Rarely does a mid-card recruit get as much coverage as Joseph Uchebo has gotten (and will likely continue to get for a while), but such is life when a program had as much happen to them as Pitt has in the past month.
The Panthers lost Steven Adams to the NBA Draft ... and then lost Trey Zeigler to transfer. They lost their senior leader, Tray Woodall, to graduation as well as backup center Dante Taylor. Word also broke later in the month that J.J. Moore was expected to transfer. And as if that weren't enough, Pitt has lost out on a group of players including recruits Lennard Freeman and Jon Severe, and transfer Eli Carter.
Not much has gone right for the basketball program this offseason. But the Uchebo pickup is a significant one for the Panthers.
Brief primer on Uchebo in case you're late to this party. He committed to North Carolina State, but ended up playing JUCO ball. According to Verbal Commits, he was originally a top 15 center and rated as a four-star recruit by the major sites. He had a solid first season in 2011-12 averaging 12 points and 12 rebounds per game, but suffered a knee injury last season. He now comes to Pitt in time for the 2013-14 season.
First, Uchebo fills a huge need at center. Unless they can get another proven commodity before the season starts, Pitt won't be able to deviate from the plan to play Talib Zanna at center. But at least there's a plan for a backup now. I'd be surprised if Uchebo started immediately or even at any point in this season. He suffered a knee injury last year and for him to step into a new environment coming out of JUCO and start right away is too much to ask. But if he's 100% as is currently believed, he should be able to contribute.
Another positive, small as it may be, is that Uchebo played high school basketball with incoming Pitt freshman, Josh Newkirk. There will be some familiarity there an even if it doesn't pay off immediately this season with both in their first year in the program, it should help a little as their careers go on.
Taking Uchebo is a bit of a risk for Pitt, but the thing is the Panthers are in need of bodies right now - particularly in the frontcourt. Beggars can't really be choosers at this point with such limited options at this point. The Uchebo addition is really about the best Jamie Dixon could do.
The offseason has been a bit rough for Pitt, but there's no doubt that the Uchebo commitment is a big one, all things considered.