On Sunday, word came that guard Josh Newkirk was transferring from Pitt's basketball program. Newkirk is recovering from knee surgery and leaves Pitt with an open scholarship at an inconvenient time.
So what's the impact to the team now that he's not coming back? In the short term, Pitt certainly loses some depth, but could be okay.
For one thing, starting point guard James Robinson is a minutes machine. He averaged 34 minutes per game last year and if he remains healthy, could probably do so again. We've had discussions on this site about if that's particularly a good thing or not (it's not), but the bottom line is that if Robinson needs to hold down the fort again, he likely could. That leaves Pitt needing to find 40 minutes from its shooting guards in addition to the few minutes that Robinson needs spelled.
In the offseason, the Panthers added transfer Sterling Smith and also incoming freshman, four-star guard Damon Wilson. The Newkirk loss will thrust Wilson more into the spotlight and absolutely give him more time to play. It also means that it's pretty important that he gains eligibility - something that, as of last week, reportedly hadn't happened yet. Keep in mind, though, that Smith himself is accustomed to logging big minutes. He averaged 30 per game in the past two seasons at Coppin State and playing a lot won't be new to him.
The Panthers, however, also have Cameron Johnson, a 6'7" guard who played sparsely as a true freshman but will get on the court more this year. And beyond that, there's Chris Jones, who can play at shooting guard as well. Jones, who also played small forward, can slide more out of that spot if needed since starter Jamel Artis is expected to move back there after playing much of last year at power forward. Between those four guys, Smith, Wilson, Johnson, and Jones, there's plenty left to pick up the slack.
The Newkirk loss is a shame. He was incredibly quick and despite a sophomore year in which he regressed, was clearly a scoring option off the bench and could have put together two good years. It isn't unusual to see a player at Pitt blossom as an upperclassman and despite a down year last season, Newkirk could have turned into a big time player. But the Panthers are well equipped to handle his loss and should be okay for this season despite his transfer.
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