place instead.

That hasn’t been the case for Capel at Pitt. Last night, 4-star center Khadim Shy went with Mississippi over both Pitt and East Carolina.

Sy joins Akon Akok, Christian Brown, Kofi Cockburn, Ibrahima Diallo, Greg Gantt, Olivier Robinson-Nkamhoua, Tyrese Samuel, Oscar Tshiebwe, Qudus Wahab and Anthony Walker as highly ranked players that have passed on playing for Capel and Pitt.

Courtesy of Anthony Walker

The question going through the mind of many is why have all these players bypassed Pitt?

I’m sure that question has entered Capel’s mind a few times and since Sy decided to pass on his offer and play for the Rebels.

Despite having attractive things to offer recruits such as playing in the ACC, immediate playing time, earning a degree from Pitt and the connections he has in the NBA, Capel is struggling to close.

While that ending may not come as a surprise to many Pitt fans, I’m sure it’s one that frustrates Capel and brings up a legitimate concern.

Will it ever get to the point that Capel becomes completely frustrated and doubts whether Pitt is a place that he can recruit at the level that he’s accustomed to?

Losing out on Sy is yet another grim reminder that bringing in top talent to Pitt is a difficult task, one that is more difficult then Capel probably realized when accepting the job a year ago.

Perhaps unlike some other programs, Pitt as a university has always placed a high value on the reputation of the school and the athletic department, and indeed a higher value on reputation than that of winning. Whether you like it or not, that’s the reality for Pitt.

Let’s be clear about one thing. I’m not saying that Capel won’t be able to bring in talent because I believe he will and has already done so with Trey McGowens and Xavier Johnson being prime examples.

Yes, McGowens was a Top 100 player and had over 40 offers but he didn’t have offers from many “major” schools. Luckily for Pitt, Capel recognized his skill level and the rest is history. Johnson was a three-star recruit who’s biggest offers were from Georgetown, Washington, Georgia Tech and NC State.

Once again, Capel saw the talent in Johnson and a year later, he’s someone that’s being mentioned as a player that could leave early for the NBA next season.

These are two examples of Capel’s eye for talent and ability to develop that talent. The question now is can Capel get commitments from players that are also getting recruited by the “big boys” in the sport.

The upcoming Class of 2020 will be revealing and one that will answer plenty of questions.

Courtesy of Cliff Omoruyi

Pitt is going up against many top programs for players such as Earl Timberlake, RJ Davis, Donovan Johnson, Henry Coleman, Hunter Dickinson, Mark Williams, Cliff Omoruyi, John Hugley, Cameron Thomas, DJ Gordon, Demarr Langford, Marcus Bagley and Josh Hall.

Pitt has been recruiting most of these players for the last year and have been able to develop relationships with them.

Will this be the class that Capel flexes his muscles on the recruiting trail or will they once again be a bridesmaid?

If it’s the latter, then it will be yet another sign that despite having so much to offer, the Pitt basketball job is one that’s very difficult and even harder to recruit in.

It might also be an indication that Pitt might need to revert back to the Jamie Dixon style of recruiting, one that probably didn’t get as much credit as it deserved.

Let’s see how this plays out over the next year and if Capel can get back some of that recruiting magic that earned him so much recognition.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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5 years ago

You said it when you reference reputation over winning. Anyone can be an Arizona or UNLV but not everyone can be a Duke or Notre Dame. Don’t add UNC to this list, they cheated got caught and the authorities looked the other way. I’d rather aspire to be the best within the rules than get a reputation like the school in the middle of the Commonwealth.

Clark Martineau
5 years ago

Pitt got to the NCAAs regularly under Dixon.
We’ll be back there in a couple of years.
The reality of Pitt is what we make of it.
There are no gifts and it takes hard work. And we have the right man for the job.

5 years ago

Reality is, Rome wasn’t built in one year! Relax and let the man do his job.

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