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Pitt’s Tough Week And A Ray Of Hope

As Jeff Capel cleans house

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse
Jan 6, 2021; Syracuse, New York, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers guard Au’diese Toney (5) and Syracuse Orange forward Alan Griffin (0) and Pittsburgh Panthers guard Xavier Johnson (1) and Syracuse Orange forward Quincy Guerrier (1) chase the ball during the first half at the Carrier Dome. 
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, Jeff Capel and Pitt parted ways with Xavier Johnson; on Thursday it was Au’Diese Toney who left.

Toss in last spring’s transfer of Trey McGowans and Pitt has lost Capel’s first recruiting class.

So how does he feel about it?

Surprisingly upbeat.

Speaking on his radio show, Capel said this: “The long term, I don’t see any effects, to be honest with you. That’s not saying anything to diminish them...We have to recruit. We have to get guys. We have to continue to develop the young men who are in our program. That’s what we plan to do. I look at it as it gives us two more scholarships to go out and get guys who really want to be here, be a part of what we’re doing, along with the guys we have.”

He also pointed out that it’s been a very tough year for college athletes and asks that people not judge them and that they’re good kids. Makes sense.

But it’s hard to overlook the key passage in his comments: “...go out and get guys who really want to be here...”

Which suggests that he didn’t think those two, for whatever reason, did.

And of course it might have been something other than basketball. Given the pandemic, their attention might have been more with their families and loved ones, and who could blame them for that?

Yes they do amazing athletic feats on TV but they’re also teenagers or in their early 20s and they’ve lived for months in a bubble. Fans can’t expect them to be just what we want them to be at all times and in all situations. It’s grossly unfair.

Still, it’s hard to think that Capel, despite his kind and we’re sure sincere words, doesn’t see this as ultimately addition by subtraction.

And on a different but related note, on Friday, Justin Champagnie, Pitt’s most promising player, revealed he has a powerful incentive to return next season: a game against his twin brother, Julian, who plays for St. John’s in the 2021 Gotham Classic.

It could be really fascinating.

Julian is slightly taller at 6-8 to Justin’s 6-6 and scores slightly more at 20 ppg to 18.8. However, Justin is by far the better rebounder with 11.4 to 7.2 for Julian.

Justin is a more efficient shooter overall while Julian shoots better from the foul line and from three point range.

Generally speaking though, their statistical profiles, not surprisingly perhaps, are quite close:

Given their talent level, it sounds like a very, very fun game.


Justin Champagnie GP MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO FG% FT% 3P%
16 34.9 18.8 11.4 1.6 1.2 1.1 1.3 50.5 71.6 33.3
Julian Champagnie GP MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO FG% FT% 3P%
22 32.3 20.0 7.2 1.3 1.4 1.1 2.0 43.8 89.0 40.1