For a coach, losing your best player is never easy.
However, since March 23, when First Team All-ACC wing Justin Champagnie announced he would be testing the NBA Draft waters, Pitt head coach Jeff Capel has been by his side every step of the way.
“The biggest thing is that Justin and I and his family have to be on the same page because there will be a lot of people trying to divide us,” Capel said after Pitt’s season ending loss in the ACC Tournament. “And what I mean by that, there will be people saying that I’m going to try to make him come back to school for me. My thing is that Justin doesn’t owe me anything. Like he needs to do what’s best for him… I will be able to gather accurate information for him. I will share that with him in complete honesty, and his family. And then I will support them in whatever way they want me to in making the decision. That’s what I’ve always done. I’ve never been a guy that’s said to a kid, you should stay or you should go. That’s not my decision. My job is to get the information.”
Capel recruited Champagnie out of Bishop Laughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn, as a part of his second class while at Pitt. At the time, Champagnie was a 6-foot-5, 180-pound small forward, ranked as just the No. 248 player in the nation by the 247 Sports Composite. Fast forward to now? Champagnie is two weeks away from potentially hearing his name called by Adam Silver at the NBA Draft.
“He always gives me confidence,” Champagnie said about Capel on Thursday. “He supported me when I told him I want to do it, let’s do it. He is not going to try and do anything else. He wants me to make decisions for myself and do what I feel is best for me. He has been by my side the whole time.”
Champagnie had a stellar year for the Panthers, averaging 18 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, and proving that he was one of the top players in not only the ACC but also the entire nation.
While he won’t be suiting up for Pitt next year, he will always be on Capel’s team.
“He always tells me, always tries to give me little pointers when I am playing still, like what to do, what to show in workouts, and how to approach it,” Champagnie continued. “But, the main thing is just saying he believes in me. He gives me the confidence to go out there and keep hooping, so I appreciate Cape for that.”