Coming into Tuesday night’s game against Duke, Justin Champagnie was second in the ACC in scoring and second in all of division one in rebounding. He was having a spectacular year. An all-time year.
But the best part about his season? It keeps getting better.
Now, we all knew he would be a very good player. It is fair to say everyone who follows Pitt basketball closely would have told you to watch out for Champagnie before the season started. But nationally? Not many saw this coming.
In his freshman season, Champagnie played a solid role for a Panthers team that finished 16-17. The 6-foot-6 wing averaged 12.7 points and seven rebounds per game, and finished sixth in All-ACC Freshman Team voting. Overall, a great debut season.
This year, he has not only built on that season, he has become one of the most dominant players in all of division one basketball. The Brooklyn native is having one of the greatest seasons in Pitt history and is quickly entering his name into not only the ACC Player of the Year conversation but also the National Player of the Year conversation.
After starting 7-2 on the season, Pitt found itself on multiple bracket predictions and on the radar of various national reporters and college basketball fans. One thing that would confirm what they thought they were seeing in Pitt? A win over Duke.
On Tuesday, the Panthers did just that, taking down the Blue Devils behind another tremendous double-double performance from none other than Champagnie. He scored a season-high 31 points on 12-for-15 shooting while hauling in 14 rebounds. He was 8 for 8 on shots within 3-point range, a perfect 100%. He had a game score of 32.9. For reference, ten is considered average. I’ll repeat that for you. Ten is considered average.
After his 31-point outburst, he is now averaging 20.3 points and 13 rebounds per game, both good for first in the ACC. He also ranks sixth in the conference in blocks per game, at 1.6. And now?
Everyone is taking notice.
It is time to starting talking about Justin Champagnie as a legitimate ACC Player of the Year candidate. 31 and 14 in Pitt's win over Duke. Panthers are now 8-2. Trending upward.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) January 20, 2021
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) January 20, 2021
Twin is making a case for POTY too. Debate w/ yourself 🤷🏾♂️
— Jared Wilson-Frame (@WilsonFrame) January 20, 2021
31 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks on 12-15 shooting for Justin Champagnie tonight as Pitt beats Duke. The best player in the country who isn’t talked about every night.
— Kevin Sweeney (@CBB_Central) January 20, 2021
While Champagnie is still just a sophomore, it is becoming clearer by the day that he is a very complete player, well on his way to becoming an NBA pro. Back in late December, Champagnie was listed on ESPN’s 2022 mock draft going 40th to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Since then, Champagnie has only gotten more dominant, even after being sidelined for weeks due to a knee injury.
If Champagnie were to get drafted, whether it be next year or the year after that, he would become the first Pitt player in the Capel-era to do so. He would become the first Pitt player drafted since Lamar Patterson in 2014. Not only would his personal goals be accomplished, but also the positive effects this would have on Capel’s program would be endless.
Recruits from all over would see that Capel can turn the No. 248 player in his high school class into a dominant college player and a pro, immediately putting Pitt on their radar. Recruits from New York would see how a Brooklyn kid went to Pitt and turned his dreams into reality, just like many former New York high schoolers came to Pitt to do in the program’s past successful years.
“Oh, Pitt is back,” Champagnie said after the win over Duke. “Thats what I think it [the win] solidifies. I think we are going to continue to keep this up and try our best to work hard and to take everything that’s not given to us. We feel like we are not given a lot of credit in this league and we want to go out there and show why we deserve the credit that we earn.”
The bottom line is this. Champagnie, since coming to Pitt, has turned himself into one of the best players in America. Capel will be the first one to tell you, Champagnie did this on his own. However, because of Capel’s pinpoint recruiting accuracy and gradual development of the kid from Brooklyn, Pitt is rising to the top of the ACC and once again receiving national attention.