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Pitt seen as long shot to land local blue chip Ethan Morton

A dozen recruiting analysts believe the Butler native will commit to Purdue

Basketball: USA Men’s Junior National Team Minicamp Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt target and Butler Area High School standout Ethan Morton is set to announce his college decision Thursday at 8:45 p.m. ET, and according to Mike White of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the local blue-chip recruit will choose from a final eight of Indiana, Iowa, Marquette, Michigan, Ohio State, Pitt, Purdue and Stanford.

Unfortunately for Jeff Capel and the Panthers coaching staff, Purdue has emerged as a heavy favorite to land Morton's commitment.

Each of the three analysts who weighed in on Morton’s recruitment at Rivals predicted that he would commit to Purdue, a school he visited on Sept. 14, 2018. Collectively, the three Rivals analysts have accurately predicted the destinations of 221 out of 251 recruits, placing their hit rate at 88.0 percent.

Over at 247Sports, nine out of nine analysts predict Morton will head to West Lafayette to play for Matt Painter. While two of the nine analysts are relatively inexperienced, the remaining seven have accurately predicted the outcomes of 2,809 of 3,708 recruitments, bringing their accuracy rate to 75.8 percent.

The 6’5” point guard averaged 27.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 8.1 assists in the 2018-19 season. For his efforts, he was named the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Player of the Year. Morton is a consensus four-star recruit, and ESPN and Rivals both count him among the top 50 juniors in the nation. ESPN and 247Sports also consider him the No. 1 Pennsylvania prospect in the 2020 class, which is partly why Capel prioritized Morton to such a great extent.

Morton was one of the first recruits Capel visited after he was named Pitt’s head coach in March 2018. Within two weeks of his hiring, Capel had offered the Butler star, and he continued to visit him periodically over the past year. His most recent trip up Route 8 came last week, and Morton’s comments regarding their talk seemed to bode well for Pitt.

"When [Capel] brought up Johnson’s situation, you can see that their point guard position might need filled," Morton told Mike Vukovcan of Pittsburgh Sports Now. “I’m sure they might even try and address that situation in their 2019 class. But looking at it, it’s definitely appealing. It seems like all the talent they’re collecting that will surround the guard and help him out, it seems like it’s going in a positive direction.”

Although Morton has spoken highly of Pitt throughout his recruitment, there is also plenty to like about Purdue, as the team is coming off a tournament run that ended with an epic showdown with Virginia in the Elite Eight. The Boilermakers have also been steady under Painter, as they have only logged three losing seasons since he was hired in 2005.

With that said, Pitt made significant progress in Capel’s first year, and the continued success of the program is at least in part dependent on the former Duke assistant’s ability to convince elite players from western Pennsylvania, such as Morton, to stay home. And while missing out on the Butler point guard would not spell doom for Capel's tenure or even his 2020 class, a commitment on Thursday night would signify that Pitt is on the road back to relevance and perhaps even prominence.