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Recent Pitt basketball transfers not likely to harm the team

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NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As expected, the Pitt basketball team has had a couple of transfers after the close of the season. Additional movement could still happen. But thus far, the team should be virtually unaffected by the players lost so far.

Pitt first lost sophomore guard Kham Davis shortly after the season ended. A few days later, the team lost junior guard Malik Ellison.

Individually, both were expected to be significant pieces of the team this year — particularly Ellison who was a team captain and viewed as someone that could have been one of Pitt’s best players this year. Ellison was named the team captain because of his leadership and work ethic, qualities cited by head coach Jeff Capel at the time of the announcement. But he also received the role almost by default. Pitt had lost most of its returning players from last year and Ellison was one of the few guys that was an upperclassman and that had been here. By the end of the season, the team leader appeared to be now-departing senior Jared Wilson-Frame.

Unfortunately, the high expectations for Ellison were never really met. With 5.8 ppg and 3.8 rpg, Ellison did contribute as a role player. And his 45% field goal percentage from the field on a team that often shot so poorly was a welcome sight.

But Ellison’s best games were early mostly piled up in the beginning of the season and he posted only one double-digit scoring game after November (a modest ten-point effort against North Carolina in January). In ACC play, he was often a non-factor. That wasn’t necessarily due to a lack of playing time, either, as Ellison played at least 20 minutes in a total of nine games. Ellison even recorded 30 minutes or more in three ACC games.

Davis is another guy that was expected by some to contribute more than he did. As one of the returning players from last year and as a guy that had been somewhat capable from the outside, he found making any meaningful contribution to be difficult.

He played in 26 of the team’s games but averaged only 2.5 points per game while shooting only 38% from the field.

Davis did pick things up a little once the season got rolling. With six scoreless non-conference outings, it was beginning to look like he was barely going to play at all. But Davis earned more minutes in ACC play and did, if nothing else, give Pitt a bit of a three-point threat at times. But shooting just under 32% from long range, his impact was greatly limited.

Part of this was about the skill levels of Ellison and Davis. But part of it was about the emergence of Pitt’s trio of freshmen guards, Xavier Johnson, Trey McGowens, and Au’Diese Toney (all of which had bigger roles), who diminished the need for bigger contributions from the pair of transfers. All three of the freshmen had their growing pains this year but all three also showed a great deal more of upside than the departing players.

Both Ellison and Davis provided some contributions to the team. But in short, neither loss is likely to be all that important. Ellison, in particular, ate up 21 minutes a game for relatively minimal production by comparison. Another player, whether that’s an incoming recruit or a transfer, might not have the leadership qualities that Capel saw in Ellison but could at least produce about as much on the court. Same goes for Davis whose output was even less.

You rarely feel great about players leaving teams if it wasn’t due to something like a disciplinary action or whatnot. That’s especially true in the cases of players that seem like good guys. But the losses of Davis and Ellison aren’t likely to have too great an impact on the team for next season.

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