Michalowski: Pitt Off to a Great Start Recruiting Young WPIAL Stars
It’s time to respect WPIAL basketball, and the Pitt basketball program is doing just that.
15 players from around the conference are being recruited at the Division One level. Ten players hold scholarship offers from Division One programs. More than 30 players around the WPIAL are handling their respective recruiting processes, with many of the local programs at the forefront. While it is common to see schools like Chatham, Carlow, Point Park, and other smaller programs recruit lots of WPIAL players, this group of high-school talent has the potential to play all the way at the highest level of college hoops.
Pitt has offered scholarships to four prospects currently in the WPIAL: Royce Parham (North Hills), Brandin Cummings (Lincoln Park), Meleek Thomas (Lincoln Park), and Alier Maluk (Imani Christian). The Panthers have also reached out to Daemarr Kelly, a 6-foot-5 guard from Penn Hills who has burst onto the recruiting scene with four new Division One offers in the past year.
Parham is a top-60 player in the class of 2024 (On3). Thomas is ranked as the No. 11 player — a five star — in the 2025 class. Maluk is No. 23 in that same class — a high four star. Not to mention Cummings, who holds eight division one offers heading into his junior year and also happens to be the younger brother of current Pitt point guard Nelly Cummings.
Since Jeff Capel took over as head coach, Pitt has had a total of five former WPIAL players on its roster — all walk-ons — with the latest being Aidan Fisch (Franklin Regional) and Noah Jackson (Central Catholic). With all due respect to the walk-ons, the Panthers now have their eyes on these local guys with legitimate high-major basketball talent.
Parham, a 6-foot-8 forward from North Hills, has taken two visits to Pitt: one this summer, and one last. If any of you die-hard fans were wondering why he did not take or post any photos in the uniform on this year’s visit — that’s why. He had some from his last visit.
“I feel good there,” Parham said about Pitt. “It’s a good gym, it’s a good campus, and it’s right in my backyard, so that’s good. It would just be great. I’d be at home, win games, and just play for the team that I have always been with, that I have grown up with in my city.”
Pitt hosting Parham — the four-star forward who holds the most college offers and interest in Western PA — twice before his junior year begins, is a great start. Now comes the hard part. With schools like Texas, Virginia, Indiana, and Xavier jumping into his recruitment in June, and Penn State (his mother’s alma mater) pushing hard as well, landing Parham will be no easy task for Pitt. However, the staff has done everything right so far, and has made him feel welcomed with each visit.
Parham shined this summer on the Nike circuit, competing for Team Durant alongside Cummings and other talented prospects on the East Coast. As the Pittsburgh guys on the team, Parham and Cummings grew closer and built a strong relationship on and off the court.
As for Cummings, as mentioned earlier, he is the younger brother of current Pitt point guard Nelly Cummings. When Nelly entered the transfer portal from Colgate on March 21, Pitt instantly reached out and invited the brothers out for a visit. On March 25, the two brothers took a trip to check out their hometown campus, and both enjoyed it.
“My brother, he had the same thoughts as me,” Brandin told PSN in March. “We loved the campus, we loved the people. Pitt is close to home, so he likes the school. Things like that. He loves what he’s seeing.”
Brandin then received an offer from the Panthers on March 30. Days later, on April 1, Nelly committed to the Panthers. In a matter of days, the Cummings family was all about Pitt.
“We think very highly of Pitt,” Nelly told Pittsburgh Sports Now shortly after committing. “We are really excited about the opportunity we have in front of us, and now, I am going to recruit my brother now. I am definitely all in! We are definitely just excited for the situation and ready to make the best of it.”
Aside from the two 2024 guys, let’s look into the younger studs. The WPIAL’s top 2025 prospects, Meleek Thomas and Alier Maluk.
Thomas, Lincoln Park’s star rising sophomore, is the highest-ranked player in the area, and similar to the previous two, he had been on campus at Pitt plenty of times prior to his recent unofficial visit.
“I’m on the campus a lot for games, like, I go down to Pitt games a lot in season, so I knew about the campus, I’d seen it,” Thomas said. “But getting the actual feel of it, walking through it, and being on the actual campus for a long time, it was great. I had a good time.”
At 6-foot-4, Thomas’ skill set is elite. He has impressed scouts and coaches all summer, and is earning more Division One interest by the day.
“Let me tell you, this kid makes winning plays and is an effortless scorer of the basketball,” 247 Sports Director of Basketball Eric Bossi said in a scouting report. “He shoots with deep range, has an advanced package of moves off the dribble and he is a plus facilitator for his teammates. I’ve had the opportunity to see him at three different events since April and each time I’ve walked away more impressed.”
Lastly, we’ve got Alier Maluk, a 6-foot-10 athletic freak who models his game after Kevin Durant. Pitt got involved early with Maluk too, offering him a scholarship within weeks of the beginning of his freshman year of high school. Since beginning high school, the Imani Christian standout has picked up additional offers from West Virginia, Seton Hall, LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn, NC State, and others. Kentucky’s John Calipari flew back home and checked out one of his practices, as did Pitt’s Capel. In terms of national recognition and high-major offers, he is one of the most well-known and unique hoopers in the class of 2025.
Maluk was in the Pete last season for the Pitt-Monmouth game, but not for a visit. The staff didn’t know he was there. On that date, he told Pittsburgh Sports Now that he was just attending the game “as a fan” with some teammates of his. Then came this past week, when Maluk took his unofficial to Pitt.
#famila #notcommited pic.twitter.com/GUq0PiW1NV
— Alier Maluk (@Maluk_Alier12) August 2, 2022
“It was great,” Maluk said after his visit. “I got to see the whole facility and the super nice upstairs area. Super dope… They have a really good chance to go far this year, and I am really excited to watch them play.”
All in all, that is four local prospects in the Pittsburgh area who are handling high-major recruitments with Pitt at the forefront. All four of them have visited Pitt before the start of their junior years, and all have already built close relationships with the staff. If anything, that is a hell of a start for the Panthers’ staff in its quest to keep the top local talent at home.