Pitt Panthers

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Preaching patience, new Pitt AD says hoops program “a complete rebuild”

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Things did not go particularly well for Kevin Stallings in his first year at Pitt. The program, which essentially pushed Jamie Dixon out the door for being consistently good but not often enough great, struggled, going 16-17 overall and 4-14 in the ACC, just two games out of the cellar.

On top of that, six players prematurely left the program this spring.

Not great, especially when you’ve got a new boss that didn’t hire you, as is the case for Stallings with new Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke, who came aboard in March. In her first meeting with Stallings, Lyke asked a rather blunt question.

“Do you want to be here?” according to the Beaver County Times.

Stallings answered that he did, and his new athletic director would appear to be willing to give her predecessor’s hire time to reclaim and rebuild the program.

“It’s a steep climb, if you will,” Lyke said. “It’s not something that’s going to come easy and it takes an incredible amount of work.”

Stallings’ personal reputation took a significant amount of damage this spring when he attempted to block Cameron Johnson from an intra-ACC transfer to North Carolina. NBC Sports’ Scott Phillips called him a “town-deaf clown” in his attempt to keep Johnson from being a Tar Heel, a position he later relinquished, allowing Johnson to head to Chapel Hill.

Losing Johnson certainly won’t help Stallings and the Panthers recover from the difficult first season. Pitt didn’t hit any grand-slams in recruiting but is adding four-star guard Marcus Carr in its 2017 class.

The immediate outlook doesn’t look particularly bright, but Pitt appears to be positioning itself to exhibit some patience.

“If you look at the team, it is a complete rebuild,” Lyke said. “So I do think that (Stallings) is going to need a little time to develop it.

“But, we’ve got to be headed in the right direction. There’s some things that have got to get better and noticeable improvements. I’ve already seen those things start to happen.”

 

Cameron Johnson released by Pitt, eligible to join North Carolina next season

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Cameron Johnson became one of the most coveted transfers on the market when he decided to leave the Pitt program. The 6-foot-8 shooter not only had two years of eligibility remaining but he was graduating in three years, meaning he would be eligible to play at whatever school he chose to enroll in.

Earlier this week, he picked ACC foe North Carolina.

One problem. Kevin Stallings and Pitt placed restrictions on where he could and couldn’t transfer to, mainly within the ACC. The two sides later “compromised.” Johnson could transfer to another ACC school but

Kevin Stallings and Pitt placed restrictions on where he could and couldn’t transfer to, mainly within the ACC. Following an appeal, the two sides reached a “compromise.” Johnson could transfer to another ACC school but he’d have to pay his way and burn one of his final two years of eligibility to do so.

After a PR hit, Pitt has reportedly changed course and has released Johnson, allowing him to suit up for the Tar Heels during the 2017-18 season, according to Evan Daniels of Scout.

Johnson averaged 11.9 points 4.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game, shooting 42 percent from three for the Panthers this past season. He will slide into the vacant role left behind by All-American Justin Jackson.

The reigning national champion and Pitt, a program that has lost its top four scorers from a season ago, will be on opposite ends of the preseason poll. But after this ordeal, it’ll make for a must-see matchup when Johnson meets his alma mater.

Young scores 25, No. 24 Pittsburgh beats Notre Dame 86-82

(AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Michael Young scored a season-high 26 points and No. 24 Pittsburgh held on after wasting a big lead for an 86-82 victory over Notre Dame on Saturday.

The Irish used a 9-0 run to cut a 16-point deficit to 79-77 on a 3-pointer by Demetrius Jackson and layup by Steve Vasturia. James Robinson ended a 1-of-9 shooting streak for the Panthers with a basket inside.

The Irish (10-5, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) closed to 83-80 on a dunk by Jackson and had a chance to tie it on a 3-pointer by Matt Ryan, but it missed badly. Young hit a free throw with 11.5 seconds left. The Irish closed to 84-82 on a layup with 6 seconds left, but Robinson made a pair of free throws with 5 seconds left to clinch the win for the Panthers (14-1, 3-0).

Jamel Artis added 19 points for the Panthers and Sheldon Jeter had 18 as the Panthers dominated inside, outscoring the Irish 40-24 in the paint and outrebounding the Irish 34-24.

Jackson led the Irish with 26 points, Bonzie Colson and Steve Vasturia added 13 and Zach Auguste added 12.

Notre Dame cut Pittsburgh’s 18-point lead to four-points late in the first half, but the Panthers, playing their first road game, led 49-43 at halftime and regained control by opening the second half on a 9-2 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Artis as the Panthers won their 10th straight.

The Irish, who lost at home for the first time this season, used a 14-1 run to cut the lead to 73-64 on a basket inside by Bonzie Colson. Young ended the run by the Irish by making 3 of 4 free throws, and Sheldon Jeter had a three-point play to extend the lead to 79-68.

Young started the game with a three-point play 15 seconds in when he was fouled by Bonzie Colson and had 14 points in the first seven minutes on 5-of-6 shooting. He sat the first 10 minutes of the second half, though, after picking up two fouls in the final 64 seconds of the first half.

The Panthers overwhelmed the Irish early, jumping to a 13-0 lead as the Irish missed their first four shots and the Panthers made it 15-2 when Young made his fourth straight shot. Pittsburgh hit 10 of its first 12 shots, extending the lead to 28-10 on a 3-pointer by Chris Jones. Demetrius Jackson began getting the Irish back into it by making four straight 3-pointers, cutting the lead to 33-22.

TIP-INS

Pittsburgh: The Panthers entered the game leading the nation in free throw shooting at 79 percent. They made 20 of 24 on Saturday. … The Panthers were 10 of 19 from 3-point range. … Pitt’s reserves outscored Notre Dame’s bench 26-10.

Notre Dame: Jackson had a career-high five 3-pointers. … Notre Dame scored 43 points in the first half, the most allowed by Pitt in a half this season. … Notre Dame’s first turnover came 81 seconds into the second half when Rafael Maia stole the ball from Beachem. … Zach Auguste fouled out with 5:53 to play.

UP NEXT

Pittsburgh: travels to Louisville on Thursday.

Notre Dame: hosts Georgia Tech on Wednesday.

Purdue’s Rapheal Davis doubtful against Pitt

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Purdue senior guard Rapheal Davis will likely miss his second consecutive game on Tuesday night as he recovers from a sprained MCL that he suffered in practice last week.

The Boilermakers travel to unbeaten Pitt tonight to play in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and Purdue associate SID Chris Forman said on Twitter that Davis is doubtful and couldn’t make it through practice the last few days.

While it will hurt Purdue to be without the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Davis is apart of a pretty deep Purdue team that should still be very competitive without him. The senior also missed Purdue’s win over Lehigh on Saturday and it’s probably best to make sure he’s healthy for the Big Ten conference season as the Boilers have big aspirations.

Report: Pitt gets junior college guard on board in 2016

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Pitt picked up its third member of the Class of 2016 on Monday night as ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported that the Panthers landed junior college guard Crisshawn Clark.

The 6-foot-4 Clark took official visits to both Pitt and Oregon and decided to play closer to his former home in Ohio. Playing at Canada College in San Mateo, California last season, Clark averaged 15 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists last season while shooting 35 percent from the field. Once he enters Pitt for the 2016-17 season, Clark will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

By adding Clark, Pitt has secured some future backcourt pieces in the Class of 2016 as he’ll join three-star guard Justice Kithcart and three-star forward Corey Manigault. Kithcart’s quickness and ability to get in the paint should free up some open looks for Clark and the two guards contrast each other nicely based on their skillsets.

Three-star guard Justice Kithcart commits to Pitt

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Pitt landed its point guard of the future on Sunday as three-star guard Justice Kithcart announced his decision on Twitter. The 6-foot-2 Kithcart had a very good summer on the grassroots circuit and made his commitment to the Panthers during his official visit.

An aggressive, attacking guard, Kithcart is very quick and he uses his athleticism to get in the paint whenever he can. Also a strong defender, Kithcart will have to improve his perimeter jumper before hitting the college ranks, but he’s already very good in transition and should be able to put pressure on defenses right away with his speed.

Playing with Team Loaded Virginia in the adidas Gauntlet this spring and summer, Kithcart averaged 11.3 points, 3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Kithcart is Pitt’s second commitment in the 2016 class, as he joins three-star forward Corey Manigault.