And there are three others that Dixon has also targeted. Those big timers are 2015 top 10 prospect Cheick Diallo, as well as 2016 recruits Kassoum Yakwe and Caleb Swanigan, both top 25 prospects. The '16 prospects are players that Dixon targeted after their sophomore seasons. In fact, all but Heron in this list was at Pitt's opening season festivities. Pitt recruited them hard early, and the result is that they have a really good shot at all of those that have yet to commit.
James Robinson, Jr.
Cameron Wright, Sr.
Josh Newkirk, So.
Chris Jones, So.
Detrick Mostella, Fr. (?)
Kobe Eubanks, Fr. (?)
Both starters, Robinson at the point, and Wright at shooting guard, will be back, as will top reserves Newkirk at the point, and Jones at shooting guard. There's no reason why all four won't be better. I don't think any of them will be stars next year, or maybe ever. Robinson and Wright play good defense and have a lot of guts and toughness, but they are limited offensively. Newkirk is blazing fast, but he has to work on some parts of his game. He sometimes plays out of control and his free throw shooting is awful, but he should make a nice jump in production as a sophomore. Jones can shoot and is a good athlete. A lot of fans just assumed he would eventually be pushed out but he's played well this year when given the chance. His future is bright if he stays around.
Then comes Mostella and Eubanks. Both may have more raw alent than anybody on the current roster and could push any of the returnees. While the Panthers are trying to land both of them, I think it's safe to say that they won't get both. Hopefully, though, they will get at least one. The 6'3" Mostella can flat out shoot from anywhere on the floor, but he can also drive, dunk on anybody, and has a good handle. He's been a handful in his recruitment, to say the least, but if the Panthers can land him he will add much needed instant offense.
Eubanks is a teammate of incoming 2015 guard Damon Wilson, and 6'9" elite center target Cheick Diallo, another '15 prospect, as well as top '16 prospect Kassoum Yakwe. At 6'5" he has great height, and like Mostella he is a big time scorer who could help immediately with his offense. Landing him could also help land Diallo and maybe even Yakwe.
Mostella is a little older and a little more advanced so he may be more likely to make an immediate impact, but Eubanks is coming on like gangbusters and is probably the more dependable option.
Durand Johnson, Jr.
Michael Young, So.
Jamel Artis, So.
Sheldon Jeter, So.
Ryan Luther, Fr.
Lamar Patterson is gone, which obviously hurts, but the good news, there will be four good young forwards here who could combine to do a very good job. At small forward, 6'8" Vanderbilt transfer Sheldon Jeter is trying to make the switch from power forward to small forward, and if he does he could be quite a weapon. He has great height for the position, he's athletic, and he can score from anywhere on the floor, but he has to prove that he can defend at the position. He has to be considered the favorite to be the starter. Also in the mix is 6'6" Durand Johnson who was coming on nicely before an injury cost him the rest of the season. He can shoot threes in bunches, and he can drive which he should do more often. If he comes back healthy he will battle Jeter for the starting spot but since he already proved to be a good sixth man he may be better suited there.
At the four, returning starter Young, and just as good Artis, are both back, and should make big strides. Young has excellent shooting and rebounding potential but he struggled at times as a freshman due to a lack of confidence. If he can battle those demons he could be a very good player, as soon his sophomore season. He better improve because Artis definitely will. At 6'7" Artis can shoot, rebound, and pass. Sometimes as a freshman he looked like a real man going for a rebound, and unlike Young he doesn't suffer from lack of confidence. If both make the big jump that sophomores usually do then the Panthers will be okay at the four next year.
Luther is a local product, who at 6'8" can shoot and play both forward positions. He may grow to 6'10" which will put him into a higher level of prospect, but unless he really surprises early I suspect that he'll redshirt.
Derrick Randall, Sr.
Joseph Uchebo, Jr.
Shaq Doorson, Fr.
Justin Jamison, Jr. (?)
Tyrone Haughton, Jr. (?)
Randall, the transfer Rutgers, has only played about 10 minutes a game this season but he usually plays tough defense and can rebound. His offense is very limited though. He doesn't seem like starter material but may be forced to play more minutes than he ever has next year. Time will tell if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
Uchebo had NBA potential before he had a serious injury before coming to Pitt and while he has surprised some by actually seeing some minutes this season, it's obvious that he's not at 100%. He's a wildcard because if he gets healthy he just may be a surprise next season. Of course there's also a chance that if Pitt signs another center he may not be back at all.
Doorson is huge but I've recently been sent tape of him and he has a long way to go. And I mean long way. He rebounds well because he's big and aggressive, but he has zero offensive skills and he's not a shot blocker. He's a major prospect. So major that if he ever becomes a solid starter, Dixon should immediately be named national coach of the year.
These three major question marks are why the Panthers recently offered two junior college prospects, Jamison and Haughton. I've watched tape on both recently and Haughton is definitely a better player. Jamison is 6'9" and 260 pounds, and a former baseball player. In fact, he's 23 years old. He's a really good athlete and can rebound but he's not dominant. Haughton, however, has potential to help. He is a lengthy 6'9" and 210 pounds with arms that go down to his knees and a sleek athletic built. He would have to put on some weight, and he doesn't have much offensive ability at all, but he's a good rebounder and an exceptional shot blocker. It's that last skill that could help Pitt out next season. Both have two years of eligibility left and both are getting high major offers.
The ideal option may be a graduate transfer here, but if Pitt signs one of the jucos then they'll be over the limit. It will be interesting to see if Dixon has something up his sleeve, but since they just offered the two jucos instead of just recruiting them, I'm guessing that he doesn't.
With Patterson gone nobody stands out as a star next year, but I'm guessing that the Panthers will roughly be at the same level. Why? The there starters, and nine returnees in all, should all make improvement. That includes Johnson, whose offense will help. But it gets even better since Jeter could make a major offensive impact, and either Eubanks or Mostella could do the same. If Pitt finds a center, a big if, the Panthers could be even better, but that may take a miracle.
James Robinson, Sr.
Josh Newkirk, Jr.
Chris Jones, Jr.
Damon Wilson, Fr.
Detrick Mostella, So./Kobe Eubanks, So. (?)
Cameron Wright will be gone, but the offensive potential from this unit is much better than the program has had in quite some time. Robinson will still be running the point, and he still won't be a great offensive threat, but with more offensive players on the floor around him he will do what he does best which is run the offense. Newkirk, if he's still around, will now be a junior, and should be a legitimate plus player in reserve. The veteran duo may not be stars at this point, but there's nothing like a veteran Jamie Dixon point guard. Two veteran Jamie Dixon point guards is extremely beneficial.
At the two, Jones and probably Eubanks, should prove to be an enticing duo due to their 6'6" and 6'5" height, respectively, their topnotch athleticism, and very shooting skills. The very promising Wilson, who is also in the 6'5" or 6'6" range, will be eased in. He can play either guard spots.
Durand Johnson, Sr.
Michael Young, Jr.
Jamel Artis, Jr.
Sheldon Jeter, Jr.
Ryan Luther, RS Fr.
This is the exact same unit as the season before, all one year older, so this could be a very good collection of players. Like the year before, Johnson, Young, Artis, and Jeter will all play a lot. Luther will have to continue to fight for minutes.
Joseph Uchebo, Sr..
Shaq Doorson, RS Fr.
Justin Jamison, Sr./Tyrone Haughton, Sr. (?)
Cheick Diallo, Fr. (?)
This position could be very weak again or it could get the player that turns the program into a possible top 10 team. Frankly, it's doubtful that Uchebo will still be around, and that Doorson will be able to help much. If a juco center was landed in the previous class then maybe they can be a solid starter here, but the best option is the 6'9" Diallo. While skinny, and needing some work offensively, he's an excellent rebounder and shot blocker. We're talking a top 10 prospect here that would make an instant impact. Right now it seems like it could be a battle between Pitt and St. John's, but it's important to note that he's high school teammates with Wilson and Eubanks, so that could prove to be the deciding factor.
Now we're talking a possible top 10 team, and if Diallo commits we could be talking a possible national championship contender. All teams are more successful with a large group of experienced players, but few coaches get more out of experienced players than Dixon.
Veteran point guard? Check? Veteran backup point guard? Check. Depth? Who can't play in this group? In fact, it may be hard to find minutes for so many good players. Rebounding? Young, Artis, and if he commits, Diallo, will all be good rebounders at this point, and there will guards at 6'3", 6'5", 6'6", and 6'6". Shooting? Jones, probably Eubanks, Johnson, Young, Artis, Jeter, and even Luther if he can get on the floor could give Pitt their best offensive potential in a long time. Shot blocking? Diallo would be an immediate force in that department.
Josh Newkirk, Sr.
Chris Jones, Sr.
Damon Wilson, So.
Detrick Mostella, Jr./Kobe Eubanks, Jr. (?)
Mustapha Heron, Fr.
After four years as the starter Robinson will be gone, but even though he would probably have had a good four year career, he may not be missed because of all of the ridiculous talent behind him. If Newkirk is still around he would have a shot at starting, but Wilson is enticing as a possible 6'6" point guard, and Heron is an NBA caliber talent that will play a lot, if not start, at one of the guard spots.
If Jones is still around he could be pretty good by the time he's a senior, but if he's not then Eubanks, Wilson, and Heron would be involved at this spot, too. That's a lot of raw talent.
Michael Young, Sr.
Jamel Artis, Sr.
Sheldon Jeter, Sr.
Ryan Luther, So.
Maverick Rowan, Fr.
Kassoum Yakwe, Fr. (?)
I have no idea if Young, Artis, or Jeter will be stars, but at the very last all three should be very good, and having three very good seniors at your forward spots is huge. By this time Luther may be able to move into the rotation, though the 6'6" Rowan can flat out shoot and he could definitely be in the mix. Yakwe is yet another teammate of Diallo, Wilson, and Eubanks, and like them he is an elite recruit. If the Panthers can land him, and they are recruiting him hard right now, he may not play a lot as a freshman, but the combo forward could be starting at the three or the four as a sophomore.
Shaq Doorson, So.
Cheick Diallo, So. (?)
Caleb Swanigan, Fr. (?)
Something tells that the Panthers may add another big man here sometime in the next two years because Doorson still probably won't add much, and the Panthers don't want to be caught in a bind by having to play him before he's ready. If Diallo becomes a Panther, and comes back for his sophomore year, then we are probably talking All-American potential by this point. If he leaves, the 6'8" 270 pound Swanigan may be the heir apparent. For the Panthers, it would be ideal if Diallo was in the program, and there was a general feeling about whether he would be back for his sophomore season because the Panthers would hate to lose the excellent Swanigan. Swanigan likes Pitt, and Barry Rohrssen, a lot, but he will be highly coveted by the big boys. He will not be coming to Pitt if there's any chance that Diallo will still be around. But if Pitt fails to land Diallo, or if it looks like he will be leaving after his freshman season, then Pitt will have a real chance for the top 25 prospect. But players of this caliber usually commit early so Pitt may be out of the running if Diallo commits. Then if Diallo leaves after his freshman season, Pitt is suddenly without a big time center.
While it's three years down this road this group also has the potential to be one of the best teams in the country. In fact, this will be the first time that Pitt could potentially have the exact mix they need to win it all. Five seniors, including the three top forwards, would alone make Pitt a possible top 10 team. But this will be the first time that they may match it with the kind of elite young talent that can make a major impact right away. Diallo, if he's there, and Heron, are big time talents that would match amazingly well with Pitt's five seniors. The current team has three top 100 players and no top 50 players. This '16-'17 team could have 6 or 7 top 100 players, including two top 15 prospects.
For the first time, projecting Pitt's future success is not a pipe dream. There are always people who will complain that every year somebody is saying to just wait for the future at Pitt, but this is very different. In the past it involved players generally ranked in the 100-150 range that were projected to get better. But now it's a completely different animal. Now we are talking about the kind of elite talent that Pitt hasn't had since the best days of Paul Evans. But unlike those teams, these teams will match it with great depth. Experience and elite talent. A fan can't ask much more for that, except maybe for a Final Four, and for the first time in the Ben Howland/Jamie Dixon era, Pitt may actually have the talent to do it.