Pitt men’s club basketball ends hiatus, looks to usher in new era of success


Image courtesy of Obinna Ibeku and Jack Rudolph

The Pitt men’s club basketball team after their first game.

By Mason Carter, Staff Writer

After securing big name prospects and adding depth with a solid transfer class, Pitt hoops looks ready to compete in the ACC this year. On the top of campus is a smaller gym, right behind the Petersen Events Center, that has another Pitt basketball team ready to begin their own basketball season. 

In the second week of November, the Pitt men’s club basketball team begins their quest for a national championship in the National Club Basketball Association. The newly reformed team started their journey sweeping a double header against Clarion, their first games in action after their brief hiatus.

The Panthers are notched in the North Atlantic South division, alongside Penn State, Clarion, Robert Morris and others. 

This season marks the end of a brief hiatus for Pitt club basketball, who lost their team when the COVID-19 pandemic started in the beginning of 2020. The unknown of handling the pandemic combined with disagreements from the school caused cancellations for both the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

Many of the players from the club’s pre-pandemic team jumped at the chance of bringing the organization back. New club president Michael Caggiano, a senior finance and supply chain management major, is one of a few players with experience playing for the club, originally joining in 2019 as a first year. 

“For those two years I missed the competitive aspect of playing club hoops,” Caggiano said. “Since it was my senior year and I had experience playing, I wanted to take over as president and bring the team back.”

It’s a new beginning for Pitt club basketball, and barring any obstacles they’ll get back up to speed quickly. According to Jack Rudolph, a junior biology major, many of the players can’t wait to pick up competitive basketball again.  

“A lot of us played competitive basketball, some of us even had options to play at division three schools,” Rudolph said. ”All of us have a good basketball experience, and we just want to get back to actually competing instead of playing a pick up game at Trees [Hall].” 

The team is full of former high school and AAU players, eager to play again, even if it’s not what they imagined.

Other than playing basketball, these players have much more to gain from the club team. Junior player Obi Ibeku believes playing allows him to make more friendships with people from other paths.

“Doing something I enjoy, but also meeting new people, without this club thing I wouldn’t have met half the guys on the team,” Ibeku, a finance and information systems major, said.

Over the past couple of years, these players were able to figure out who among them were the better basketball players. They frequently run into each other at Trees Hall or Bellefield Hall. What started as solely on-court relationships shifted into friendships as the group spent more time together, sharing laughs and buckets. 

In their brief history prior to the pandemic, Pitt’s team was successful. In their inaugural NCAAB season in 2016, the Panthers finished with an 8-4 record. In five seasons of competing in the league, Pitt never finished below .500. The Panthers reached their first championship game in 2017 after an 18-2 overall finish, ultimately losing to Purdue 85-70.  

In 2019, they ended up going 15-0 in conference play and 18-1 overall. Their outstanding season awarded them the No. 1 overall seed in the 2019 NCBBA tournament. They reached the semifinals but lost to eventual champions East Carolina 88-78

Next fall, the team captured the first annual tip off tournament championship, defeating Ohio State 97-90

Despite their past success, competing at the same level immediately isn’t an easy feat. Most players on the team are feeling good about this upcoming season. 

“My freshman year we beat OSU in the championship,” Caggiano said. ”I am confident in saying that the team this year is equally if not more competitive than that team.” 

This new Panthers team is excited to compete again and to show off their talent after a long pause of no club basketball. With two exhibition wins under their belt, the Panthers took on Clarion in their regular season opener on Nov. 18 and entered the new era in dominant fashion, winning both games of their double-header 43-37 and 70-58 respectively.