Heading into the 2022-23 college basketball season, one thing is for sure when it comes to the Pitt basketball program: it has a wealth of experience.
“We’re older in the back court, we have four fifth or sixth year guys with Jamarius and Nike back, and then adding two new guys with Greg and Nelly,” head coach Jeff Capel said on Monday. “You have more experience there, and to be quite frank, you have men. Those guys are men.”
In the back court, Pitt has three players that have been on college rosters for six years in Nike Sibande, Greg Elliott, and Nelly Cummings. It has one, Jamarius Burton, that has been on a college team for five years. Those four guards have combined for career numbers that follow: 454 games, 4,319 points, and 516 three pointers. All at the Division One level.
Although two of the four — Cummings and Elliott — are entering their first year at Pitt, Capel and his team still value their past experiences more than ever.
“Nelly comes from a situation in which he has won,” Capel said. “And he has won at a high level. So we need that experience. Greg has been a part of teams that have been talented, and have won, but he has also been a part of teams that have been talented and haven’t won, so bringing those experiences as well. Obviously, Jamarius has had a year in our program now. Getting Nike back is big for us. I expect them to be leaders both on and off the court.”
With Sibande sidelined last year, Burton was the guy that took the role of leader on a young team.
“I feel like my role hasn’t changed,” Burton added. “I’m still that vocal guy, competitive guy, eager to win. We just have a new group. The biggest thing for me is that we have a group that collectively has that spirit. I feel like we all have that chip on our shoulders and want to win, so I am just excited to be here.”
Pitt also returns John Hugley, who broke out last year in his first full season of college hoops. The 6-foot-9 Cleveland native averaged over 14 points and seven rebounds per game en route to earning All-ACC Honorable Mention remarks.
In addition to Hugley, the Panthers brought in Blake Hinson, who previously played two years at Ole Miss. On top of those two, William Jeffress (2 years) and Nate Santos (1 year) round out the Panthers with college experience.
“For me, I just like to empower everybody to be themselves,” Burton continued. “To be confident, to be aggressive and hungry. I feel like when you have those characteristics, that you can be a successful team. So for me, it’s just empowering everybody to be the best versions of themselves. I believe we won’t win this year unless it’s a collective unit, and everybody is pulling in the same direction.”
The Panthers take the floor on Oct. 22 in an exhibition against Clarion to open the season. They will then face Edinboro on Nov. 2, followed by the regular season opener on Nov. 7 against UT Martin.