One year ago, Pitt fans heard the word too many times to count.
That one word? Finish!
Then-Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, hanging onto one commit by September that belonged to 3-star forward Corey Manigault, had two schollies to fill and a plethora of options. All he had to do was finish.
Pitt was in dire need of a point guard in the 2016 class.
Dixon offered many and wanted, in order of Scout.com’s rankings, Cassius Winston (U of D Jesuit, Detroit, Mich., Scout no. 30), Tony Carr (Roman Catholic, Philadelphia Pa., Scout no. 37), Xavier Simpson (Lima HS, Lima Oh. Scout no. 57), Charlie Moore (Morgan Park HS, Chicago Ill., Scout no. 65), C.J. Walker (Arsenal Technical HS, Indianapolis In., Scout no. 100), Devearl Ramsey (Sierra Canyon, Chatsworth, Ca., Scout no. 28 PG), Temple Gibbs (Seton Hall Prep, South Orange, NJ, Scout no. 29 PG) Maliek White (George Wythe HS, Richmond Va., Scout NR), and Justice Kithcart (Virginia Episcopal, Durham, Nc., Scout NR).
Dixon got the last of the bunch in Kithcart, who appears to be a dark horse prospect-turned-freshman after a standout senior season and accompanying showing on the AAU circuit. During this week last year, Pitt was in the top three for Winston, who, 362 days ago, committed to Michigan State.
Carr had committed to Penn State in a rather abrupt ending to his recruitment. Moore teased Pitt fans but wound up with Cal. Simpson never seriously flirted with the possibility of Pitt, Ramsey never made it to visit Pitt’s campus from the west coast, Gibbs broke the hearts of every Pitt fan when he chose Notre Dame, and, after a weekend in late September in which Pitt oddly hosted White and Kithcart as its lone weekend visitors, White held off on a much-needed commitment, leaving it to Kithcart essentially take by default. White later committed to Providence.
Pitt needed a center, too.
Pitt got in early on Omari Spellman (St. Thomas More, Oakdale Ct., Scout no. 21), and Dixon offered two Texan impracticals in Schnider Herard and Marques Bolden seemingly out of nowhere. The next three centers in order of Scout’s top 100 who Dixon offered – Taurean Thompson (Brewster Academy, Wolfeboro Nh., Scout no. 85), Dylan Painter (Hershey, Hershey Pa., Scout no. 88) and Jordy Tshimanga (The MacDuffie School, Springfield Ma., Scout NR) – were three that Dixon and his staff had a legitimate shot at.
Spellman committed to Villanova early on in the process, Thompson was lost to Syracuse, Painter joined Spellman and chose the local Wildcats and Tshimanga went to Nebraska. Not that it matters, but Herard chose Mississippi State and Bolden went with Duke.
Pitt backed off a bottom target and western PA backwoods legend in Sagaba Konate (Kennedy Catholic HS, Hermitage Pa., Scout NR), and Konate, who was always high on Pitt, gave his pledge to Bob Huggins at West Virginia. Dixon also seemed unsure about St. John’s transfer Adonis De La Rosa, who now looks to crack Kent State’s starting five. Additionally, Dixon was on the fence about Kalif Young (Athlete Institute, Orangeville Ontario, Scout NR), and Young is now at Providence. Dixon also offered prep center Levi Cook (Scout NR), who wound up at DePaul, and he tried, too, for Cheickna Dembele (Scotland Veterans Children, Scotland Pa., Scout NR), who chose UNLV.
Dixon failed to get a center.
Pitt was seeking another forward to pair alongside Manigault.
Way back in April of 2015, a guy named Mustapha Heron (Sacred Heart HS, Waterbury Ct., Scout no. 25) was committed to Pitt. Heron left soon after Pitt assistant Barry Rohrssen’s departure to St. John’s, and Pitt got in on Carr’s high school teammate Lamar Stevens. Stevens was a critical target for the Panthers, and, shortly after he listed Pitt in his top eight in August, he canceled a trip to Pitt and followed Carr to Penn State.
As Stevens prolonged his recruitment, Dixon offered Kevin Marfo (Worcester Academy, Worcester Ma., Scout NR). Marfo had a dozen legitimate offers but ended up choosing George Washington. Pitt also extended a schollie to Tervell Beck (Cleveland Central Catholic, Cleveland Oh., Scout NR). For one reason or another, Beck is still on the open market.
Pitt chased after a couple shooting guards.
Dixon raised some eyebrows when he offered sharpshooting combo guard Myles Powell (Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton Nj., Scout no. 96). The Panthers were thought of as a leader for Jagan Mosely (St. Anthony, New Jersey City, Nj., Scout no. 25 SG).
Powell is at Seton Hall. Mosely: Georgetown.
Pitt settled for JUCO transfer Crisshawn Clark (Canada College, Huber Heights Oh., Scout NR), who, to fan the flames on a horrifying recruiting season for Dixon, sustained an ACL tear in his left knee after committing.
Dixon failed to finish on a boatload of recruits in 2016, undoubtedly adding to the exhaustion he experienced at the end of his tenure at Pitt.
Kevin Stallings will have a minimum of five open slots to fill for his 2017-18 roster. Assuming that Pitt commits Aaron Thompson and Terrell Brown hold to their word and that nobody transfers (which rarely happens anymore), Stallings will take three more.
It’s at the two and three where Stallings has little depth.
Seeing that Cameron Johnson and Clark both likely find their natural roles at the three, the wing is left to Wilson or Kithcart, who are both thought of as score-first point guards.
Ideally (although it seems impossible to ask), Stallings will need to sign a shooting guard, a small forward and a power forward or center for this class.
At shooting guard, Pitt has offered and is in the running for shifty Marcus Carr (Montverde Academy, Montverde, Fla., Scout no. 24 SG), as well as combo guard and elite shooter Matt Turner (Blair Academy, Blairstown, Nj., Scout NR).
At small forward, Stallings is a top-5 finalist for Kimani Lawrence (The New Hampton School, New Hampton Nh., Scout no. 54), and Christian David (Vermont Academy, Saxtons River Vt., Scout no. 29 SF) could decide between Creighton, Pitt, Butler and others any day now. The recruitment of David’s teammate and Pitt target Jordan Nwora, has blossomed, and Rick Pitino added to the havoc when he offered the lengthy Nwora a spot to Louisville Tuesday.
Both parties involved are unsure of which position Brown projects as at Pitt.
Stallings consequently has still offered a slew of power forwards and centers.
Aamir Simms (Blue Ridge, Dyke Va., Scout no. 14 PF) is a big-time prospect who will decide between Notre Dame, Iowa State, VCU, Pitt, Miami and Clemson. Stallings got in late on Tyler Polley (Sagemont Upper, Weston Fla., Scout no. 25 PF), but Pitt will get a visit from Polley, who told Scout he’s down to UConn, Dayton, Oklahoma State, Pitt and Tennessee. Aaron Wheeler (St. Andrew’s, Barrington RI., Scout NR) also holds a Pitt offer.
At center, he’s pursued and offered two southerners in Garrison Brooks (Auburn HS, Auburn Ala., Scout no. 24 C) and Victor Uyaelunmo (Gulliver Preparatory, Miami Fla., Scout no. 33 C), but Stallings has more of a realistic opportunity at making the next wave of cuts for Sterling Manley (Pickerington Central, Pickerington Oh., Scout NR).
It is, first and foremost, critical that Stallings lands either Lawrence or David to promote program longevity and quality roster turnover. We’ve loosely tossed around the phrase “…has the ability to start as a freshman” since basketball was invented, but both Lawrence and David have a very good chance at actually starting day one if either chose Pitt.
Assuming that Brown becomes a center, it is also important that Stallings lands Polley or at least Wheeler. Simms would be a program-changer.
Finally, at the two, Pitt has a very legitimate shot at Turner or Carr (who underwent ACL repair surgery 13 months ago) on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Stallings has narrowed in on many prospects and is almost in an identical spot as Dixon was at this time last year. It’s now up to him and his staff members to defy all odds stacked against the fate of Pitt’s historical basketball recruiting efforts and close.