Pitt doesn't take the floor at the Petersen Events Center for a couple months yet, but now it's known who exactly will be playing for the Panthers this season. Eight players departed the program from last year's team and head coach Jamie Dixon will have five new faces to work in with four returning starters.
The Panthers return eight players from last year's team, including four starters in Michael Young, Jamel Artis, James Robinson and Sheldon Jeter. Artis, Robinson and Young each started all of Pitt's 34 games last season.
12 players are on scholarship currently and the Panthers currently have one available scholarship at Jamie Dixon's disposal.
Artis and Young make up the conference's top returning scoring tandem after the forwards combined to average 27 points and 13.3 rebounds per game in their sophomore seasons. Artis lead the Panthers in scoring at 13.6 points per game and was named by the league's coaches to the All-ACC Third Team, while he and Young were named All-ACC Honorable Mentions by the media vote.
Robinson has started 101 of the 102 games he's played at Pitt since his freshman and enters as the team's lone senior outside of its graduate transfers. He's led the ACC in assist-to-turnover ration in each of the last two seasons and owns Pitt's career record with a 3.29:1 ratio.
Other returning contributors are forward Sheldon Jeter, who blossomed with increased playing time last season as he started nine of the team's final 10 games. Chris Jones returns after he led the Panthers with 41 made 3-pointers last season. Cameron Johnson, whose freshman season was cut short by a shoulder injury, Mike Lecak and Ryan Luther round out Pitt's returning players.
Gone from the program are Cameron Wright, Derrick Randall and Aron Phillips-Nwankwo to graduation. Forward Durand Johnson, guard Josh Newkirk, center Joseph Uchebo, forward Tyrone Haughton and walk-on guard Josh Ko left the program.
Johnson showed promise during the 2013-14 season before his season ended with a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee. He was expected to start for last season's team before he was suspended for the season due to a violation of team rules.
He decided to leave the program before he could be reinstated and transferred to St. John's to play his final season of eligibility.
Newkirk was a candidate to fill the starting guard spot next to Robinson vacated by Wright's departure. He underwent microfracture surgery in May but the team expected him to be ready or close to it at the beginning of the season.
Three months later, the program announced he would return home to continue his rehab and look for another school to play at.
Uchebo transferred to Charlotte, two years after he transferred to Pitt from Chipola Junior College. Uchebo was inactive for most of his first season as a Panther as he recovered from multiple knee surgeries then averaged 1.5 points and 1.9 rebounds per game in 21 games last season. Uchebo was brought in to fill Pitt's void at the center position but the combination of health and performance issues prevented him from taking over the job and forced Young to play out of position last season.
Haughton arrived at Pitt prior to last season from Iowa Western Community College but did not play in a single game. Ko walked on and played 18 minutes over 15 games in two seasons.
In total, the program lost eight players from last year's team and has five newcomers on the roster for 2015-16, a group that includes four transfers.
Damon Wilson is the lone freshman among the new players, a 6-foot-4 combo guard who could contend for playing time this season. Also on the perimeter is marksman Sterling Smith, who scored 13.9 points per game and shot 41 percent from distance for Coppin State last season.
Head coach Jamie Dixon bolstered his frontcourt with the additions of Rozelle Nix, listed at 6-foot-11 and 300 pounds, along with Rafael Maia and Alonzo Nelson-Ododa. Nix, a junior from Pensacola State Junior College in Florida, averaged 11.2 rebounds and 9.5 rebounds as a sophomore last season. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
Maia and Nelson-Ododa are each graduate transfers. Maia led the Ivy League in rebounding during his last three seasons at Brown and Nelson-Ododa left Richmond as the program's second-leading shot-blocker after he turned away 185 attempts over three seasons.