Pitt sophomore Justin Champagnie has spent this season in the national spotlight despite the struggles of the Panthers as a whole, thanks to his outstanding play. As a result, he has earned a spot on the Wooden Award watch list and is a favorite to win ACC Player of the Year honors in 2021. His name has also been listed in multiple mock drafts, but on Friday, the Pitt star indicated that he may not be bolting for the NBA after the end of the season.
During a media session, Champagnie discussed Pitt’s upcoming matchup with St. John’s in the 2021 Gotham Classic. The game, which is expected to be played at Madison Square Garden in December, could pit the star against his twin brother Julian Champagnie in their hometown, and he is all for it.
“I’ve been wanting that game since my freshman year,” Champagnie said. “I talk to coach about it all the time. To see it happening next year means a lot. I can’t wait to get out there and hoop against him.”
Champagnie’s enthusiastic reaction to the newly scheduled game and the opportunity it presents him with is undoubtedly a positive sign in terms of his potential return to Pitt for his junior season. But with that said, it is far from a guarantee, and Champagnie has yet to publicly announce his plans for next season. In addition, he is unlikely to offer a statement on his future before the end of the season, as a deluge of postseason awards and honors could boost his stock and change his plans.
Currently, Champagnie is on the watch list for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year honor in addition to the Wooden Award. He was also named a first-team midseason All-American by ESPN, meaning All-America and All-ACC honors may soon come as well. And on top of that, he recently emerged as the front-runner for ACC Player of the Year.
Champagnie has earned such widespread recognition by averaging 18.7 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. He leads the ACC in both categories and is currently one of three players from major conferences with 10 double-doubles this season. The Pitt star also posted back-to-back 20-point, 20-rebound games and earned ACC Player of the Week honors.
Every ACC Player of the Year dating back to 2009 has entered the NBA draft and been selected in the first or second round. The last player to stay for an additional college season after winning was North Carolina power forward Tyler Hansbrough, who won the honor in 2008, won a national championship in 2009 and was selected in the first round of the NBA draft two months after winning the title.
Given the effect the ACC Player of Year honor has had on the draft stock of past winners and Champagnie’s likelihood of earning the title this year, the Pitt star may well move on in the offseason if he wins. But with that said, the ACC snubbed him entirely in 2020 and the honor has gone to Duke players in each of the last three years. So nothing is certain.
But whether Champagnie wins or not, the allure of Madison Square Garden and the chance to face his twin brother, who plays for the hometown team that never offered him a scholarship, may ultimately prove too enticing to pass up. But it may be some time before Champagnie offers any firm answers on his future at Pitt, given the circumstances.