Indiana added a late transfer this weekend as former Pitt guard Josh Newkirk joined the program, according to his father. The 6-foot-1 guard will have to sit out the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer restrictions, but Newkirk has two years of eligibility remaining after.
As a Panther last season, Newkirk averaged 5.9 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. The addition of Newkirk gives the Hoosiers an experienced point guard once Yogi Ferrell exhausts his eligibility after this season. Newkirk is currently rehabbing from microfracture surgery that he had in early May, but he gives head coach Tom Crean a capable guard to get minutes once he becomes eligible.
You can essentially look at Newkirk as a Class of 2016 recruit and he joins in-state shooting guard Grant Gelon as future Hoosiers joining the team next season.
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.
Pittsburgh guard Josh Newkirk’s efforts this summer to improve on his sophomore season will include rehabilitation, as head coach Jamie Dixon announced Wednesday that the rising junior underwent surgery on his left knee Wednesday. The procedure was performed to repair the lateral meniscus and a microfracture in the knee, and Newkirk is expected to be sidelined four to six months.
According to Dixon Newkirk, who averaged 5.9 points and 2.7 assists in just over 20 minutes of action per game last season, is expected to be ready to go when the team begins preseason practice.
While that aspect of the injury is a positive, working to rehab the knee could end up taking away from time that would be used to improve his game if he were healthy. Newkirk will be a key figure for the Panthers as they look to rebound from a disappointing 2014-15 season, with James Robinson back in the starting point guard role.
In addition to Robinson and Newkirk, the Panthers perimeter rotation will include graduate student Sterling Smith, sophomore Cameron Johnson and freshman Damon Wilson. Pittsburgh has good depth at the small forward position, with Jamel Artis and Sheldon Jeter among the options at that position.
After averaging just 4.3 points per game as a sophomore in 2012-13, guard Cameron Wright took a significant step forward for the Pittsburgh Panthers in their first season as a member of the ACC. Wright averaged 10.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game last season, giving Jamie Dixon needed perimeter production to supplement the output of seniors Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna.
With Patterson and Zanna having graduated Wright is expected to be an even more important figure for Pittsburgh this season, but according to reports the Panthers may be without the 6-foot-5 redshirt senior guard for a while.
As first reported by Eric Hagman of 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, and later confirmed by multiple outlets, Wright broke his left foot Thursday and underwent surgery on Friday. Wright, Pitt’s leading returning scorer, is expected to miss ten weeks as a result of the injury with the hope being that he’ll return just before Christmas according to Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
With Wright out of the equation for the time being, more will be needed from junior James Robinson and sophomore Josh Newkirk. Robinson averaged 7.6 points and a team-best 4.1 assists per game last season, with Newkirk adding 4.6 points per contest off the bench. However those two won’t be the only Panthers who will need to raise their production, which would have been the case even with a healthy Wright.
Sophomore forward Michael Young, who averaged 6.0 points and 4.1 rebounds per game as a freshman, performed well during the team’s summer trip to the Bahamas and will have the opportunity to do more in 2014-15. Pitt also returns redshirt junior wing Durand Johnson, who averaged 8.8 points per game before suffering a torn ACL in a win over Wake Forest on January 11. Vanderbilt transfer Sheldon Jeter, who took classes at a junior college but did not play last season, is another available option.
As a result of Friday’s news the Panthers will look to navigate a non-conference schedule that includes a spot in the Maui Invitational and games against Indiana and Manhattan without their leading returning scorer.