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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Christmas trees in Schenley Plaza.
‘Christmas Day at Pitt’ gathers community for free meals, clothes and gifts
By Spencer Levering, Senior Staff Writer • December 8, 2023

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Christmas trees in Schenley Plaza.
‘Christmas Day at Pitt’ gathers community for free meals, clothes and gifts
By Spencer Levering, Senior Staff Writer • December 8, 2023

Pitt players that need a promotion in 2024

Iowa+State+forward+Hason+Ward%2C+left%2C+and+forward+Aljaz+Kunc+vie+for+the+ball+with+Pittsburgh+forward+Jorge+Diaz+Graham+during+the+first+half+of+a+first-round+college+basketball+game+in+the+NCAA+Tournament+on+Friday%2C+March+17%2C+2023%2C+in+Greensboro%2C+N.C.
AP Photo/Chris Carlson
Iowa State forward Hason Ward, left, and forward Aljaz Kunc vie for the ball with Pittsburgh forward Jorge Diaz Graham during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 17, 2023, in Greensboro, N.C.

A promotion is something everyone seeks in their career. Whether it be a job or a sport, promotions are a reward for hard work and dedication to one’s occupation.

Some players at Pitt are properly — or overly — praised for their careers and performances in their sports. These players are often notable by fans and are given ample playing time to display their skills. 

But for others, their hard work is overlooked even though their play deems them worthy of a promotion in playing time or praise from the fans. 

These players deserve a promotion heading into 2024.

First-year wide receiver Kenny Johnson

Most first-year football players out of high school come to college football and sit out for a year to put on weight and learn their positions. Rarely does a first-year player come in and have an instant impact on a team.

But Johnson is different. In Pitt’s 24-41 loss to North Carolina, Johnson took a kick return 100 yards back to the house. While the Panthers didn’t pull off the comeback, Johnson’s kick return sparked them with life — more than the rest of the wide receivers could.

Despite Johnson’s return efforts, the Panthers rarely use the first-year on offense. Johnson’s two catches on the season came in the Panthers’ first game of the season against FCS program Wofford. Against the Tar Heels, Johnson rushed three times for 20 yards.

While the North Carolina game saw Johnson garner a heavier workload, he should see even more to end the season. Johnson deserves more playing time and a chance to shine in front of Panther fans. 

Sophomore forward Jorge Diaz Graham

Pitt basketball’s frontcourt leads the way for the team headed into the 2023-24 season. And a big part of the frontcourt is the dynamic duo of sophomore forwards Guillermo and Jorge Diaz Graham.

Many fans are familiar with Guillermo Diaz Graham, as he showed signs of excellence in the Panthers March Madness appearance. But this doesn’t mean people should overlook Jorge Diaz Graham’s first season.

In his first season at Pitt, the Spain native averaged 2.9 points and 2.2 rebounds per game. But Diaz Graham flashed his defensive potential with four blocks against Louisville and four steals against Michigan — both season highs. 

With a full offseason to prepare and improve upon his skills, Jorge should see increased production and workload in a crowded Panther frontcourt this season.

Junior attack Ava Washington

Women’s lacrosse, Pitt’s newest varsity sport, is entering its third season, and so too is junior attacker Ava Washington. The Panthers added Washington to their inaugural first-year recruiting class in 2022, and Washington instantly impacted the Panthers across her first two seasons.

Over the course of two seasons, Washington scored 35 goals on 97 shots. In 2023, Washington led the Panthers in goals with 23 despite only starting 10 of their 17 games. Washington ended the season with three hat-trick games.

With this production and progression, it’s only natural that Washington receives a promotion. Washington looks to lead the Panthers’ attacking unit and with the increased workload she may eclipse 43 goals in 2024 — which would break the existing record set by Paige Petty in 2022. 

Senior outfielder Dom Popa

Outfielder Nico Popa played for the Panthers from 2017-2021, and across his career, Popa tallied 19 home runs and 102 RBIs. Popa’s senior season was his most productive, as he hit nine home runs and 28 RBIs.

Popa’s little brother, senior outfielder Dom Popa, is entering his senior season with the Panthers. Popa hit just one home run over his first three seasons as a Panther. But Popa’s defense is reliable in the outfield, and that led him to start 44 of his 86 career games. 

In 2023, Popa didn’t have as much impact for the Panthers. But with the departure of outfielder Kyle Hess — and one last offseason to train — Popa’s role will likely increase. 

With more starts, Popa has an opportunity to replicate his older brother’s senior season, and he is a key factor for Pitt’s outfield heading into this season.

About the Contributor
Jermaine Sykes, Assistant Sports Editor