Column | Pitt women’s basketball poised to make leap in 2022

By Frankie Richetti, Senior Staff Writer

After going 11-19 last season it’s clear that Pitt women’s basketball needed to reshape its roster in a big way before the 2022 season.

They did just that this off-season and have positioned themselves for a turnaround. 

After four seasons at Pitt, head coach Lance White has mustered just eight wins in conference play in his tenure at Pitt. After another poor season, fans quickly realized that the Panthers lagged behind the rest of the ACC from a talent perspective.In the form of five newcomers – including three first-years – Pitt underwent a much needed overhaul. 

For the first time in a long time, there’s a buzz around the women’s basketball program. That is largely in part to the trio of standout first-years that will join the Panthers. First-year guards Aislin Malcolm, Avery Strickland and Marley Washenitz all boast impressive resumes and bring winning pedigrees to the program.

All three players will bring much needed scoring punch to the Panthers roster and raise their ceiling in a big way. 

Malcolm, a four-year starter at Chartiers Valley, was the first of the three to pledge to Pitt – doing so in December of 2020. She joins the Panthers as a top 100 recruit and one of the most decorated players to ever come out of the WPIAL. Malcolm led Chartiers Valley to a 110-7 record – including a Pennsylvania state record 64-game winning streak. 

Malcolm can score at all three levels and excels at getting to her spots on the floor. More than anything she is unselfish and will set up others for success. 

Strickland – a wing out of Knoxville, TN – originally committed to West Virginia before flipping to the Panthers. The local media named Strickland as the Tennessee high school sports Player of the Year in 2021 and she also made the all-state team twice including this past season. Strickland led Farragut high school to its first state tournament appearance – advancing to the final. 

Strickland possesses great footwork and is a very good rebounder for her size. She is excellent in transition and has the ability to stretch the floor with deep range.

Like Strickland, Washenitz is also a former West Virginia commit. Washenitz went 92-12 throughout her career at Fairmont high school, appearing in three state championship games – winning one. She earned West Virginia Player of the Year honors in back-to-back seasons, and amassed over 2,000 points in her career – averaging 28.3 points per game this past season. 

Washenitz is versatile and can play on or off the ball. She is excellent at playing without the basketball and creating open looks for herself through her movement. She is also a very creative finisher around the basket.

It’s safe to say that the trio of first-year players will have a big impact on Pitt women’s basketball. But it doesn’t stop there. White and his staff went into the portal and landed two valuable additions. 

The Panthers also added Maryland transfer Channise Lewis and Ohio State transfer Gabby Hutcherson. 

Lewis, a graduate transfer, has had terrible injury luck – season ending knee surgeries have limited her to playing in just nine games in the past three seasons. When she is on the floor though, she is an important player. In her first season with Maryland, she finished second amongst NCAA first-year players in assists per game. In her sophomore season, she led the Big Ten in total assists and assist/turnover ratio.

Hutcherson was a five star recruit out of high school. She didn’t play much at Ohio State but made the most of her time on the floor. In her first season with the Buckeyes, she finished third on the team in blocks with nine and displayed the ability to stretch the floor – connecting on 41% of her threes albeit a small sample size. Last season she finished with four multiple block games.

Together, they all form one of the most anticipated classes in recent memory. Couple this with the fact that Pitt returns seven of its eight leading scorers from last season, and there is plenty of reason for excitement. Pitt women’s basketball is set to take a leap.