Basketball Preview: Freshman trio leads incoming players for men’s team


By Jeremy Tepper / Staff Writer

Jamel Artis

At 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, Artis will likely log heavy minutes for the Panthers as their backup power forward. 

Although he’s from Baltimore, Artis played one season and graduated from Vermont Academy in Saxtons River, Vt., before proceeding to play a post-graduate season at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass.

While there, Artis garnered All-New England Athletic Prep School Athletic Council honors and second-class 2A All-State honors after averaging 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game in the 2012-2013 season. 

Artis brings a unique skill set to the power forward position, with the ability to pass like a point guard and dribble like a small forward. Although his jump shot was inconsistent in prep ball, Artis has cleaned up his mechanics and now shows the ability to knock down mid-range jumpers.

In addition to skill, Artis shows toughness when fighting for every rebound and bucket against taller competition. With a non-stop motor, strongly built body, plenty of a skill and a tough-as-nails style of play, Artis should be able to compete right away against bigger and more experienced competition.

Josh Newkirk

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Newkirk will provide a stark contrast to starting point guard James Robinson’s style of play. While Robinson wants to be a steadier, more cerebral type of point guard, Newkirk wants to play fast.

With a deadly quick first step and explosive leaping ability, Newkirk is effective playing at this speed. Newkirk gets into the lane often using a quick first step and an excellent crossover, where he’s a crafty finisher and quality passer.

Newkirk also competes defensively, actively pressuring the ball to force a turnover and start a fast break. Although his jump shot is still developing, Newkirk also shows the ability to knock down open shots both inside and outside the 3-point line.

Newkirk graduated from Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh, N.C., a basketball factory that has produced NBA players such as the Washington Wizards’ star point guard, John Wall. With Newkirk leading the way, Word of God won the state title during his senior year. 

Joshua Ko

Ko joins Mike Lecak and Aron Nwankwo as walk-ons for the Panthers. The 6-foot-1, 150-pound Kailua, Hawaii, native had a decorated high school career. As a senior at Kalaheo High School, Ko was named Hawaii’s 2013 Gatorade State Basketball Player of the Year after averaging 11.9 points, four assists and shooting 49 percent from 3-point range.

In addition to his personal achievements, Ko led his high school to back-to-back state titles. Ko can play both guard positions and has the ability to knock down 3-pointers.

Derrick Randall

After spending two seasons at Rutgers, Randall transferred to Pitt. As a true junior, Randall will have two years of eligibility for the Panthers. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward is from Brooklyn, N.Y., and is a 2011 graduate of South Kent Prep in Connecticut.

As a sophomore at Rutgers, Randall averaged 2.1 points and 1.5 rebounds in 8.2 minutes per game. Randall will provide brute strength to the frontcourt, where he will mainly serve as Talib Zanna’s backup at center.

Randall is a strong defender and rebounder who uses his strength to his benefit. Although his offensive game is still developing, Randall uses his size to carve out space and finish in deep position.

Joseph Uchebo

Born in Nigeria, Uchebo originally found his home on the soccer pitch. Eventually, he grew quite big for the sport and tried out basketball, in which he has since found great success.

Uchebo graduated in 2011 from Word of God Christian Academy, where he played with current Pitt teammate Josh Newkirk. Originally committed to NC State, Uchebo was unable to pass through the NCAA Clearinghouse and thus spent two seasons at Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla.

As a freshman, Uchebo averaged 12.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. His sophomore season — in which he averaged 16 points and 14 rebounds per game — was off to a great start as well, but Uchebo suffered a major injury and was forced to have microfracture knee surgery.

Uchebo is still rehabbing from the surgery, and his return date is unknown. If he recovers, Uchebo will provide great size at 6-foot-10, 260 pounds. Uchebo’s biggest strengths are his rebounding and shot-blocking, where he uses his great size and strength.

Surprisingly for a player his size, Uchebo also runs the floor very well. On the offensive side of the ball, Uchebo does an excellent job of creating space and finishing with a soft touch. Health willing, Uchebo has incredibly high potential.

Michael Young

Young is one of few Pittsburgh natives that the Panthers have had on their team over the last several years. Originally from Duquesne, Pa., Young played his freshman year of high school at Shadyside Academy in Pittsburgh.

After that, he transferred to St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, N.J., where he played his sophomore and senior years. Between those years, he spent his junior year at Hudson Catholic High School in Jersey City, N.J.

Young was a pivotal player during his senior year, when St. Benedict’s finished as runner-up at the National High School Invitational and won the New Jersey Prep Championship.

At 6-foot-8, 245 pounds, Young provides ideal size as the Panthers likely starting power forward. His skill set is ideal too, as he’s a good passer, capable ball handler and above-average jump-shooter for the power forward spot. 

Young isn’t afraid to throw his weight around, either, as he uses his strength to body the opposition for rebounds and finish inside with a variety of moves and shots on offense.

On the defensive side of the ball, Young can stop his opponent with ample length, size, athleticism and shot-blocking ability.