The verbal of Josh Newkirk to Pitt is being taken — both locally and nationally — as pure evidence that Pitt and Coach Jamie Dixon will have no problem recruiting against ACC teams and in ACC country.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon is adapting on the fly to the Panthers’ arrival into the ACC in 2013. The commitment from Word of God point guard Josh Newkirk in Raleigh, N.C., is the first example of the Panthers’ potential reach into the ACC region. Pitt should have no problems competing with the rest of the ACC in recruiting. The change of conference shouldn’t matter. Pitt now has even more to sell with the security of a new destination. There’s no reason why the Panthers should dip in the ACC. The Panthers aren’t even in the league yet and they already have made inroads in the ACC.
I must have missed the last few years where Pitt has been recruiting the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area. A region that may not be “pure” ACC country, is certainly disputed territory.
As a symbol, I get it. Nabbing a recruit who is from NC. Who is surrounded by the 4 North Carolina schools is nice. And Newkirk himself made it clear that Pitt in the ACC was a big difference maker.
When asked if he would have committed to Pitt if the Panthers were still in the Big East, Newkirk said: “I don’t know. That would have been something to consider.”
One thing Newkirk will be looking forward to doing is going home to play some conference games against North Carolina, North Carolina State, Duke and Wake Forest.
“I looked at those schools a little, but I feel like they overlooked me,” he said.
“I can’t wait to go back to play those games.”
But if Pitt had missed on Newkirk. If Newkirk had chosen Georgia Tech. Would that have been considered absolute proof that Pitt and Dixon were going to be in trouble trying to recruit deeper in the ACC region?
I doubt it. Just as silly scare articles from some last year about how Pitt basketball could suffer with a move to the ACC, were too conclusory or trying to make too broad a leap.
Personally, I felt that as long as Coach Dixon was able to keep the focus of his recruiting on the East Coast, there wasn’t much concern. Especially with the inroads in the last few years in the Baltimore/DC region. An area that has given Pitt James Robinson, Dante Taylor (prep school in MD), Talib Zanna and Durand Johnson just on the present roster.
The more intriguing issue may be why Coach Dixon so ardently pursued a point guard. Pitt has been looking all summer at point guards as much as they have big men.
I think that Coach Dixon looks at the present set of guards and is a little concerned at the overall ball-handling ability. I don’t think he is as certain that John Johnson will develop into the ball-handler and back-up point guard he hoped.
That has been Dixon’s strategy. If he can’t find a true point guard (Levance Fields, James Robinson), then find a guard (Travon Woodall) — or even guard/forward (Brad Wanamaker) — who has the requisite skill set and desire to handle the duties. Versatility has always been a trait Dixon looks for in players.
Pitt got away with it with Fields, even when he got hurt at times. But it blew-up last year when Woodall was injured and no one on the squad was able to play the position with any efficiency. I think Dixon is looking to make sure that there is more overall ball-handling depth.
At the same time, it isn’t like Newkirk is a Robinson clone. He’s much more of a playmaker and slasher. So his abilities are not purely duplicating Robinson.
Dixon sold him on the idea that both will play, possibly together at times.
“I can do things he can’t do and he can do things I can’t do,” Newkirk said.
Newkirk is a quick and athletic guard and is at his best in the open court.
Not sure how much Newkirk and Robinson really will play together at first. If Newkirk develops his perimeter game more, then it could happen.