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Five transfers Pitt should pursue this offseason

NCAA Basketball: ACC Tournament-North Carolina State vs Pittsburgh Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt head coach Jeff Capel and his staff have been active in the transfer market, as they have been in contact with Dartmouth sharpshooter Brendan Barry, Wichita State guard Jamarius Burton, Gardner-Webb guard Nate Johnson and Virginia Tech star Landers Nolley II, all of whom are in the NCAA transfer portal. In addition, they saw Trey McGowens and Ryan Murphy transfer out of the program, leaving holes to fill in addition to the ones that already existed.

At this point, it’s unclear where Pitt stands with any of its transfer targets, as talks began recently and none have named finalists. But if things fall through, there are others that the Panthers coaching staff should reach out to.

The following are five transfers Pitt should pursue this offseason.

NCAA Basketball: Columbia at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

1. Mike Smith, Columbia

Pitt needs a shooting guard this offseason to fill the void left by Trey McGowens, and there are few on the market as versatile and dangerous as Columbia transfer Mike Smith.

In four years at Columbia, Smith has averaged 18.0 points, 4.3 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game. Last season, those numbers swelled to 22.8 points, 4.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game as Smith led the Ivy League in scoring and ranked second in the league in assists.

Aside from the obvious, what makes Smith such an ideal fit for Pitt is his staggering consistency. In the 2019-20 season, the 5’11”, 180-pound guard scored in double figures in each of the 30 games he took part in. In fact, the worst he fared all season was a 14-point game against Mount St. Vincent on Jan. 9. However, he more than offset that by scoring 30 or more points in five games.

In addition, Smith didn’t flinch against high-major competition, as he put up 23 points against Wake Forest, 16 against Virginia and 20 against St. John’s during Columbia’s non-conference slate in 2019. Considering Smith’s prowess against ACC competition and his non-stop, high-energy play, there may not be a better shooting guard out there for Pitt.

Central Arkansas v Duke Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

2. Hayden Koval, Central Arkansas

Pitt has been in need of frontcourt help since Jeff Capel was hired in 2018, and it should finally get some with the arrival of John Hugley in 2020. Even Abdoul Karim Coulibaly looked promising in limited action last season, but the Pitt frontcourt is still thin. Capel could potentially remedy that issue by reaching out to Central Arkansas transfer Hayden Koval.

Koval is a 7’0”, 210-pound center who averaged 12.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.1 blocks over 31 games last season. That wasn’t a major departure from the norm, either, as his career figures sit at 11.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game over 98 contests with the Bears. And while all that came during his time with a Southland program, it’s not as if Koval hasn’t faced elite competition.

The Prosper, Texas, native has played in 16 games against programs in the seven high-major conferences, and in those 16 outings he averaged 8.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. That includes a 21-point, three-block showing against Georgetown in 2019; a 21-point, eight-rebound game against Oklahoma State in 2018; and 15-point and 16-point games against UCLA in 2017 and Indiana in 2018.

Koval even scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds against Pitt itself in 2018 and came up with 7.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game in three games against ACC opponents. Given all that, he has proven himself capable of contributing at Pitt’s level and could be worth consideration.

NCAA Basketball: Idaho State at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

3. Balint Mocsan, Idaho State

Jeff Capel and his staff have already reached out to Dartmouth transfer Brendan Barry as a potential replacement for Ryan Murphy, but they will have to overcome Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Iowa State, Temple and others to land him. With that said, there is a sharpshooter on the market who has generated less buzz despite comparable results on the court.

Like Barry, Idaho State transfer Balint Mocsan has never shot below 40 percent from three-point range. In fact, over a span of three seasons with the Bengals, the 6’3”, 182-pound guard has 173 made triples, including 71 as a junior. He also averaged 11.3 points, 2.1 assists and 2.1 rebounds and made 81 percent of his free throws that season, making him a reliable backcourt depth option who could see time behind probable Pitt starter Ithiel Horton at shooting guard if he was brought on.

Unfortunately, Mocsan was sidelined for the 2019-20 season with an injury, but prior to that, he was able to stay healthy, as he appeared in all 90 of the Bengals' games in the three seasons before. So, like Barry, Mocsan comes with some risk but a fair amount of upside as a proven consistent shooter.

Utah Valley v Grand Canyon Photo by Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images

4. Isaiah White, Utah Valley

Last season, Pitt could have benefited greatly if it had a clone of star freshman Justin Champagnie, as he led the team in scoring and rebounding. And while the program may have missed its chance to land his twin brother Julian Champagnie, there is a near statistical clone available in the NCAA transfer portal in outbound Utah Valley star Isaiah White.

The 6’7”, 205-pound transfer is listed as a guard, but he has the size and skill set of a wing. Last season, he posted 14.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. For comparison, Champagnie, who checks in at 6’6” and 200-pounds, had 12.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 0.7 assists per game. With that said, White played in just 21 games last season and those were primarily in the WAC, so much would depend on his ability to adapt to the relatively physical play of the ACC.

On top of that, Pitt ran into problems when it had redundant skill sets in the past, as Trey McGowens and Xavier Johnson had similar roles and that led to McGowens’ departure. While that should be acknowledged, it’s unlikely a redundancy of this sort would be problematic in any way for a team in dire need of both consistent scoring and rebounding.

Bowling Green v Buffalo Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

5. Justin Turner, Bowling Green State

For the last two seasons, as Pitt’s coaches waited on Trey McGowens to develop into the player they hoped he would become, they got subpar play at shooting guard more often than they would have liked. Now, McGowens is gone, and addressing that hole in the roster while improving on last season’s results has to be a top priority this offseason. Luring Bowling Green State transfer Justin Turner to Pitt could go a long way toward accomplishing that.

Last season, Turner averaged 18.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 36.1 percent from long range and 85.1 percent from the free-throw line. In addition, Turner scored in double figures in 22 of his 25 games and faced a relatively difficult schedule compared to other mid-major players. He finishes his Bowling Green State career having scored 30 or more points in a game on six occasions and having regularly shined against high-major teams.

The 6’4”, 205-pound guard put up 26 points and six rebounds against LSU last season while going 4-for-7 from three-point range. The year before that, he had a 24-point, four-assist game against St. John’s in which he also went 4-for-7 from distance. In addition, he posted respectable 10-point games against Cincinnati and VCU, which are among the better teams Bowling Green State has recently faced.

All that suggests that Turner is ready for a step up in competition, and Pitt could offer that in addition to a key role opposite Xavier Johnson in its backcourt. In fact, with Justin Turner, Xavier Johnson, Justin Champagnie, Ithiel Horton and John Hugley all in the fold, Pitt could quickly evolve into an offensive force. But with that said, getting Turner to Pitt could prove difficult, as he heard from 30 teams within an hour of entering the transfer portal.