Pittsburgh announces departure of guard Josh Newkirk

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After undergoing microfracture surgery on his knee in early May, it was unknown whether or not guard Josh Newkirk would be able to contribute to the Pittsburgh basketball program in 2015-16 as he was expected to be sidelined anywhere from four to six months. Sunday afternoon it was announced by the school that Newkirk won’t be a Panther, as he’s decided to transfer to a school closer to home (he’s from Raleigh, North Carolina).

“Josh is looking to get closer to home while he recovers from knee surgery and we are in full support of his decision,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said in the release. “He has been an excellent student and strong representative of the University of Pittsburgh. We wish him the best of luck in his rehab and recovery.”

Newkirk wasn’t a starter for the Panthers last season, averaging 5.9 points and 2.7 assists in just under 21 minutes of action per contest. He’ll have two seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2015-16 campaign, but given the knee surgery the time off could work in Newkirk’s favor. With Newkirk no longer in the fold, the question for Pittsburgh (which will return four starters) is who takes the reins when starting point guard James Robinson needs an occasional breather.

Robinson, who will be a senior, led the team with an average of 33.9 minutes per game in 2014-15 and without a clear backup he’ll play at least that much in 2015-16. Pitt added former Coppin State shooting guard Sterling Smith, who will be eligible immediately as a grad student, in late April and freshman combo guard Damon Wilson joins the program as well.

Sophomore Cameron Johnson joins Robinson as Pittsburgh’s only scholarship returnees on the perimeter.