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Pitt reinstates John Hugley following legal issues

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The Pitt power forward saw felony charges against him dropped hours before the official announcement

Pitt power forward John Hugley was reinstated to the Pitt men’s basketball program on Thursday after prosecutors dropped felony charges against him related to the theft of a car. Hugley had been suspended by the program since January and was completing courses online as he was not permitted to live on campus until his issues were resolved.

With his suspension lifted and his status within the program now certain again, Hugley will begin summer school at Pitt on May 17. In addition, he will be permitted to participate in all team activities moving forward.

“John is grateful for the opportunity to return to the University of Pittsburgh and continue to be a member of our program,” Pitt head coach Jeff Capel said. “The past five months have been challenging for him and have forced him to grow and mature. We have stayed in constant contact with him throughout, and although he was not here physically with us, he has always been a part of our team.”

“We are proud of the way he has handled himself to recover from the mistakes he made,” Capel continued. “John has taken ownership of his actions, remained committed to his academics and focused on his individual growth outside of basketball. We look forward to his full return to the University of Pittsburgh and the opportunity to continue to mentor a young man with a bright future.”

Prior to a hearing on Thursday morning, the 6’9”, 240-pound power forward was facing two felony counts of criminal conspiracy and one felony count of receiving stolen property. Those charges stemmed from an incident in which an unnamed friend of Hugley’s was alleged to have stolen a 2012 Chevrolet Malibu on July 19, 2020. Hugley allegedly joined his friend in the vehicle, which was found on Aug. 4, 2020, along with a stolen license plate.

On Thursday, Hugley's charges were reduced to two misdemeanors, and both of those could soon be expunged from his record, provided he successfully completes Pennsylvania's ARD program for first-time offenders.

Last season at Pitt, the Cleveland native played in seven games, averaging 5.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. His limited participation was due in part to adherence to COVID-19 protocols and his subsequent suspension. But despite the issues that arose during his freshman season, there is still optimism that the former top-100 recruit can make a positive impact within the Pitt program.

“I am excited to be back at the University of Pittsburgh to continue my education,” Hugley said. “The love and support I received from Coach Capel, the coaching staff and my teammates provided me with the strength to grow throughout the past five months.”

“I cannot thank Heather Lyke enough for her guidance, leadership and support as well,” Hugley continued. “The way everyone at Pitt has stood by me has only grown my love for the university and the people here. Pitt is a special place, with great people and all the resources to be successful. I am really looking forward to being back and becoming a valued member of the campus community.”

The return of Hugley instantly addresses a glaring hole in the Pitt frontcourt that widened this offseason with the transfers of Terrell Brown and Abdoul Karim Coulibaly. The center and power forward positions have never been a strength for the program during the Capel era, but if Hugley is able to fulfill his potential, that could begin to change next season.

Upon his return, Hugley will be welcomed back by a vastly different Panthers team than the one he parted company with in January. The team no longer features top scorers Justin Champagnie, Xavier Johnson or Au’Diese Toney, as all three have left the program. However, Pitt has added a 2021 recruit in Nate Santos as well as transfers Jamarius Burton, Dan Oladapo and Chris Payton.