When any sports season comes to an end, it’s customary for the manager or coach to conduct exit interviews with every member of the team. During this time, the two sides talk about the positives, the negatives and about the future.
With the Pitt season coming to an abrupt following the loss to NC State and the cancellation of the rest of the postseason, Jeff Capel and his staff never had the opportunity to do talk with each member of his team.
The Panthers program has had plenty of comings and goings since that loss to the Wolfpack, such as Xavier Johnson announcing his intention to stay and then both Trey McGowens and Ryan Murphy announcing their intentions to transfer.
Pitt received some more positive news on Saturday when sophomore forward Au’Diese Toney officially announced that he will be returning to play for Pitt during the 2020-21 season.
Saturday afternoon, Capel had a Facetime conversation with Toney and his family, in which they addressed these rumors, talked about the previous season and both sides left the talk optimistic about the future of the Pitt program.
Following that exit interview, Pittsburgh Sports Now had a chance to talk with Toney’s mother, Tee Toney-Teague, to get some insight about what was discussed.
“We meet with the coaches every year just to make sure we are on the same page and that Au’Diese is going everything he needs to do on his end to achieve his goals at Pitt,” said Toney’s mother. “We trust the staff with Au’Diese but as parents we want to make sure annually Au’Diese is upholding his end of the deal.
“It’s always important to talk with the staff and particular Jeff, because you read and see so much misinformation online. It gets confusing at times but having a conversation with the staff before jumping to conclusions is always the best way. Both Jeff and Jason Capel have been great with helping us as parents to navigate through Au’Diese’s college career.”
Following their conversation, did Capel leave Au’Diese with a message heading into the off-season?
“Don’t be satisfied with the improvement,” she said. “We have larger goals and in order for the program to move forward, we have to keep chasing the larger goal and not be satisfied with almost.
“We’re very optimistic. We knew coming in that it would take time to get the program to the top of the ACC. We had a big win over Florida State, swept North Carolina and should have taken care of business in some close games like Duke. We have great incoming talent to strength our frontline and which will add to our depth. Justin is a beast and with X and Au’Diese returning, we are turning the corner this year.”
Toney was without question Pitt’s most improved player from the previous season. After averaging 7.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 0.5 assists in his first season in 2018-19, Toney saw increases nearly across the board, improving to 9.5 points, 1.2 steals and 1.2 assists per game, while his rebounds fell to 4.8 per game.
And that doesn’t even begin to quantify Toney’s abilities on the defensive side of the ball, where he has become one of Capel’s most trusted defenders.
“I think one of the things that’s gone very, very underrated is what he’s done defensively,” Capel said earlier this season. “What he did to DJ [Funderbunk of NC State]; against Cassius Stanley against Duke. In the first half against Syracuse, he did it to Elijah Hughes and [Buddy] Boeheim went nuts. We made the switch and we shut down Boeheim in the second half. How he’s defended [Jordan] Nwora. I think he’s one of the better defenders in our league.”
With McGowens moving on, Toney will have an even greater opportunity to step out as Pitt’s top defender and continue to carve an offensive role, as well.