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Pitt Basketball

Justin Champagnie Named to Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Watch List 

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On Thursday, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced that Pitt forward Justin Champagnie was named to the 2021 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Watch List.

Champagnie is one of fifteen players placed on the watchlist and one of three from the ACC that made the list, alongside Aamir Simms of Clemson and Kihei Clark of Virginia. He has been having a stellar year on both sides of the ball, averaging 20.2 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. The Brooklyn native has 15 steals, 14 blocks, and 88 total defensive rebounds through his first ten games. He ranks first in the ACC in defensive rebounds per game and total rebounds per game, and ranks sixth in the conference in blocked shots per game with an average of 1.5. 

“It is always an honor to be placed on a national watch list, but much of my defensive impact comes from the work of our entire team,” Champagnie said. “[Au’Diese Toney] is our best defender and always draws the top wing scorer from the other team. [Xavier Johnson] and our other guards have quickness and instincts to be disruptive on the perimeter and [Abdoul Karim Coulibaly] does a great job battling down low. The efforts of our entire team have really led to me being able to put up big rebounding numbers as well as come away with blocks and steals.”

Along with this list, Champagnie has also been receiving some recognition in midseason All-America lists, including that of ESPN’s Dick Vitale. 

The sophomore forward has won three ACC Player of the Week awards already this season, and will look to win his third straight this week after winning two in a row. He already has two games of 20 points and 20 rebounds and has grabbed at least ten rebounds in six out of his ten games played. His defense has taken an even further step as of late, as he recorded a season high in blocks (five) against Duke on Jan. 19 and steals (five) against Wake Forest on Jan. 23. 

Pitt (8-4, 4-3 ACC) will look to bounce back after two straight conference losses when it takes on Notre Dame on Saturday, Jan. 30 at 8 p.m. at Petersen Events Center. The game will be televised on ACC Network.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
 
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