The Pitt back court looks entirely different than last year’s NCAA Tournament veteran group.
This year, Pitt head coach Jeff Capel and company will look to a significantly younger group led by junior Ishmael Leggett and freshmen Carlton “Bub” Carrington and Jaland Lowe.
While Leggett has 87 games of college hoops experience at Rhode Island across three years, the other two have yet to check into a college basketball game. However, with its confident, humble, and patient approach, the pair looks to be as ready as possible heading into season number one for Pitt.
“You touched on the camaraderie that they had last year, and I feel like we can exceed that,” Carrington said on Wednesday. “I feel like these guys are my brothers and I’ve known them for a couple of months. I feel like we definitely mesh well. Getting to know each other not just on the court but off the court will help us win a lot of games this year.”
“As a back court, we’re meshing well,” Leggett added. “These guys have been amazing, they’ve been sponges, they’ve been just great back court partners. I can’t wait for the season to show what we’ve been working on this preseason.”
Aside from workouts throughout the summer, the group had its first chance to play in live-game action when on its foreign tour in August. Pitt played one game in Tenerife, followed by another in Barcelona, learning about their team chemistry, each player’s skill sets, and more in the two victories.
In game one, Leggett had 13 points, while Carrington had nine assists, seven rebounds, and three steals. Lowe went 1-for-2 from behind the arc and dished out five assists of his own. In the second matchup, Leggett dropped 14 points, Carrington scored 10, and Lowe added seven. For the veteran of the group, he was most impressed with one certain intangible that the pair of rookies showed off on the trip.
“Their resilience,” Leggett said. “The second game in Spain, it was a little rough. But just seeing how they responded to adversity. Every game this year is not going to be what we want. But I was glad to see that they responded to adversity in a great manner and they were very next-play oriented, so that was good that I saw that.”
“First and foremost, the work they put in, it shows on the court, for sure,” Leggett continued about the freshmen. “I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. Just the way they are sponges. Anything you have to say, good or bad, they’re willing to hear it. I think this year, you guys are going to see that they’re a special pair of freshmen, for sure. Skill level, I mean, my freshman year, I can only speak to myself, I was not at their skill level. I give them praise all the time and I just try and push them each and every day to exceed the expectations of ‘Oh man, they’re too young. Oh man, they don’t have any experience.’ I see these guys. I go against them every day, and they’re special for sure. I’m watching, I’m proud of these guys every day and I hope that this year you guys definitely get to see what we’ve been cooking up.”
— George Michalowski (@MichalowskiCBB) February 4, 2023
247sports listed Lowe as a 6-foot-1 point guard in high school and they listed Carrington as a 6-foot-4, 175-pound shooting guard. Now, Lowe is listed on the Pitt roster at 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, while Carrington stands at 6-foot-5 and190 pounds. The two, along with Leggett and late transfer addition Mike Hueitt Jr., know that they will have big roles as freshmen and have done everything that they can to prepare themselves for the challenges that lie ahead.
“We knew coming in that we would have that opportunity to play on-ball and play right away as freshmen,” Lowe said. “And me and Bub, we stay in the gym, that’s all we do. Only these guys probably know how much we’re in the gym. We watch film, we ask questions with the coaches. We’re just eager to learn because we know how big of a responsibility we have this year and to pick up from where we left off last year. That’s all we want to do, is exceed expectations. We already know what everybody is saying about us. So we have the responsibility to put the work in and prove ourselves right, and prove others wrong.”
#Pitt signee Carlton Carrington skips through the lane for 2.
Carrington is catching fire.. Has 7 points in the first few minutes of the 3rd Q. Cashed a three right after this bucket to take the lead.
Up to 9 points, 6 rebounds, 3 ast, 2 steals. pic.twitter.com/IgXThVstbK
— George Michalowski (@MichalowskiCBB) January 7, 2023
With four unique guards at his disposal, Capel has many different options that he will be able to test out regarding who plays the one, who plays the two, who starts, who comes off the bench, etc. The trio of Carrington, Leggett, and Lowe each took turns bringing the ball up in Spain along with Dior Johnson, who is no longer on the team or attending the University. Hueitt has played all over the floor at the DI and DII levels.
“This back court, I feel like we’re going to do an amazing job this year,” Lowe said. “I know it’s a heavy load to pick up, but we know what we have to do. I feel like those guys from last year, they really set the standard. We know the standard, and we are trying to just go and accomplish it and more.”
Pitt kicks off the 2023-24 season on Monday, Nov. 6 against North Carolina A&T at the Petersen Events Center at 7 p.m.