Updating the State of Pitt Basketball: Graduate Transfers Hope To Fill Voids


Feb 14, 2015; Providence, RI, USA; Seton Hall Pirates guard Sterling Gibbs (4) shoots the ball againt Providence Friars forward Carson Desrosiers (33) during the second half at Dunkin Donuts Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Much has changed since my last article on Pitt basketball recruiting.

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Let’s recap where we currently stand with the roster:

Pitt loses two seniors from last season, guard Cameron Wright and center Derick Randall.  Walk-on center Aron Phillips-Nwankwo has graduated.

Senior center Tyrone Haughton, who did not see any action with Pitt this past season, elected to transfer from the program.

Senior guard/ forward Durand Johnson, who missed most of two seasons ago with an injury and all of last year due to suspension, decided to transfer and will finish his career at St. Johns.  This was a mind-boggling move since Johnson practiced with Pitt all season and went on away trips to Hawaii.

Therefore, this would indicate four open spots on the roster.

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  • Incoming 4-star freshmen guard Damon Wilson Jr. has had some hype, and he will look to instantly contribute and provide much-needed scoring depth at the point guard position.

    Massive 7-foot, 340-pound junior center Rozelle Nix will compete for the starting center position, allowing Michael Young to move towards the power forward spot.

    Coach Jamie Dixon has also landed two graduate transfers in 6-foot-4 shooting guard Sterling Smith from Coppin State and 6-foot-9, 245-pound center Rafael Maia from Brown.  Both graduated and can play immediately.

    Smith chose Pitt over Wake Forest, Rutgers, and Louisville, and he averaged 13.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last season.  He was a 42% three-point shooter, which is something that Pitt drastically needs.

    Maia, a native of Brazil, averaged 9 points and 8 rebounds a game, and he should be able to at least provide some much-needed depth at the center position.

    I would not consider the Smith or Maia transfers as a huge success that will bolster Pitt to the top of the ACC, but they do add depth in positions where Pitt has struggled.

    Pitt failed to land McDonald’s All-American center Cheick Diallo, who chose Kansas, and the Panthers also lost prized Class of 2016 5-star recruit Mustapha Heron, who has reopened his recruitment.

    Today, Sterling Gibbs, the brother of Pitt guard Ashton Gibbs, is visiting Pitt, and he plans on visiting Ohio State later in the week.  Gibbs, a graduate of Seton Hall, has one year of eligibility remaining, and he is considered one of the prized graduate transfers.

    Gibbs, transferring from Seton Hall, averaged 16.3 points and 3.8 assists per game for the Pirates.  Pitt could definitely use a scorer.

    Because Pitt is attempting to land Gibbs, I think senior center Joseph Uchebo may be on his way out.  Uchebo never really broke through, as Pitt struggled at the center position.

    If Pitt could land Gibbs, I would project a Pitt starting lineup of:

    • Point guard: senior James Robinson
    • Shooting guard: senior Sterling Gibbs
    • Small forward: junior Jamel Artis
    • Power forward: junior Michael Young
    • Center junior: Rozelle Nix/ senior: Rafael Maia

    Junior Josh Newkirk and freshman Damon Wilson Jr. would compete to back-up Robinson at the point guard position.

    Junior Chris Jones, senior Sterling Smith, and sophomore Cameron Johnson would compete to back-up Sterling Gibbs.  If Pitt does not land Gibbs, the position may be between Jones and Smith.

    Junior forward Sheldon Jeter would be the 6th-man off the bench, and he could play the 2, 3, or 4.  The combination of Artis, Young, and Jeter make up for a very strong forward lineup.

    Sophomore forward Ryan Luther would provide additional depth at the forward position, but I could see him redshirting.  If Uchebo remains with Pitt, he would likely back-up Nix and Maia.

    Much can still change, but it appears that the Pitt basketball roster is beginning to take shape.  This team will not be able to use the “youth” card as an excuse this season, but Dixon will need to land some top talent for the Classes of 2016 and 2017.

    Next: Pitt Men's Basketball recieves Brown transfer Maia

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