Pitt’s basketball program hasn’t found much success recruiting in Western Pennsylvania in the most recent recruiting classes.
Since the Panthers added local three players in 2014 when Sheldon Jeter transferred from Vanderbilt and Cameron Johnson and Ryan Luther came on board as lightly recruited freshman that turned into successful collegiate players, there hasn’t been much to speak of for Pitt in the region.
The Panthers did land forward Samson George from First Love Christian in 2017, but he has not become a contributor. But the lack of success in local recruiting isn’t totally tied in up a lack of players.
Since Pitt last made a local splash, Sagaba Konate and Oscar Tschiebwe from Kennedy Catholic chose West Virginia. Mars guard Robby Carmody is at Notre Dame. Kennedy’s Maceo Austin plays for Duquesne. In the Class of 2020, Butler’s Ethan Morton picked Purdue, First Love’s DJ Gordon is going to Penn State and former Moon wing Donovan Johnson is headed to North Carolina.
But most recently, the Panthers have caught on to some momentum trending in a different direction.
Last week, 2022, five-star guard Jalen Hood-Schifino, who is originally from Penn Hills but lives in Charlotte, N.C,, and plays for Combine Academy, verbally committed to Pitt and Jeff Capel.
Pitt has also shown interested in Class 2021 four-star wing William Jeffress, who plays for McDowell High School in Erie, Pa. Jeffress also has his eyes on the Panthers.
“Honestly, I’m just looking at a couple of schools that are keeping the most in contact with me,” Jeffress told PSN after playing Peters Township on Saturday.
One of those schools that have been in heavy contact with Jeffress has been Pitt and Capel.
“I really like Coach Capel and their program,” Jeffress said. “I feel like he’s doing very well for the program and trying to build it back up to what Pitt basketball used to be. He talks to me all the time about fitting in and being a centerpiece for the program, and that’s really intriguing.”
Jeffress could be the pivotal piece that Pitt has been looking for in recent years. He’s a long and athletic wing who can do multiple things on the court. Jeffress can create for himself and guard at a high level. But what sticks out about Jeffress is that he is incredibly unselfish and smart enough to want to make his teammates around him much better.
Jeffress also is deciding whether or not he wants to re-classify and be available to play in college next season. Jeffress could fit in seamlessly with the likes of Xavier Johnson, Trey McGowens, Justin Champagnie, etc., who will all be more mature and ready to get the Panthers back to national prominence.
Jeffress is the clear-cut star on his high school team. But when you watch McDowell play, you see that Jeffress is a team-first guy. He will score if he needs to, or get the ball to the open guy when he needs to. He makes winning basketball plays, and Pitt’s program requires more guys who are willing and capable of doing that.
Jeffress knows that basketball is more significant than just one player or perhaps one recruit. It takes a collective effort to do anything worthwhile on a basketball court.
“There’s never just one player on the court. There’s always all five,” Jeffress said. “Just being able to trust your coaching staff, trust your teammates, and be able to take away from other things that the defense is doing.”
Jeffress will continue to be a priority for Capel and his coaching staff, whether he decides to stay in the 2021 class or bump up to the 2020 class.
So will be landing some of the top local recruits, and there are more coming. Class of 2021 guard Darrius Davis, Class of 2022 guards Chance Westry and Mason Manning and Class of 2023 guard Rodney Gallagher have all already have high-major offers.