After a tough 24 hours that saw Pitt miss out on five-star center Efton Reid and lose Justin Champagnie to the NBA draft, Jeff Capel and his staff put a tally in the win column with the addition of junior college transfer Chris Payton out of Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa, on Monday night.
The 6’7”, 200-pound power forward originally hails from Bloomington, Illinois, and played at Bloomington High School before joining the JUCO powerhouse in 2019. Since then, Payton has developed from a role player into a starter and expanded his skill set significantly. And as a result, he became one of the nation's top JUCO recruits and drew offers from Maryland, Missouri and Texas A&M in addition to Pitt.
Initially a reliable scorer off the bench as a freshman, Payton did a little bit of everything last season, as he averaged a 12.5-point, 10.0-rebound double-double in addition to notching 2.3 blocks per game for the Warriors. He even improved his long-range shooting and made 33.3 percent of his three-point shots, although that was not a hallmark of his game.
Payton was part of an Indian Hills program that went 18-2 last season and finished as the sixth-ranked junior college team in the country. He is the first junior college recruit to come to Pitt since Ryan Murphy transferred from New Mexico Junior College in 2019. And while Murphy did not ultimately work out for Pitt, Capel has had luck with JUCO talent before, as Jared Wilson-Frame became a reliable contributor and moved on to a pro career.
Having already played two seasons in Iowa, Payton will have two seasons of eligibility remaining upon his arrival in Pittsburgh. And he will be able to play immediately, as he has never transferred previously.