PITTSBURGH — In Pitt’s 72-59 win in the championship game of the Fort Myers tip-off, freshman wing Justin Champagnie dropped in career highs in points (21), field goals made (9), 3-point field goals (3), and offensive rebounds (5). Champagnie’s performance dubbed him tournament MVP honors.
After coming off the bench in Pitt’s first four games of the 2019-20 season, Champagnie has started in the Panthers’ last four games to date. He’s averaged 12.3 points on 43.4 percent shooting and 84 percent from the free-throw line in Pitt’s 6-2 start.
“Justin (Champagnie) is a guy that we thought would be an important part of what we were going to do, especially after our trip to Italy. Then he had the injury that we thought, ‘OK, he probably can’t play this year, and then three weeks later it’s like OK, let’s go play.”
Pitt had heavily relied on Champagnie early on in the season when his freshman mate Gerald Drumgoole went down with an ankle injury before the Panther’s hosted Monmouth. Also, with Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens struggling to show the offensive consistency that may have been expected from them before this year rolled around.
Champagnie has answered the bell, and those factors may have helped him produce in the early stages of his career.
But head coach Jeff Capel thinks for Champagnie’s growth; it’s as simple as being on the floor and getting minutes against top-level competition.
“Being thrown in the fire right away (with Florida State) and the competition that we’ve played early has helped him,” Capel said.
Capel isn’t surprised by the early success that Champagnie has shown, despite dealing with a setback early on in his college basketball career. Now just two months later, he is a significant contributor to the success of an ACC basketball program.
“I’ve always thought that he was a tough kid,” Capel said. “Where he’s from, where he played in high school, who he played for, his family, his background, and all of those things (play into me not being surprised about his success).
But Champagnie’s coach isn’t entirely satisfied with his freshman’s contributions that have been shown in the first eight games this season. Capel knows there is a bigger picture.
“I hope that his growth just continues,” Capel said. “I think he has a chance to be a really good player, but he’s got to fall in love with the process of being the best version that he can be. … Our program needs for him to become really good.”