Pitt power forward Kene Chukwuka underwent hip surgery in late March to address lingering issues that had bothered him throughout last season. No timetable for Chukwuka’s return was provided at the time, but Panthers head coach Jeff Capel updated the media on the 6’9” power forward’s status on Wednesday.
“It’s probably going to be a while,” Capel told Alan Saunders of Pittsburgh Sports Now. “He’s going to miss time — and probably significant time — from the season. It was a major surgery. He’s responded well, but it’s a long recovery. We don’t have an exact timetable, but he’s going to miss some of the season, there’s no question.”
The prognosis for Chukwuka means he is unlikely to take part in any practices or exhibition games Pitt has planned for its trip to Italy this summer. It also adds a degree of urgency to Capel's search for frontcourt talent on the recruiting trail, which has yielded mostly negative results thus far, aside from the addition of 6'8" power forward Karim Coulibaly.
During the 2018-19 season, Chukwuka played a prominent role in Pitt's frontcourt, as he played in 32 of the team's 33 games, starting in 17 and logging 18.3 minutes per game. His numbers in each category were improvements on his figures during the 2017-18 season. Over that span, he averaged 3.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game while spelling 6'10" center Terrell Brown in the Panthers frontcourt.
Brown was the more productive option for Pitt, as he averaged 5.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. He also took the lion's share of the minutes, averaging 19.0 over 33 games, during which he made 16 starts. However, without Chukwuka or an additional recruit at their disposal next season, the Panthers will be a bit thin up front, as Brown and Coulibaly are the only Pitt players 6'8" or taller who will be available.