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Pitt Basketball

Pitt AD Heather Lyke Proud of Selfless 2022-23 Pitt Men’s Basketball Team



GREENSBORO, N.C. – It was a season that exceeded many expectations and broke down barriers holding back the Pitt basketball program, creating a new culture and hoping to usher in a new era at the University of Pittsburgh. 

The Panthers fell in the Second Round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament 84-73 to Xavier, finishing the 2022-23 campaign 24-12 overall and winning two games in March Madness. This year’s Pitt team will leave fond memories on those who followed and watched throughout the turnaround, especially for athletic director Heather Lyke. 

“I’m incredibly proud,” Lyke said. “Jeff worked at it, the whole coaching staff did. This team did. Nothing gets turned, in my opinion, overnight if you’re doing it the right way. It takes some time. The foundation that he had laid and has done is really coming out today. It just takes some time.”

The veteran group of players – led by five departing seniors – helped to guide Pitt to a 14-6 ACC record and the No. 5 seed in the ACC Tournament after being projected to finish 14th in the conference, believing in each other and coming together for to achieve their goals.

“This is one of the most selfless teams I’ve ever been around,” Lyke said. “Genuinely a joy to be around these kids. They care about one another, they care about Pitt, they’re unselfish in their play, unselfish at the end of the games, at the beginning of the games, in warmups… It’s a great group of kids to be around.

“I’m really proud of them,” Lyke said. “I hope they recognize what an incredible jolt of energy, life, and pride they did instill in our fan base. The fans haven’t ever gone away, they still watch, and so we’re really grateful.”

Lyke thanked the city and fans for their joy and appreciation of everything this year’s team accomplished. Whether it be at the Petersen Events Center, on the road, or some making the journey to Greensboro, Dayton, and to Greensboro once again to witness postseason play. 

“Thanks to Panther nation that came to all of these different games and really came back to support this team,” Lyke said. “It makes a difference. You can see it. You can see it in the games. The sounds, the Let’s Go Pitt cheers, the defense cheers. That matters. That matters to our kids.”

The season was full of numerous accomplishments defining the success of the 2022-23 Panthers: Jeff Capel was named ACC Coach of the Year, Nike Sibande earned ACC Sixth Man of the Year honors, Jamarius Burton (First Team) and Blake Hinson (Second Team) were named to All-ACC Teams, and countless other milestones to celebrate. Lyke doesn’t few the strong year as a new beginning, but rather a large step forward thanks to the effort of Capel and his staff since coming to Pitt.

“I think it started five years ago when Jeff got here,” Lyke said. “This is a culmination of a lot of work, a lot of time, and a lot of the right kids in the program at the right time. I think it will only get better from here.”

One of the most memorable moments at the Pete came in the final game of the year. Senior day. Honoring Jamarius Burton, Greg Elliott, Nelly Cummings, Nike Sibande, and Aidan Fisch. A walk-on now on scholarship and Franklin Regional High School grad, Fisch’s layup to close a dominant 99-82 victory provided one of the loudest atmospheres seen in quite some time, defining the meaning of Pitt basketball.

“I think Aidan Fisch’s final shot, at the Syracuse game, was a moment that everyone who was in the Pete that day will remember because it solidified what this program is all about,” Lyke said. “Everybody was more excited about Aidan scoring than Aidan himself. That describes what this team is all about.”

As the season comes to an end and Pitt says goodbye to a group of players that will go down in Panther lore for quite some time, a brief peak into 2023-24 is hard to ignore. Moving forward, Pitt has a foundation of players to build around and mold under Capel’s direction while exploring options to complete the roster.

“I have great expectations, as I’ve always had, for coach Capel but no one has higher expectations than himself and this entire staff,” Lyke said. “I think we’ve got tremendous momentum, you see what’s coming back. The twins, Blake, there’s a whole group of people, Fede getting healthy. There’s a lot to build upon.”

Pitt has experienced some of the best success compared to any other athletic department in the country. Football won the 2022 Sun Bowl after winning the 2022 ACC Championship and appearing in the Peach Bowl. Volleyball reached the 2022 Final Four, men’s soccer reached the 2022 College Cup Semifinal, women’s soccer made it to the Sweet 16, and 197-pounder Nino Bonaccorsi won a national championship in wrestling on Saturday.

“Success is contagious,” Lyke said. “I think we are starting to finally get a sense of that and the trajectory of our department is really heading in the right direction with all the right people. I’ve got a great team that I love working with every day.”

Lyke congratulated Bonaccorsi and expressed her joy in seeing the Bethel Park native bring a championship back to Oakland.

“I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Lyke said. “He’s a representative of every kid that wrestles in Pittsburgh and in Pennsylvania. You can win a National Championship at Pitt and that’s what we plan to do.” 

Jeff Capel inherited a team that finished 8-24 overall and did not win a single game in ACC play. Five years later – two negatively affected by Covid-19 – Pitt is back to being a national name. It’s been a process, but the journey has taken the Panthers to a destination every team strives to be in when the field of 68 is revealed, and the hunger to get back to the place that means so much to college basketball. 

“It takes a certain level of courage and confidence for coaches to come and build something and then for players to be a part of something that hasn’t been done, to win an ACC Championship,” Lyke said. “We need to do that and obviously want to continue going further in the NCAA Tournament. There’s a lot to be proven and I’m really confident that this team will continue to get better.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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7 days ago

Supported this team from the last game in December thru Senior Night. Made a comment after the North Florida game that this was a special team. Saw a special team during the ‘73 – ‘74 season and just a few since.
Congratulations and good luck to the seniors in your future endeavors.

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