Khem Birch wasn’t the first 5-star recruit Jamie Dixon landed at Pitt, but the 2011 recruit marked a significant point for the Panthers’ program. Bringing in both Birch and Dante Taylor – touted forwards, neither local kids – in three years meant Pitt could hang with the other Big East powers in terms of elite talent.
For a month or so.
News broke last week that Birch decided to leave Pitt because it “just wasn’t the right fit.” It’s a move that doesn’t make much sense – Rob Dauster details why it’s dumb and how some former Panthers reacted to it – mostly because it appears Birch is getting plenty of bad advice.
The coach at Notre Dame Prep, one of the schools at which Birch played high school ball, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette his views.
“Khem is a great kid,” Hurd told the paper. “This situation is painting him as something he is not. The problem is he is being led down a road by so-called advisors. It’s going to end poorly for Khem, and that is sad for me because I care about the kid. This is not going to end well for him.”
Other reports indicated Birch was merely homesick, but it appears he simply wasn’t happy with his amount of playing time.
So what’s it mean for Pitt? As long as Dixon’s around, the program will always be a Big East contender. (And in a few years, an ACC contender.) But I do wonder if it hurts the Panthers’ stature among elite recruits.
When a few elite recruits commit to a program, it encourages others to do the same. Birch bolted after barely any time. That can’t help. And will it ultimately limit Pitt’s fortunes in March?
Dixon’s proven he wins games and league titles no matter how highly the recruits are rated. But talent nearly always prevails in the NCAA tournament. (Even Butler had NBA-caliber players.) And it sure makes winning a lot easier.
In the end, Birch is one player. His decision might not have any impact. But it’s worth watching.
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