CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein recently threw some praise the way of Pitt guard Josh Newkirk on Twitter. More specifically, Rothstein thinks he can be the ACC's breakout player (presumably next year):
ACC breakout guy --- Pitt's Josh Newkirk. Super quick guard is like a cheetah in the open floor. Will make a jump as a sophomore. Talented.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) May 19, 2014
I really became more of a fan of Newkirk as the year went on. He just got better and better and four of his five games where he scored in double figures came in ACC play. Over the last ten games, he averaged 7.0 points a game, nearly doubling the 3.6 he scored per contest in the 26 games before that. Newkirk had seven scoreless games in those first 26 - he had none over the final ten.
He also played more under control as the season kept going. In those last ten games, he actually averaged fewer turnovers per game (.80) than he did in the first 26 (.83) despite averaging more minutes over the final ten.
Stats don't tell the whole story - he just seemed to play with more confidence later in the year and was one of those guys that you can point to that got markedly better by the end of the season.
There's good reason to think that Newkirk could be a breakout player. Pitt loses a lot of its scoring with the departures of seniors Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna and the Panthers should rely a little more on their guards next year. Upperclassmen James Robinson and Cam Wright still will likely be the starters, but Newkirk could see a little more time - particularly if Pitt goes with some three-guard lineups at times.
Typically, a tweet like this wouldn't warrant an entire post. However, I was intrigued with Rothstein's comment simply because Newkirk might not even be the biggest breakout player on his own team, let alone the entire conference. A guy like Mike Young could really take a step forward. And while Jamel Artis had a good season last year, it's easy to see him making a bigger impact as well. With the losses of Patterson and Zanna, Young and Artis could both get more minutes than Newkirk next season.
Still, it's hard not to like the potential of that group since they all showed some promise last year.