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Five 2019 transfers Pitt should pursue

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt recently wrapped up the first year of the Jeff Capel era, and although the Panthers finished with a 14-19 record, the program made significant progress. Much of that progress was the result of Xavier Johnson, Trey McGowens and Jared Wilson-Frame, who took turns powering the Pitt offense. However, with Wilson-Frame no longer in the fold, Capel and his staff will look to replace his production and build around the young talent at their disposal.

The most pressing matter the Pitt staff needs to address this offseason is the lacking frontcourt, which saw the relatively diminutive Panthers unable to contend with multiple opponents due to the size disparity they were forced to contend with. While that has been a point of focus, Pitt has only landed Karim Coulibaly thus far and will need to add reinforcements before next season.

In addition, the team will need to track down a seasoned sharpshooter in the mold of Wilson-Frame, as the Panthers came to rely on his contributions and only return three players with a three-point shooting percentage above 30 percent.

With all that said, transfer season is in full swing, and Pitt has been in contact with a number of coveted players seeking greener pastures. However, there are obviously many transfers who have not yet been linked to Pitt, and the following handful could address some issues.

NCAA Basketball: Valparaiso at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Derrik Smits, Valparaiso center

The most glaring area of need for Pitt is the frontcourt, as the team lacks size and consistent production from its current stable of bigs. Derrik Smits, a 7’1” center and graduate transfer from Valparaiso, could give the Panthers an infusion of both if Jeff Capel and his staff decide to throw their hats in the ring for his services.

At Valpo, Smits has improved in terms of points per game, rebounds per game and field-goal percentage every year since his arrival. Last season, that steady improvement resulted in a breakout campaign, as he averaged 12.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game and converted on 59.6 percent of his shots from the field.

The issue with Smits is that, while he may look to jump to a major conference if he plays another year of college ball, he has also declared for the NBA draft. In addition, Pitt would be late to the party in pursuing Smits, as Arizona, California, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma and Oregon State have all expressed their interest in the 7-footer.

NCAA Basketball: MAAC Conference Tournament Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Jahaad Proctor, High Point guard

While Pitt’s list of transfer targets should undoubtedly include plenty of sharpshooters and bigs, Jeff Capel and his staff should also be searching for consistent scorers to pair with Xavier Johnson. And scorers don’t get much more consistent than Jahaad Proctor.

The 6’3” High Point guard averaged 19.5 points per game last season, which ranked third among players in the Big South. Last season, he played in 31 games and put up double-digit point totals in 28 of those games, finishing the season on a double-figure scoring streak of 16 games.

In addition, Proctor can hold his own from beyond the arc, as he has shot 35.5 percent from distance during his time at High Point. He has also chipped in 3.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game over that same span, and while those stats aren’t eye-popping, they compare favorably to most of Pitt’s current players.

Proctor is also a product of Harrisburg High School in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Pitt’s relative proximity to his hometown could prove to be a selling point to the promising graduate transfer.

NCAA Basketball: William & Mary at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Milon, William & Mary guard

Pitt was undone on multiple occasions by its inability to shoot well from distance on a consistent basis, and with Jared Wilson-Frame gone, the team has lost its only great shooter. But William & Mary guard Matt Milon could slide into that role and take up Wilson-Frame’s mantle.

Over the past two seasons, the 6’5” guard has averaged 13.0 points per game in addition to 3.0 rebounds and 1.2 assists. Much of his production has been the result of his marksmanship from beyond the arc, as he has shot 41.3 percent from long range over that same span. He also brings ACC experience to the table, as he began his collegiate career at Boston College, and he has had big games against major opponents, such as TCU, who he scored 22 points against in 2017.

Milon is exploring his options as a graduate transfer and will be able to play immediately wherever he lands. He will have one year of eligibility remaining.

NCAA Basketball: Akron at Villanova Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Utomi, Akron forward

On paper, Akron forward Daniel Utomi seems like an unlikely target for Pitt, as the team suddenly finds itself with multiple options at the small forward position. But with Au’Diese Toney struggling in the role and the other two options being untested incoming freshmen Justin Champagnie and Gerald Drumgoole, bringing in Utomi could benefit the team by giving the young talent time to ease into the college game.

The 6’6” forward would make an instant impact at a position that was lacking for Pitt last year. Specifically, he averaged 15.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in his final two years with the Zips while shooting 38.7 percent from three-point range. In addition, he consistently put up double-digit point totals last season, as he played in 33 games and scored in double figures on 27 occasions. That included a 12-game streak that ran from Nov. 10 to Dec. 30.

Of course, Utomi is hardly under the radar at this point, as the announcement of his intent to transfer was met with immediate interest from the likes of Clemson, Iowa, North Carolina, USC, Virginia and Xavier. But even with serious competition on the recruiting trail and roster logjam to deal with, Utomi would be a wise pickup for Pitt.

Stephen F. Austin v Texas Tech Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

T.J. Holyfield, Stephen F. Austin forward

At 6’8”, Stephen F. Austin forward T.J. Holyfield isn’t the tallest frontcourt player available, but his versatility more than makes up for that. In addition to his ability to score almost at will, Holyfield is one of the most accomplished rebounders in the market for a transfer. He also brings postseason experience to the table, as he was part of the Stephen F. Austin team that upset West Virginia 70-56 in the 2016 NCAA tournament.

During his sophomore and junior seasons, Holyfield accounted for 12.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, converting on 58.4 percent of his two-point shot attempts and 37.8 of his attempts from beyond the arc. However, his progress was stalled by an offseason injury to his right shoulder that sidelined him for the 2018-19 season.

Given the fact that Holyfield has not played in a single game since suffering his injury, there would be a degree of risk in bringing him aboard. However, if the graduate transfer is able to play to his full potential and avoid injury in his final year of eligibility, the payoff for Pitt would be substantial.