Pitt men’s basketball continuing to add talent in the offseason


Pamela Smith | Contributing Editor

A referee holds a basketball in the Petersen Events Center.

By Jermaine Sykes, Assistant Sports Editor

After losing four key players from its 2022-23 NCAA tournament roster, Pitt Men’s Basketball knew it had to reload heading into next season. But with the Panthers’ activity on the recruiting trail and in the transfer portal this offseason, they set themselves up to compete at the top of the ACC in 2023-24.


The Panthers needed to add to their backcourt after the loss of guards Nelly Cummings, Greg Elliott, Nike Sibande and All-ACC first-team recipient Jamarius Burton to graduation. The Panthers will see the debut of first-year guard Dior Johnson, who missed last season with off-the-court issues. Along with Johnson, the Panthers added a duo of four-star recruits in guards Jaland Lowe and Carlton Carrington to their backcourt. 

The trio of Johnson, Lowe and Carrington lack experience at the collegiate level, but the talent is there. All three were given four stars by 24/7 Sports, and all three were ranked in the top 20 at their respective positions coming out of high school. 

To supplement the lack of experience in the backcourt, the Panthers added senior guard Ishmael Leggett from Rhode Island through the transfer portal. Leggett is coming off his most productive season, averaging 16.4 points and 5.8 rebounds a game for the Rams in 2022-23. 

I don’t think the Panthers are done adding to their backcourt. With one remaining roster spot available, I can see head coach Jeff Capel and staff looking for another guard with experience. But if the roster stays as it currently is, expect Johnson and Lowe to compete for the starting point guard position while Leggett and Carrington compete for the starting shooting guard position. 


Last season, the strength of the Panthers was their backcourt. This season their frontcourt has enough talent to carry their team to success. Senior Blake Hinson — a 2022-23 All-ACC third-team selection — leads the way. Although his return was questionable, as he decided between returning to Pitt for his senior year or opting for the NBA draft, Hinson withdrew his name from the NBA draft process on May 30.

Junior center Federiko Federiko and sophomore forwards Guillermo and Jorge Diaz Graham return. The three will have a full offseason to add weight and muscle to their frames. The Panthers will also see the return of senior forward Will Jeffress, who missed all of last season with an injury. 

With Hinson, Jeffress, the Diaz Graham twins and Federiko all returning, the Panthers frontcourt looks solid heading into fall camp. But this didn’t stop Capel and the staff from adding to their frontcourt through recruitment and scouring the transfer portal. 

The Panthers started with the recruitment of three star Marlon Barnes. Barnes’ height of 6’6 is standard for a small forward. But at only 180 pounds, Barnes may be rotating back and forth between the shooting guard and small forward positions depending on the lineup.

Through the transfer portal the Panthers added High Point junior forward Zack Austin. Austin was one of the Panthers first targets once he entered the transfer portal immediately following the season. With Austin’s 14.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in 2022-23, I can see him carving out a sizable role for himself on this roster. 

Finally, on May 22, the Panthers put the exclamation point on their recruiting efforts thus far. With four star center Papa Kante’s decommitment from Michigan, this opened the door for the Panthers to offer him. Kante’s 6’10, 215 pound frame gives him great rim protecting potential. 

The Panthers gained a hard commit from Kante, and if he is ready to play in 2023-24, the Panthers should have one of the best defenses in the ACC.


On paper, this is one of the best Pitt rosters in a long time, and fans should be optimistic about it. The only concern is the lack of experience at the guard positions, especially point guard. Point guards lead an offense, and unless they’re truly elite, it usually takes them a while to get fully comfortable to the college game.

Johnson hasn’t seen game action in over a year, and Lowe is just graduating high school. Expecting either of them to lead an otherwise experienced team in year one is a tough ask. They both have elite potential, but I think adding an experienced guard to help them develop would be beneficial for the Panthers.

If they add another guard with their last roster spot, expect the Panthers to compete amongst the top of the ACC. With the talent on this roster, the players will compete over the coming months for their roles. But Capel seems to have a roster that’s capable of taking him to his second consecutive NCAA tournament as head coach. 

We will see which players earn themselves starting and bench roles and who Pitt adds with their final roster spot as the offseason roles along.