Injury, Transfers Thinning Out Pitt’s Roster

Jeff Capel figuring out lineup adjustments with just two games before ACC play

Josh Rowntree
December 18, 2018 - 3:39 pm
Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Jeff Capel argues a call during the first half against the West Virginia Mountaineers at WVU Coliseum.

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

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The challenge presented to Pitt coach Jeff Capel is getting bigger. 

In the last week, two players — sophomore center Peace Ilegomah and sophomore guard Shamiel Stevenson — have announced that they will transfer from Pitt. 

On top of that, graduate student point guard Sidy N’dir will miss the next four to six weeks with a lower leg injury. 

“He was very important for our team,” Capel said of N’dir on Tuesday. “With his experience, his ability to defends multiple positions, his ability to initiate our offense from the point guard position, it’s a big loss for us. It’s not one person that has to step up for us. Everyone has to step up.”

With the losses, Pitt will have eight players available who play regular minutes. So the margin for four trouble and injury is now non-existent. With N’dir out, freshman point guard Xavier Johnson will have to have his already sizable role increased. 

“We can’t afford to have him in foul trouble,” Capel said. “It changes some of the things we do in practice. It changes a lot, actually. The mindset of how much do we pressure. Yeah, it does change a lot. And those are things we’re still working to figure out.”

Ilegomah’s departure means that Pitt’s already thin front court takes a big hit. Kene Chukwuka, Terrell Brown and little-utilized Samson George are the only true forwards on the roster, meaning that Capel will be forced into a very guard-heavy approach. 

“It’s something we can do, and we’ll have to do and we will do,” he said.

Stevenson has not been used as much this season as he was under Kevin Stallings a year ago, when he was fifth on the team in minutes, scored 8.5 points per game and grabbed 4.4 rebounds. This season, he had only played 32 minutes, scoring 15 total points in that time. 

“Shamiel is a really talented young man. He has this big body, the ability to be powerful. He can shoot it. He was a good rebounder last year. But I think the thing, not just for him but for any player, it’s not about what you did last year. It’s about what you do right now, in the present moment. Unfortunately it just didn’t work out for Shamiel. He didn’t feel that this was the best fit for him.”

Capel added that they will not restrict Stevenson’s transfer request in any way. 

Pitt next hosts New Orleans on Thursday. It will play Colgate on December 29 before ACC play begins with North Carolina, at the Petersen Events Center, on January 5. 

So Capel, essentially, has two games to figure things out before a truly massive test and games that matter most. 

“The two guys that we’ve lost, as far as transfers, they weren’t really in the rotation,” Capel said. “That doesn’t effect us, as far as that’s concerned. Now, the (N’dir) one, that will be one that we have to n navigate through and figure out. And we’ll work on that.”

Hear all of what Jeff Capel had to say below.