The 2022-2023 basketball season officially began Monday, as the Panthers hit the field at the Petersen Events Center for their first official practice of the year.
Pete is now in the fifth year of Jeff Capel’s era, and things didn’t go according to plan for his first four years. However, this season’s collection has raised expectations and the now or never mentality from top to bottom.
John Hugley – F | 6’9 | 265 lbs
John Hugley is entering his third season in Pitt after an excellent sophomore campaign in which he received honors from All-ACC. The 6-foot-9, 265-pound mega man was a force in the paint last season, averaging 14.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game with nine doubles over the course of the year. With more talent registered on this year’s team than last, Hooghley should have more room to work with fewer double-decker teams to worry about this season.
Nelly Cummings – J | 6’0 | 190 lbs
A native of Pittsburgh, Cummings is entering his first season at Pete after one season at Bowling Green and three at Colgate. Cummings played over 32 minutes per game and averaged over 14 points in each Colgate competition, impressing him with his scoring ability, shooting ability, and competitiveness. Last season, he starred for the Raiders all season, especially against top opponents. Check out his production in all four of the team’s games against HM opponents last season:
@NC State – 19 points, 5 vs 7 3FG.
@ Syracuse – 18 points, 7 assists, 6 for 13 3FG.
@ Pete – 17 points, 3 assists.
against. Wisconsin (NCAA Championship) – 20 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds.
Jamarius Burton – G | 6’4 | 200 lbs
Burton is another senior in Year 5 who will lead the backcourt with Cummings and others. The 6-foot-4 goalkeeper handled a massive workload last season, playing over 34 minutes per game averaging 12.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per competition. Burton is at his best in late play situations, taking his play to another level. His 88% free-throws lead led the team, and may also hit the best shot of the year for Pete when he sank St. John with a buoy hitting the bell as time runs out In Madison Square Garden.
Dior Johnson – J | 6’3″ | 185 lbs
Johnson is Jeff Capel’s five-star recruit from Kingston, New York. He played for a few high schools throughout his prep career, and was also committed to Oregon and Syracuse at various points. However, he ended up committing and signing with Pete this summer and is now on campus for several weeks working with the team. Johnson is a fast and cunning goalkeeper who loves the ball in his hands. Top scorer. He must be a recreational player for the Panthers, and he has a serious chance of launching as one of the top prospective freshmen in ACC.
Blake Henson – F | 6’7 | 255 lbs
Henson is a big three/four guy with one first-class experience on the Ole Miss. In his 60 games at Oxford, Hinson averaged 9.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.3 assists. He hit 40% from the field, 33% from three, and 72% from the free-throw line in his second season. After playing with the Rebels from 2018-20, Hinson moved to Iowa State. However, he missed the first season due to illness. He then left the program in October 2021 once the current ISU Technical Director TJ Otzelberger took over the program. Hinson hasn’t played a college game since this 2020 season, and has three years of Panthers eligibility left. He should play a big role for Pete on the inside along with Hugley.
Greg Elliott – J | 6’3″ | 180 lbs
Elliott, Marquette’s transfer, played four seasons with the Golden Eagles, shooting 41% from a three-point range during his career. Elliott hails from Detroit, Michigan, and has scored more than 600 points in his college career. Elliott should play a key role for the Panthers this season on the wing alongside head coaches Nelly Cummings, Dior Johnson and Jamarius Burton.
Pitt brought in three new students this off-season: Dior Johnson, Guillermo Diaz Graham, and Jorge Diaz Graham.
Johnson, a former five-star recruit, comes to Pete with high expectations, confidence, and boastfulness. The Diaz-Graham twins hail from the Canary Islands, Spain and joined the Panthers after playing last year at IMG Academy (Florida). Guillermo recently competed abroad with the Spain U-20 national team.
6-foot-3 goalkeeper – No. 41 candidate in the 2022 class (247 sports).
Guillermo Diaz Graham
7 feet forward – No. 94 candidate in the 2022 (On3) class.
Jorge Diaz Graham
6-foot-11 forward – No. 81 prospect in the 2022 (On3) class.
Nike Sibandi – J | 6’4 | 185 lbs
Sibande is entering his fifth season of college hoops after sitting out last season due to the ruptured ACL he suffered at Pitt’s show game. The bouncy goalkeeper has scored over 1,500 points in his collegiate career (Miami OH and Pitt) and has recently been allowed to participate in basketball activities. He should be playing a key role on the bench for Pete early on, and could very well make his way into the starting line-up once he’s fully recovered and is up to speed on the game again.
Nate Santos – W | 6’7 | 215 lbs
Santos is entering his second year at Pete after being dumped early during his first campaign last year. Santos appeared in 25 games last season from six games, averaging 2.8 points per game.
William Jeffress – W | 6’7 | 205 lbs
Jeffress is entering his third year with the program after appearing in 31 games (16 starts) as a sophomore. Jeffress, a native of Erie, Pennsylvania, scored more than 140 points in his two seasons with the Panthers.
Federiko – F | 6’11” | 220 lbs
Federico, a native of Helsinki, Finland, spent last season playing for Northern Oklahoma College at the JuCo level. He’s an internal threat and will serve as a backup for John Hooghley on the inside.
Graduated from Morrisville, Pennsylvania (Franklin Regional).
Junior Out Reading, Pennsylvania (Trinity Christian Academy/Garden City Community College).
Graduate student from McKees Rocks, PA (Montour HS).
A large 6-foot-4 combo guard from St. Francis Academy in Baltimore, Maryland. Carrington has been named a four-star player and the 101st player in the nation by 247 Sports.
Large 6-foot-6 pavilion outside Brush High School (Cleveland, Ohio). Barnes has been ranked as a three-star player and the 188th player in the country by 247 Sports’ composite ratings.
Expected starting line
The goalkeeper – Nellie Cummings
Guard – Dior Johnson
The goalkeeper – Jamarius Burton
Forward – Blake Henson
Center – John Hugley
It’s now or not Jeff Capel is heading into his fifth season, and after a rough ending last year, he’s out and filled in on all the essentials that were on this list. He’s started off the season strong with the addition of Cummings, a hometown kid with four years of experience and a recent NCAA Championship appearance. Dior Johnson has a five-star talent, but he will need to sacrifice some time with the ball in his hands to get all the vets involved. Hugley established himself as a superstar last season from within and will only develop with more talent around him. Burton was the heart of the team and will continue to lead. Sibande is coming off injury but looks set to come out in the last round of the college hoops. Hinson is a big question mark but it has been produced to a high standard. Santos and Jeffries are looking to get over the hump and gain confidence on the winger. The twins are interesting projects and play high-level football in Europe. Will they be ready right away? If anything, this would be an entertaining set.
There are many question marks revolving around leopards. You have a guy who hasn’t played in two years. You have a new ranger with five star talent and five star personality who has attracted 500,000 followers on social media. You have a key guard coming back from an ACL injury. You have a wealth of experience and diverse skill sets. How will they all lump together?
Let’s find out throughout the 2022-23 college basketball season. Welcome aboard.