Sit right back and you'll hear a tale ...
When word of Durand Johnson's transfer broke yesterday, in and of itself, it was news. But Johnson's departure was a special one since his leaving meant Pitt's 2011 recruiting class had officially vanished in some kind of bizarre Houdini-like fashion.
All of it.
Do entire recruiting classes ever take their ball and go home? Sure. In basketball, an entire class may consist of a couple, or even, a single recruit. In addition, a coaching change can even signal a larger exodus. But when you have four players in a class transfer out when they were all recruited by the same coach, that, friends, is extraordinary.
Such was the case with the 2011 class that has now officially seen all four recruits leave the program.
We've talked quite a bit about the need for stability, particularly at a program like Pitt that depends on guys that stay four years more often than not. So is it any wonder, really, that the team was dealt an NIT card this year when guys in that class should have been around last year as seniors or redshirt juniors?
The four said players in question are, of course, Johnson, Khem Birch, Malcolm Gilbert, and John Johnson. Buoyed by Birch, the expectations were somewhat high from that group. Birch wasn't expected to still be at Pitt after four years, but his leaving set off a huge domino effect.
Birch left for any number of reasons previously outlined. We all know the story - he bolted for UNLV and while having a solid career, never lived up to the enormous hype thrust upon him as a five-star, top ten recruit. Then came Malcolm Gilbert's decision to go to Fairfield to play alongside his brother and John Johnson going to Penn State. Both have failed to make much of an impact. Now Johnson exits, having been at Pitt for four years, but playing on a year and a half due to redshirting, an ACL injury, and a year-long suspension. He's actually been off of the court significantly longer than being on it.
I don't want to rehash the tired discussion of how much Jamie Dixon should be held accountable for that class. Some of it, like recruiting Johnson and Gilbert, who turned out to be disappointing players, is wholeheartedly at his feet. But I've also got a difficult time pinning all of the blame on him for a player who quit on a team in the middle of the season and one who had a serious injury followed by a suspension that was, you know, on him.
In the end, it was a class that was disastrous from start to finish and the one thing we can all agree on is that the program took a step back last year because of it.