Pitt hosted Duke at the Petersen Events Center on Tuesday night, and the Panthers weren’t short on support. The matchup drew a sellout crowd of 12,881, including a contingent of past and present members of the Pitt football team.
The Pitt standouts in attendance included Therran Coleman, Paris Ford, Bryce Hargrove, Quadree Henderson, Avonte Maddox, Kenny Pickett, Rashard Weaver and Marquis Williams. However, their show of support was overshadowed by the arrival of Grammy-winning hip-hop artist Jay-Z, who was spotted courtside shortly before tipoff.
Jay-Z in the house - with Kenny Pickett - to see Pitt take on Duke. pic.twitter.com/H82HEPH1Sy— Matt Freed (@mattfreedpghpg) January 23, 2019
The rapper's presence caused an uproar on social media, as he has rarely made stops in Pittsburgh during his career. His last came during the Magna Carter World Tour on Jan. 21, 2014, and since then, he passed the city up on his 4:44 Tour in 2017 and on his On the Run II Tour in 2018. Given his history with the city, he’s quite possibly the last celebrity one would expect to turn up at an event in Pittsburgh.
Naturally, many speculated that he was there to put in some face time with Duke stars Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett on behalf of his Roc Nation Sports agency. Both of the Blue Devils are expected to go as lottery picks in the 2019 NBA draft and would be logical additions to the entrepreneur's stable of talent.
However, Pitt head coach Jeff Capel had a minor role in Jay-Z’s visit, and he discussed it during his postgame press conference.
”His people reached out to me a few weeks ago about them wanting to come, people from Roc Nation,” Capel said. “Our athletic department and our ticketing people did an amazing job accommodating that. It’s great to have the greatest rapper ever in the arena.”
This isn’t the first time the worlds of music and basketball have collided in Capel’s career, as a photo of him with rapper 2 Chainz was making the rounds on social media shortly before he was hired at Pitt. He’s also acquainted with producer 9th Wonder and had his jersey worn by 2Pac in an iconic photo from the 1990s.
Capel previously noted that the 2Pac photo once came up in a conversation with a recruit, and Tuesday's events could prove just as helpful on that front, as 2020 recruits John Hugley, a 6’8” forward, and D.J. Gordon, a 6’5” guard, were both in attendance for the game, according to Jake Weingarten of Stock Risers.
While the result, a 79-64 loss, wasn’t ideal, it was an improvement over last year’s 35-point loss to Duke at home under Kevin Stallings. And beyond the final score, it was a night to remember for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the presence of a music icon in the front row of the Petersen Events Center.