Recruiting roundup: Champagnie chooses Pitt

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Recruiting roundup: Champagnie chooses Pitt

Men’s basketball head coach Jeff Capel aims to restore the team to its former powerhouse status.

Men’s basketball head coach Jeff Capel aims to restore the team to its former powerhouse status.

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Men’s basketball head coach Jeff Capel aims to restore the team to its former powerhouse status.

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Men’s basketball head coach Jeff Capel aims to restore the team to its former powerhouse status.

By Tyler Moran, Staff Writer

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With the men’s basketball season officially over and spring football in full swing, it’s time for some more Pitt recruiting news. In this installment, we’ll talk about more basketball and football recruits who are in the discussion to become future Panthers, including a basketball recruit whom Pitt sadly lost out on and a headline recruit who officially committed for the 2019-20 basketball season.

Men’s basketball

Just because Pitt’s basketball season is over doesn’t mean recruiting for the class of 2019 is over. The biggest news that broke since the last recruiting update was that four-star small forward recruit Justin Champagnie officially committed to Pitt for next season. Champagnie joins small forward Gerald Drumgoole and power forward Karim Coulibaly as a part of Pittsburgh’s class of 2019.

The Champagnie commitment catapulted the Panthers into the No. 33 spot in the national recruiting rankings for 2019. Pitt is currently ranked higher than Virginia, Michigan and Purdue — all three being in the Sweet Sixteen of the 2019 March Madness tournament.

This is very promising for the program moving forward as head coach Jeff Capel looks to restore the Panthers to the powerhouse they were just a decade ago.

The most surprising part of this incredible news for Pitt is the fact that Champagnie’s twin, Julian, decided not to commit to Pitt with him. He opted to wait a year and join the class of 2020 instead.

Julian will most likely attend a prep school next season to refine his game. The Champagnie twins were always said to be a package deal ever since Pitt started recruiting them, so Julian should likely be a part of Pitt’s class of 2020, as the Panthers would obviously be the favorites to land him at the moment.

Barring any transfers away from Pittsburgh, the Panthers have two remaining roster spots for the 2019-20 basketball season. Trying to fill one of those roster spots, Pitt offered a scholarship to JUCO shooting guard Sean McNeil. The hope was that this sharpshooter from Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, could fill the void that will be left by the departure of senior Jared Wilson-Frame.

McNeil announced his top six schools and sadly, Pitt was not one of them. The list includes Oregon, West Virginia, Western Kentucky, Dayton, Texas Tech and Ole Miss. Even though Pitt won’t acquire McNeil’s shooting talent, Drumgoole and Champagnie are capable shooters in their own rights.

Seven-foot center Ibrahima Diallo is now choosing between two schools: Pitt and Ohio State. Both teams have offered him a scholarship and realize his size would be an asset to their respective offenses.

Diallo would see more playing time if he was to commit to the Panthers, as he would instantly become the tallest player on the team. The Buckeyes already have a star center with sophomore Kaleb Wesson, so Diallo would be more of a project for Ohio State because of how raw of a player he is.

Diallo said he would make his final decision by the end of March. Both teams would love to have him on the roster, but only one can.

If the Panthers don’t end up with Diallo, they still have a chance at four-star JUCO center/power forward Khadim Sy. Sy originally committed to Virginia Tech, but decided not to stay for too long. Sy is by far a more polished player than Diallo and has the higher floor of the two. He’s the type of player that could really help turn the program around, along with the other recent commits for Pitt.

Although Sy is better than Diallo, there’s a better chance that Pitt lands Diallo, with Sy projected to join the LSU Tigers next season. This is still just a projection, and perhaps Sy’s upcoming campus visit after his JUCO season will change his mind. There’s an outside chance that both centers will be in Pittsburgh next season, filling the final two roster spots.

Football

With the start of Pitt spring football and the annual blue-and-gold intrasquad game just around the corner on April 13, the Panthers have been busy on the recruiting front. AJ Beatty and Tony Grimes were the highlighted players of the last edition of “Recruiting Roundup.” Grimes will likely make his decision next year or in 2021, but Beatty will most likely make his decision in 2019 as he announced he will have a list of his top schools sometime in the summer.

Pitt has offered many scholarships lately to recruits who could provide a positive impact in the future. Zuriah Fisher, a hometown product from Aliquippa, is one of these impact recruits. Fisher is a three-star prospect and part of the class of 2020 who would provide the Panthers with some much-needed linebacker depth at a dwindling position group.

Getting a player from Aliquippa would also be huge for Pitt because of its close proximity and its rich historical connection. NFL legends like Darrelle Revis, Mike Ditka and Tony Dorsett all hail from Aliquippa and played their college ball at Pitt. The Panthers are trying to re-establish their connection with Western Pennsylvania recruits, as they’ve been going elsewhere to play their college football in recent years.

Jaylon Barden and Joseph Johnson are two more recruits whom Pitt would like to have in its program down the line. Both are three-star recruits in the class of 2020. Pitt is closer to the top of Barden’s preferred list, while Penn State has emerged as the front-runner for Johnson.

Barden is listed vaguely as an athlete at the moment, but would likely play on the defensive side of the ball. He has next-level speed, running the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds. With his top-notch athleticism, it’s possible that Barden could follow the path of sophomore V’Lique Carter and see himself in Pitt’s backfield in the coming years.

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