Recruiting Roundup: Pitt basketball strikes out on a trio of top talent

By Tyler Moran, Staff Writer

The Pitt men’s basketball team has dealt with both elation and heartbreak in its recent recruiting campaign. It brought in two talented frontcourt members to the class of 2020, including one of the highest-rated prospects in the Capel era.

On the other hand, the Panthers were unable to bring in a trio of program-altering recruits who decided to take their talents elsewhere in the ACC. Meanwhile, Pitt’s football team strengthened its class of 2021 by landing a highly touted recruit with the ability to play on both sides of the ball.

Men’s basketball

Pitt added superstar talent to its class of 2020 by landing primary target John Hugley. The four-star center recruit chose the Panthers over NC State, Kansas State, Miami and Missouri.

As the 118th-ranked recruit in his class, Hugley is one of the most skilled players head coach Jeff Capel has brought to the program in his tenure. Only now-sophomore Trey McGowens held a higher national ranking at No. 95. At 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds, Hugley has the talent and raw size to take Pitt to the next level as soon as he arrives.

The Panthers’ frontcourt is solidified for the foreseeable future with the acquisition of Hugley. Pairing him with the dynamic backcourt duo of McGowens and Xavier Johnson will undoubtedly cause problems for the opposition.

Hugley should have his way with defenders down on the block and score inside with ease. He will also utilize his elite rebounding ability and be a menace on the glass for the Panthers. Hugley is the dominant force at center that Pitt has been wanting for years now.

Along with Hugley, Capel also earned a commitment from center Max Amadasun. The three-star prospect held offers from Penn State and St. John’s, but Pitt seemed to be the only team on his radar.

Amadasun doesn’t project to be an instant starter like Hugley, but he’ll provide depth for the frontcourt and likely be the backup center in the future. His 6-foot-10 height will grant him opportunities to prove his worth and showcase his skills.

Rebounding is Amadasun’s strength and he does so at an elite level. He is a raw scorer down low, but with Capel’s guidance he has the potential to be something special for the Panthers.

With the good — bringing in two talented center recruits — also comes the bad. In Pitt’s case, that was missing out on three highly touted prospects that would’ve had an enormous impact on the program.

The first of this talented trio is R.J. Davis, who on Oct. 21 committed to North Carolina over Pitt, Georgetown and Marquette. The four-star combo guard possessed the pure backcourt talent that the Panthers needed to complement Johnson and McGowens.

Davis leaned toward Pittsburgh following his official visit to the school, but UNC’s blue blood pedigree ultimately lured him to Chapel Hill, where his abilities can be showcased on a bigger stage.

Pitt will continue to miss out on the top recruits until Capel proves to them that the program is on the right track. In some cases, brand and reputation is all a prospect needs to choose where they want to further their basketball career. Davis was a prime example of this matter, but Capel can start getting prospects of his caliber if Pitt makes another stride forward this season.

UNC also snagged another one of Pittsburgh’s top targets in Puff Johnson. The younger brother of former Panther and Tar Heel small forward Cameron Johnson chose against his hometown team on Tuesday in favor of the school where his older brother finished his collegiate career.

Johnson’s talent would have greatly impacted the program. We saw how good Cameron was at UNC, and Puff had the potential to do the same at Pitt. Alas, the blood courses Carolina blue in the Johnson family, and UNC head coach Roy Williams will mold the four-star recruit into an elite player in the future.

Rounding off the trio of missed targets for the Panthers is four-star small forward Earl Timberlake. Losing the race for him stings the most because he was the most talented of the three.

Timberlake committed to Miami on Monday over the likes of Pitt, Providence, Seton Hall and Alabama. Seeing as he is the 28th-ranked recruit in the class of 2020, not bringing him into the program is a huge loss for Pitt.

Timberlake would have instantly joined the starting lineup next season alongside Johnson and McGowens — a trio that could have wreaked havoc on the ACC. The Panthers will sadly have to play against Timberlake’s pure athleticism and scoring ability instead of using it to their advantage.


The football side of the recruiting trail for Pitt yields all positives as the program greatly strengthened its class of 2021.

The Panthers landed four-star athlete Rodney Hammond Nov. 2. Hammond has the ability to play both offense and defense, and held offers from premier schools such as Michigan, Penn State and Virginia Tech — which shows how special of a player this kid could be.

Scouts say that Hammond is primarily a running back, but has the skill set to play safety as well. This versatility matches that of current Panther running back V’Lique Carter, who came to Pitt as a safety. Hammond’s talent will guarantee him a starting position when he arrives on campus in 2021.

An interesting piece of recruiting news revolves around three-star quarterback prospect Tate Rodemaker. He has recently garnered a lot of attention and received offers from both Pitt and Virginia Tech despite being committed to South Florida’s class of 2020.

Rodemaker was said to be excited after receiving an offer from the Panthers. Pittsburgh has yet to pin down a quarterback commit for their class of 2020 and will look to steal Rodemaker from the Bulls this offseason. 

In other news, Pitt football received a tough blow when three-star cornerback Tee Denson announced Thursday morning that he was decommitting from the program. Denson, who hails from Cedar Grove High School in Ellenwood, Georgia, originally committed to the Panthers in June. Since then, however, he received offers from several other ACC schools including Miami, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest that reportedly led him to reconsider his decision.