After losing seven players from last year’s roster to the transfer portal, the Pitt staff had a lot of work to do in the early portion of this offseason in terms of rebuilding the team.
In less than two months, Pitt has earned the commitments of six new players: Nelly Cummings, Blake Hinson, Fede Federiko, Guillermo Diaz-Graham, Jorge Diaz-Graham, and Greg Elliott.
Clearly, the Panthers have brought in some talent, especially in the back court. However, with a whole group of new contributors, what do I think are the biggest question marks about the program leading up to this upcoming season?
BLAKE HINSON: WHAT WILL PITT GET FROM HIM?
Blake Hinson was the second addition of the offseason, committing to the Panthers shortly after Cummings.
Hinson is a 6-foot-7 forward who began his college career at Ole Miss and then transferred to Iowa State in 2020 after two years with the Rebels. However, due to a medical condition, he missed the entire 2020-21 season. Then, after meeting with the program’s new head coach prior to the 2021-22 season, Hinson left the program without ever playing in a game for Iowa State.
“I met with all of our players individually Thursday to discuss their roles heading into the season,” Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said last fall. “On Friday, Blake [Hinson] informed me he was quitting the team.”
At Ole Miss, Hinson started 58 games and averaged over nine points per game across his freshman and sophomore campaign. Compared to his first season, Hinson’s second season showed much improvement. He increased his points, assists, steals, rebounds per game in that second year. But, again, he missed the next two seasons.
These factors leave us asking the obvious questions: What role will Hinson play for Pitt? How long will he need to adjust to game speed? What kind of shape is he in? Can he play the four spot for the Panthers?
There has been nothing that suggests that Hinson is in bad shape by any means or that he is not ready to hit the floor again. However, having not played a game since 2020, these questions are definitely on the minds of all of those outside of the program.
THE TWINS: HOW QUICKLY AND HOW MUCH WILL THEY CONTRIBUTE?
On May 4, Pitt earned its first two commitments from the 2022 high-school class with the pledges of Spanish twins Jorge and Guillermo Diaz-Graham.
The twins both stand around 7-feet tall and are stretch forwards. National scouts have praised the improvement of both brothers over the past few months as they have risen in rankings by numerous outlets. Both On3 and 247 Sports list Jorge as the higher-ranked prospect, as he ranks at No. 76 on On3 and No. 140 in the country on 247.
“I think we are just scratching the surface with Jorge,” IMG Academy coach Jim Carr said in an interview with On3. “I mean, he is going to make some money playing basketball. I think he could play ten years professionally, and I would not be surprised if he could make an NBA roster one day. The way the game is played, with their skill set at around 7-foot, there are so many tools to work with.”
Jorge Diaz has been the best unsigned 2022 at this week’s @PrepNational.
Highly skilled with size, fluidity and IQ. Only just beginning to fill out.
— Adam Finkelstein (@AdamFinkelstein) March 11, 2022
Guillermo comes in at No. 89 in the On3 rankings, and is unranked nationally by 247. However, he has also been praised by scouts for his unique skill set, and should pair up with his brother to make a dynamic duo for the Panthers.
While both brothers certainly have the talent to make a massive impact at Pitt over the next few years, the question is how soon can they contribute at the ACC level? Will they play best when they are on the court together? Let’s find out.
NIKE SIBANDE: BACK TO HIS PREVIOUS SELF?
After playing three seasons for Miami (OH) and one shortened season for Pitt (2020-21), Panther guard Nike Sibande missed all of last season due to a Torn ACL suffered in an exhibition matchup right before the season.
A 1,400+ point scorer at Miami, Sibande showed flashes of offensive brilliance in his first season as a Panther, even after being sidelined for the beginning of the year due to transfer eligibility circumstances. He started eight games that season for Pitt, shooting 44% from three-point range and averaging 6.9 points per game.
He has been in the gym rehabbing his injury all year, and appeared to be in good shape in a recent post by the program’s social media team. If fully healthy, Sibande has the chance be a star for Pitt with his outstanding athleticism and tremendous play-creating ability.
— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_MBB) April 26, 2022
However, with an injury as severe as a torn ACL and just one year of eligibility remaining, at what level will Sibande be able to produce this year?
All of these questions are just a sliver of what is unknown about this year’s team. Additionally, Pitt still has two remaining scholarships to fill if it would like, so there will be some new names in the mix later this summer.