Justin Champagnie’s college career came to a close on Monday, as he signed with Life Sports Agency and his agent, Todd Ramasar, revealed to Jonathan Givony of ESPN that the former Pitt star would remain in the NBA draft and not return for a third season with the Panthers.
“My parents and my family have been my biggest supporters, and they have made a lot of sacrifices to help put me in this position,” Champagnie said in a statement. “I am excited about the opportunity to pursue my NBA dreams and be in a position to pay them back for everything they have invested in me.
“The University of Pittsburgh has elevated me on and off the court. I love Coach Capel, the entire coaching staff and my teammates and will always be proud of the relationships I have built over the past two seasons. It was a difficult decision because Pitt has been such a special place in my development. I am going to miss the passionate support of the fans, especially the Oakland Zoo, but I know it is time to begin my professional career. I am prepared to take the next step, accept the next challenge and put in the work it takes to succeed at the next level.”
Last season, Champagnie emerged as one of the best players in the nation, as he was the only player in a major conference to average a double-double. He finished his sophomore campaign with averages of 18.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. And for his efforts, Champagnie earned first-team All-ACC honors and All-America honorable mention and came in second in ACC Player of the Year voting in 2021.
In February, Champagnie was considered a potential first-round draft pick. However, since then, the pool of talent for the draft has grown significantly. As a result, NCAA tournament standouts have pushed him back to the second round in many mock drafts, and Champagnie has come off the board entirely in others. Still, if his name is not called during the draft, Champagnie should have no shortage of professional opportunities overseas.
“Justin has been a terrific member of our program for the past two years and has earned the opportunity to be an NBA draft selection,” Pitt head coach Jeff Capel said in a statement. “He put together an outstanding season under some difficult circumstances last year, earning All-America recognition and becoming Pitt’s first first-team All-ACC selection."
“We are proud of the way he has developed within the Pitt program and excited to see him continue to evolve as a player," Capel added. "Justin’s competitiveness, toughness and desire to help his family will continue to be driving factors in helping his game reach new levels. I believe he is just scratching the surface of the player he can become and look forward to watching him carve out a lengthy pro career. Justin has our love and support and will always be a part of the Pitt family.”
The news of Champagnie’s departure follows the transfers of five Pitt players out of the program and a series of swings and misses on the recruiting trail by Capel and the Panthers coaching staff. Pitt centers Terrell Brown and Abdoul Karim Coulibaly were among the five Panthers to transfer out, as were Pitt backcourt standouts Xavier Johnson and Au’Diese Toney and bench player Gerald Drumgoole.
Capel and his staff succeeded in signing 2021 small forward Nate Santos, Oakland transfer Dan Oladapo and Texas Tech transfer Jamarius Burton this offseason. However, Capel notably failed to land Marshall transfer Jarrod West, who would have filled the void left by Johnson at point guard. And on Sunday, 2021 center Efton Reid, a five-star recruit upon whom much depended, chose LSU over Pitt and others.
Now, with Champagnie gone, the Pitt frontcourt, and the team in general, will likely be in dire shape next season unless some impactful additions are made in the coming weeks. But with that said, Pitt has far fewer options now than it did earlier in the offseason, and how exactly Capel might go about addressing the situation remains unclear.