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Jeff Capel Expects Justin Champagnie to Return Before Original 6-8 Week Timetable

Jeff Capel Expects Justin Champagnie to Return Before Original 6-8 Week Timetable

Back on Dec. 22, Pitt announced that it would be without one of its top players, Justin Champagnie, for 6-8 weeks with a knee injury. 

From that date, if he were to miss six weeks, he would be back on the floor for Pitt’s contest against Virginia Tech on Feb. 3. If his return took eight weeks, he would return for Pitt’s matchup against NC State on Feb. 17. 

However, on Monday, head coach Jeff Capel said he believes Champagnie will be back before that original timetable. 

“I do expect him to be back before the six to eight weeks,” he said. “I still don’t know exactly when that will be, but he is progressing very, very well. He’s not practicing. He is able to do some stuff individually. We are starting to integrate him back to doing some stuff individually, some individual workouts, and at practice. If we are doing just shooting, no contact, just shooting, he is able to do a little bit of that. He is just doing stuff on an individual basis.”

With four recent postponements in the Panthers’ schedule, they have not had to play without Champagnie more than twice. Pitt has gone 1-1 in games without Champagnie, including a remarkable comeback victory at Syracuse. While Pitt originally expected him to miss anywhere from nine to twelve games, it is now looking like he will only miss seven or eight.

Until Monday morning, Pitt had never officially stated what Champagnie’s injury was. Capel cleared that up, saying it was an injury to his lateral collateral ligament, a ligament on the outside of his knee. 

Justin Champagnie (11) and Au’Diese Toney (5) injured December 22, 2020 – Photo by David Hague/PSN

“The injury was an injury to his knee, to his LCL, that was the injury,” he said. “So we want to be very careful. We are not going to put him back on the court until we believe that he is completely healthy. He is fighting us every day, he wants to play right now.”

Last year, in Champagnie’s freshman season, he injured his knee before the season had even started. But if there is one thing to know about Champagnie, it is that he never wants to sit. 

“It’s the same as it was his freshman year when we thought we possibly lost him for the rest of the season,” Capel said. “The very next week he is telling us he can go. I would rather have a guy like that than a guy that is hesitant. So he wants to go, he wants to play, he wants to be able to do stuff now, but we are going to be careful. But I do not think it will be the six-to-eight weeks.” 

Through six games this season, Champagnie has had a stellar start to his sophomore campaign, averaging 17.8 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. He has become one of the most dominant rebounders in the conference and has already had two 20-point, 20-rebound games. While he has only played in six out of the team’s eight games, he still leads the team in rebounds by 30. At 17.8 points per game, he currently ranks third in the ACC in scoring behind Duke’s Matthew Hurt and Georgia Tech’s Jose Alvarado. 

Pitt will look to improve on its 6-2 start to the season when they take on Syracuse on Jan. 16 at Petersen Events Center at noon., once again without Champagnie.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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