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How Will Femi Odukale Fit in at Pitt?

Graphic courtesy of Jordan Lenenberg.

How Will Femi Odukale Fit in at Pitt?

When you look up information about Femi Odukale, who committed to Pitt on Tuesday afternoon, it can be a bit difficult to figure out what kind of player he is, even down to the position he plays.

Some sites list the 6-foot-5 Brooklyn native as a point guard. Others list him as a shooting guard. Others call him a wing.

His size (the same wingspan as Au’Diese Toney) suggests a wing player, and he can definitely get around people and get to the rim. His skillset is more of that of a guard, with a decent 3-point stroke and great passing ability.

In many ways, he’s the opposite of Pitt freshman Justin Champagnie, who at 6-foot-6 played forward in high school and his been building guard skills at the college level. Odukale has played point guard and will have to work on his play in traffic, as most of the playing time available at Pitt is going to come off the ball with starting point guard Xavier Johnson returning.

It’s never clear exactly how impactful a freshman will be in his first year. Johnson was the least-heralded of Pitt’s 2018 trio, as was Champagnie of the three 2019 recruits. But Odukale has the potential to be able to fill a number of roles at Pitt, and to do so right away.

• He’s a real backup point guard. While Odukale’s primary role will probably be off the ball with Johnson earning the majority of playing time at the point, Odukale has the experience and passing ability to be able to run the offense if Johnson is in foul trouble, injured or just having a rough night — without taking away from the rest of the team.

Over the last two seasons, when Johnson had to sit, Trey McGowens moved to the point, and he lost the team’s best two-guard in the process. Having the backup point guard be a bench player means Johnson can sit without disrupting anything else.

• He’s a perfect addition to their defense. Pitt would have probably been best suited to playing some kind of trapping or pressing, hyper-aggressive defense to best capitalize on the athletic abilities of Johnson, McGowens and Toney over the last two years.

But teams need depth to press, because almost no player can do it for 40 minutes, and Pitt simply hasn’t had it. With the additions of Odukale and Ithiel Horton, Pitt will be in a far better position to be more aggressive defensively.

At 6-foot-5, he’s tough to shoot over in a matchup zone, as well, if Capel and Pitt want to make that a bigger part of their game plan.

• Outside shooting is a very difficult thing to predict when a player is transitioning from high school to the ACC. Odukale showed the ability to make 3-pointers in high school. Will that carry over? It’s hard to say. The line is farther back, the defenders are longer and there is less time to shoot. That affects some players more than others.

But one thing that his size brings from a two-guard position is the ability to always at least be a little bit open. How many times this past season did Pitt get late in the shot clock and Johnson or McGowens had to put up a contested 3-pointer around a defender? Even if he’s well-covered, Odukale should at least be able to see the basket. Against a zone, which so many teams used against Pitt last year, he’ll be even more dangerous in that regard.

• His size added to the backcourt should also help Pitt’s high ball screen offensive sets. The high ball screen isolation is what Pitt’s offense is based on, and while there isn’t a lot of off-ball work on his film, his size and athleticism suggest a player that should be dangerous coming around and setting high screens.

• He’s physically ready. Odukale is a year older than most of his class, taking a post-graduate high school year. Pitt has spent two seasons with not only one of the least-experienced teams in the NCAA, but with multiple players on that team being a year young for their class. As Pitt hopes to move forward and mature as a team, Odukale should fit right in.

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At the end of the day, Odukale should not necessarily be looked at as a program-changing recruit. He’s rated as a relatively low three-star and will be the lowest-rated of Pitt’s four commits for 2020. He’ll come off the bench to start and work into a role. But Odukale possesses a very unique skillset that should make it easy for him to carve a niche and he’ll be able to add things that the Panthers have lacked over Capel’s first two seasons.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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