On Monday, guard Crisshawn Clark announced his intentions to transfer from the Pitt basketball program. The Panthers' musical chairs session continued on Tuesday with the news that freshman Corey Manigault would be leaving as well.
I wasn't terribly upset that Pitt was losing Clark but I was a little bummed that we never got to see what he could do here. We did see Manigault this year, but I'm slightly more upset at losing him.
Manigault was a four-star (ESPN - three-star elsewhere) recruit that chose Pitt over Georgetown, Miami, Xavier, Maryland, and several other programs. The future seemed pretty bright for him upon arrival, but he barely played this season and when he was out there, struggled to make an impact.
Even though he did play this season, I tentatively put this in the same category as Clark in terms of not getting to see what he could do. No, he wasn't great in games this season but he was also a true freshman getting limited minutes scattered here and there. Part of that was because, well, he wasn't great in games. But the other part is that the team relied heavily on starters Michael Young and Sheldon Jeter. The fact is that even if Manigault was ready to play, I'm still not sure how much would have.
And in terms of the true freshman thing, I can't overstate how important that is. A kid like Brad Wanamaker was an absolute train wreck his first year here. He honestly looked very much like in over his head at the upper D-I level. But he continued to improve and was a real contributor by his junior season. If you look at the trajectory of his seasons here, you see the significant rise from his sophomore to junior year that a lot of players experience. He remains the perfect example of why you shouldn't write anyone off after one year. 32% from the field, 2.2 points a game, sub 50% free throw shooter. He just didn't look very good and is now a borderline NBA player with an extremely successful international career.
I'm hoping this isn't something that comes back to bite Pitt down the line. It's a different situation than Clark's because Clark has injured the same knee twice and has real health issues. I'm not sure if he was prodded or wanted to look elsewhere OR if Pitt tried desperately to hang onto him. I lean towards one of those first two things because he didn't get very many minutes despite the team needing depth there. But if this kid is averaging a double double as a junior, so help me. If you're cutting the cord with a three/four-star recruit after one year where he barely played (or allowing him to walk without trying to keep him), you better be sure that he's not going to be able to play at this level. Of course I don't want to see him fail and I wish him nothing but the best going forward. But if he goes somewhere else and produces, it will be difficult to watch.
This, of course, isn't an indictment on head coach Kevin Stallings yet, either (in terms of this move, anyway - we all know the team had a horrible season). And like I said, while we don't know the full circumstances of his leaving, we do know that Stallings was in no great rush to play him, despite the loss of his top frontcourt reserve Ryan Luther, for much of the year. That, if anything, gives us a pretty good idea of the confidence level he had earned from Stallings. He's seen Manigault all year and if he's convinced that he won't be able to play in his system and at the level of ACC competition, he's perfectly within his right to make that call. Heck, he has to make that call and sit him if that's the way he feels. So for now, we've got to reserve judgment. But if Manigault goes somewhere else and plays well, there will be a lot of head-scratching around these parts as to why Pitt couldn't find room to at least get him some quality minutes on a team that was running 6-7 deep.
For better or worse, the transformation of the team continues. As of now, Pitt has one open slot and they might have more if anyone else decides to leave. Right now, the team is looking incredibly young for next season so a grad transfer that can eat up minutes in next year, which will admittedly be a rebuilding one, would be ideal.
I'll run another poll as I did with Clark yesterday. How upset are you at losing Manigault?