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Pitt Basketball

Pitt AD Heather Lyke Comments on Rebuilding Through Transfer Portal

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In the age of the ever-growing transfer portal in college athletics, where athletes enter seemingly every single day of the offseason and many times throughout the season, coaches, players, and athletic directors are left with lots of uncharted territory in a quest to retain players and build a program.

Pitt, a basketball program that has lost its fair share of players to the portal over the last few seasons, has struggled to overcome those losses, among many other program difficulties.

Jeff Capel is heading into year five of his tenure leading the way for the program, and the Panthers — who finished this year 11-21 — have already lost four players to the transfer portal and one to graduation. While those that entered the portal so far have not been any of the team’s major offensive contributors, Mo Gueye, the player that is out of eligibility, certainly was one. The team now has five open scholarships, and will have to add on a significant amount of talent through the portal, as well as high school recruiting, in a short amount of time.

“There’s no question that it’s got to be a balance,” said athletic director Heather Lyke, when asked about balancing high school recruiting and targeting the portal in this day and age. “You do have to shift and you do have to prioritize a focus and a time that you have staff evaluating the student athletes in the transfer portal. It’s not something we want to bank on, that you’re going to find two or three diamonds in the rough. But the reality is there is a lot of talented student athletes that do go into the portal for a multitude of reasons. It is a very even balance in recruiting traditionally in AAU and high school basketball, along with the athletes in the portal.”

Since the season ended earlier this month, Capel and his staff have already contacted more than 12 players in the transfer portal, including Pittsburgh native Nelly Cummings, a talented guard from Colgate.

“We have two staff members really focused [on the portal],” Lyke continued. “If you talked to Coach Capel, I am sure he would tell you, I think he feels much more prepared now for the information that is in the portal. You can’t just open it up one day and think everything is going to pop out. You’ve got to be intentional about it, and look, and study, and know who’s in, and who’s not, and where they come from. Then you’ve got to do all of your homework on those people. So we have prioritized that because of the opportunity, because there are good kids that just maybe don’t fit, something didn’t fit wherever they were. So there are very talented student athletes in the portal that for whatever reasons are in there. I think full vetting of that is a priority for our coaching staff right now because it can help and it can change your program quickly.”

As mentioned earlier in the article, Pitt has lost its fair share of talent to the portal in recent years as well. Last season alone, Pitt lost Xavier Johnson and Au’Diese Toney, two of the most talented players in Capel’s era at Pitt, to the portal. This year, they went on to star at Indiana (Johnson) and Arkansas (Toney), and both made the NCAA Tournament.

“You don’t want to just say it’s okay to just lose student athletes all the time,” Lyke added. “I think every time a student athlete leaves a program, it’s a really important opportunity for a coach to reflect on why are you leaving, but more importantly, what could I have done differently as a head coach to make you feel like you wanted to stay? So I think it gives you that opportunity. The transfer portal is now a tool that is sometimes a positive thing, but I am not sure it always teaches the best thing: When things get tough, I just jump into the portal… But then there are reasons why the student athletes go, and it does make sense. It is always disappointing to lose a student athlete, but I think it does give you a chance to reflect on what we can do better as a department, as a program, as a head coach, and learn and grow.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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RonDon
RonDon
6 months ago

I think that’s about the most reasonable answer she could have given and I like that she addresses self reflection. A lot of ADs probably wouldn’t even care or think about that.

lorin Flickinger
lorin Flickinger
6 months ago

4 years of Jeff Capel has not worked. Why anyone thinks a 5th year will change things is amusing..Another 20 loss season is in the works..Getting new players via the ‘transfer portal? Capel has had more players use this to leave the program than join it…So whats the real reason Capel gets a 5th year? A 15 million ‘buy-out’? The program has become an embarrassment with no accountability….

Rob Radich
Rob Radich
6 months ago

What a disaster. Unmitigated dumpster fire exacerbated by a lack of accountability at all levels. In the private sector both Lyke and Capel would have been shown the door. Literally millions in resources wasted and further millions lost in attendance and apathy surrounding the program

Jimbo Grimm
Jimbo Grimm
6 months ago
Reply to  Rob Radich

There’s so much apathy surrounding the program that you’re here daily commenting ad nauseam.

Rob Radich
Rob Radich
6 months ago
Reply to  Jimbo Grimm

Typical absurdist fanboy comment from the loser. No real counterpoint, using deflection to try and form a rebuttal. “But I’m a real fan”,

Jimbo Grimm
Jimbo Grimm
6 months ago
Reply to  Rob Radich

Actually my counterpoint is valid & accurate. Your inability to recognize this coupled with your need to use insults speaks volumes about your intellect.

Rob Radich
Rob Radich
6 months ago
Reply to  Jimbo Grimm

Hmmm. Ok fanboy. Using me as an example to say the fan base is not apathetic when they draw roughly 3k a game is pretty stupid. But par for the course. Never anything remotely legitimate to offer, just tin foil hat musings ( I only post in my name) ad hominem attacks and worthless drivel. And regarding my use of the terms of the terms “fanboy” and “loser”, these aren’t insults, they are accurate appellations. The old adage “truth is the ultimate defense”.

Dukes

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