Recruiting roundup: Capel nabs Murphy but comes up short

By Tyler Moran, Staff Writer

The college football season is fast approaching, but basketball recruiting news commands the headlines for the Pittsburgh Panthers — most of it bad. In our first recruiting roundup of the summer, we mostly talk about basketball recruits that decided to commit elsewhere to Pitt. Not all hope is lost for the Panthers, though. They’ve managed to land one strong recruit each in both basketball and football in recent weeks.

Men’s basketball

Although Pitt has missed out on several promising recruits recently, at least one believes in the program — three-star Junior College shooting guard Ryan Murphy, who announced his commitment to Pitt on May 8. Murphy will join the Panthers for the 2019-20 season, choosing Pittsburgh over schools such as Washington State, East Carolina and Iona.

Murphy becomes the fourth member of the Panthers’ basketball class of 2019 and will make a great addition to the team, giving the Panthers a sharpshooter from behind the arc, something they have desperately needed. Pitt can rely on him to get the team a basket in order to halt opposing teams’ scoring runs. He’s also shown he can become a deadly scoring threat behind the three point line.

But outside of Murphy things aren’t looking as good. Pitt currently sits 49th in the national recruiting rankings for the class of 2019. Coach Jeff Capel still looks to add to the upcoming class, but lately has fallen short on various targets.

The inability to have big time recruits come to Pitt is not because Capel is doing a poor job, but instead is due to the recent failures of the program. These kids want to win, and in recent history, Pitt has just not done that. As Pittsburgh improves as a program, it’s more likely that talented recruits will want to play for them — it’s that simple and it’s only a matter of time.

Pitt failed to acquire the services of four-star JUCO power forward Khadim Sy, who ended up committing to Ole Miss over Pitt and East Carolina. He likely chose in favor of Ole Miss because of the recent success the program has had.

Not landing Sy hurts the Panthers the most. He was their main target and his size is desperately needed on the roster.

This is one of the first missteps during Capel’s coaching tenure, and it’s one that truly stings. Pitt seemed to be the front-runner in this battle, but that obviously wasn’t the case. The talent that Sy would have injected into this young Panther roster will be missed next season.

Another recruit Pitt lost out on was five-star point guard and former McDonald’s All-American Jahvon Quinerly, a transfer from Villanova. Quinerly whittled down his transfer destinations to Pittsburgh and Alabama. Unfortunately for the Panthers, he chose the Crimson Tide.

Although Quinerly was not needed on the roster as much as Sy, it never hurts to add a five-star talent to the squad. Pitt is already equipped with two dynamic guards in Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens, so sharing play time amongst the three would have become an intriguing task for Capel.

It is possible that Quinerly thought about this reality and ended up going to Alabama so he could be the centerpiece of the team.

Quinerly’s abilities really were not put on display at Villanova  — this is the reason he ultimately decided to transfer. He is a dynamic guard who has elite handles and is best when operating in open space. Alabama picked up a great player in Quinerly. It’s a shame we won’t get to see him in a Panther jersey next season.

Then there’s Julian Champagnie. Champagnie, twin of Pitt class of 2019 commit Justin Champagnie, committed to St. John’s on May 29. The commitment from the three-star small forward blindsided just about every party involved.

After his brother Justin committed to Pittsburgh on March 14, Julian decided to reclassify back to his original class of 2020. It was then announced on May 27 that Julian was to reclassify back to the class of 2019 and commit to the program that he thought had the most faith in him. Many assumed that program would be Pittsburgh.

That wasn’t the case.

At the end of the day, though, St. John’s is the better fit for Julian. Pitt already has various players that would sit above Julian in the rotation, including his own brother. Julian will likely get the play time that he desires with the Red Storm. He is a solid wing player that will help the program for years to come.

Finally, Olivier Robinson-Nkamhoua, a three-star power forward and Pittsburgh target, ended up committing to Tennessee. Although he’s not as talented as Sy, Robinson-Nkamhoua would have still added size to this undersized Panther roster. He is a guy that would have stayed for all four years and had a good amount of playing time under Capel.

Though it’s lost out on most names on this list of possible recruits, Pitt still has its eye on one more name for the class of 2019 —  Josaphat Bilau.

Bilau is a three-star power forward from Geneva, Ohio. Getting him into a Panthers jersey for next season would finally give Pitt the size that it has longed for and missed out on with Sy and Robinson-Nkamhoua.

Pitt is in competition with schools such as Illinois, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech for Bilau. Bilau would get a good amount of play time if he were to commit to Pittsburgh, so the odds of landing him are high compared to those other programs.

A commitment from him would be a magical end to Pitt’s class of 2019 and might even avenge the recent recruiting failures.


All these basketball headlines, put together with the football-less summer, mean there’s just one piece of football news to report.

But it’s exciting news for Pitt football fans. The Panthers landed their third commitment for the class of 2020 in Jaylon Barden, a three-star athlete who has decided to take his talents to the 412. He will likely play wide-receiver for the Panthers due to the fact that Pitt already has plenty of running backs to go around.