Recruiting Roundup: Pitt basketball awaits a quartet of commitments

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Recruiting Roundup: Pitt basketball awaits a quartet of commitments

The Panthers are in a prime position to add two four-star players to the roster next season.

The Panthers are in a prime position to add two four-star players to the roster next season.

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

The Panthers are in a prime position to add two four-star players to the roster next season.

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

The Panthers are in a prime position to add two four-star players to the roster next season.

By Tyler Moran, Staff Writer

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The Pittsburgh Panthers men’s basketball team has already secured its first commitment to the class of 2020 and now looks to add more elite talent. It recently brought in one of the most talented recruits in Pennsylvania and is in striking distance of a significant number of program-altering prospects. Pitt’s football team has also continued to strengthen its class of 2020 by stealing a highly touted recruit from bitter rival West Virginia.

Men’s basketball

Pitt added the second member to its class of 2020 by landing three-star power forward Noah Collier. The Pennsylvania native chose the Panthers over the likes of California and Clemson.

The Collier commitment will act as a domino for other recruits to join the program in the near future.

Although rated only as a three-star, Collier is the No. 3-ranked power forward recruit in the state of Pennsylvania. It’s crucial for Pitt to bring in the best prospects in Pennsylvania and keep other schools from stealing recruits out of its own backyard.

Standing at 6 feet 7 inches, Collier is slightly undersized for the power forward position, but the lack of height doesn’t limit his formidable presence on the block. Athleticism and toughness make him a dominant inside scorer, an archetype that Pitt desperately needed.

The Panthers have an opportunity to add another member to the class of 2020 on Oct. 18, when four-star center recruit John Hugley will announce his commitment.

Pitt, along with NC State, Kansas State, Miami and Missouri are in the running to land the 6-foot-9 Hugley. Fortunately for Pitt, many analysts have concluded from Hugley’s pair of visits to Pittsburgh that the Panthers are front-runners to land the talented post player.

Hugley is an essential prospect for Panthers head coach Jeff Capel and his program moving forward. Hugley is able to assert his dominance in the paint and rebound with ease. His physicality and Pittsburgh’s need for a player with these abilities will inevitably insert him into the starting lineup for next season.

The entirety of Pitt’s frontcourt — which totals four players — averaged only 11.7 points per game combined. If the frontcourt was one player, it would have finished third on last year’s teams in scoring average. The Panthers were a top-heavy team last season and that held them back against strong defensive teams. The lack of an inside threat on offense allowed opposing defenses to focus on Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens — Pitt’s leading scorers — without worrying about how the “supporting cast” would hurt.

If the Panthers want to take the next step, dangerous post scorers are essential.

Talented big men are the most glaring need for Capel and his squad, but the future of sophomore guards Johnson and McGowens are uncertain, so an heir to succeed Capel’s next crop of lead guards is similarly important for long-term success.

Combo guard R.J. Davis is just one of the highly touted prospects that Capel will look to build on in the post-Johnson-McGowens era. Davis is a four-star recruit that ranks No. 57 nationally and No. 2 in the state of New York. Davis will choose between Pittsburgh, Marquette, Georgetown and North Carolina for where he will take his talents next year.

Davis has elite athleticism and shooting ability that fits perfectly in Capel’s offense. A future pairing of Johnson and Davis would be absolutely lethal. Davis would also be a dynamic sixth man if Capel decides to stick with McGowens in the starting lineup.

Pitt has also cracked four-star small forward Earl Timberlake’s top five school list along with Miami, Providence, Seton Hall and Alabama. Landing a player of Timberlake’s skillset is huge for any program, as he is the 28th-ranked recruit in the nation.

Timberlake instantly becomes a starter for the Panthers next season if he chooses to commit. Not only does he have a deadly shot, but he can also drive to the rim with authority. His dynamic play style will elevate the performance of those around him.

The Panthers are in a prime position to land not just one, but two four-star centers on the roster. Hugley may be followed by the 47th-ranked player in the nation, Cliff Omoruyi. Pitt will battle with Arizona State, Connecticut and Kentucky for his commitment.

Similar to Hugley, Omoruyi is an elite rebounder that can easily score inside. But he differs in height and spacing ability. At 6 feet 11 inches, he is two inches taller than Hugley — better fitting the traditional image of a center. Omoruyi is better equipped to run the floor and can step outside of the paint to open up scoring lanes for Pitt’s guards and wings.

Football

About a week before their season opener against Virginia, the Panthers made yet another addition to the already loaded class of 2020. Pitt won the recruiting battle for three-star offensive tackle Branson Taylor, beating out rival West Virginia.

The Taylor commitment catapulted Pittsburgh to the 37th-ranked class of 2020 in the nation. Pitt’s class also ranks seventh in the ACC, improving five spots from the previous season.

Taylor provides a large body and depth in the trenches for the future of the program. He will likely receive a redshirt next season so that he can further improve his blocking abilities. Taylor will make an enormous impact and surely become a starting offensive tackle in the next few years if he puts the work in.

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