PITTSBURGH — Jeff Capel described this current iteration of the Pitt Panthers – the one that will try to pull this program out of a downward dive that began with the hiring of Kevin Stallings seven years ago – is the most talented roster he’s had over his five year tenure.
The Panthers have certainly been talented before, but that has rarely been the problem during the past four lackluster season. Capel’s best team was the one that raced out to a 7-2 start during the 2020-21 season before ultimately being undone at least partially by “chemistry issues” that he and athletic director Heather Lyke have explicitly pointed too over the past two seasons.
It’s also resulted in some drastic roster turnover that has given Capel and his staff plenty of chances to build a team that fits together on and off the court. Pitt’s brought in seven new players, four of them upperclassmen or graduate transfers. One of those older, but still new faces is point guard Nelly Cummings and he’s found integrating into this team easy.
“I just think the organic relationship we’ve been able to form, it’s real,” Cummings said. “It’s not fake and that’s a huge thing when you have guys that you actually care about, actually share real relationships. It makes it much easier to play with those people.”
Capel’s seen this in action through the summer and early fall and it’s given him confidence that the Panthers are built to survive the ups and downs of a long and difficult college basketball season. He called what these older transfers bring a “sense of security” in who they are. Without having to grapple with egos, they can focus on playing winning basketball.
“I think one of the things that’s been really cool to see is that they are secure,” Capel said. “You’re not dealing with insecurity. You’re dealing with guys that are accomplished. And because of that there’s a sense of security in who they are as individuals that also comes with age and experience.”
Part of that security comes from the fact that these new transfers have seen personal and team success before. Burton’s played on wildly successful Texas Tech and Wichita State rosters. Elliot and Cummings were both key pieces of NCAA Tournament teams in 2022. Nike Sibande, back from injury, has scored over 1,000 career points over four years at Miami (OH) and Pitt. Blake Hinson averaged double-digit scoring for Ole Miss before having to sit out the last two seasons at Iowa State.
Burton said they’ll be able to guide the younger players because they know what it takes to win and win big at this level of college basketball.
“I think the experience we’ve been able to add to this team is big,” Burton said. “Having multiple guys on the same page as far as how hard and smart you have to play to win games is going to be pivotal this year.”
That makes Capel excited. He said the potential and talent has meshed with good practices so far and it has made him believe deeply that this team is capable of great things.
Scroll to Continue
“I love the pieces that we have,” Capel said. “I love the way we’ve practiced. I love everything about this team.”
Make sure you bookmark Inside the Panthers for the latest news, exclusive interviews, recruiting coverage and so much more!
Jeff Capel: Pitt in ‘Good Space’ With Dior Johnson Suspended Indefinitely
Pitt HC Jeff Capel Confirms Injury to F John Hugley
Turnovers Determine Success and Failure for Pitt Defense
Four Stats That Put Israel Abanikanda’s Hot Start in Context
Pitt’s Marcus Minor, Israel Abanikanda Earn Weekly ACC Honors
Kickoff Time Announced For Pitt’s First ACC Road Trip at Louisville
Furious Pitt Run Game ‘Cracked’ Virginia Tech Defense