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Brenna Wise transferring from Pitt women's basketball program

The Pitt men's basketball team has seen its fair share of transfers with three guys bolting in the last couple of weeks. That wasn't unexpected with new coach Kevin Stallings seemingly wanting to bring his own guys in and clean house. The wrestling squad lost a top ten grappler in Teshan Campbell, who will head to Ohio State. That wasn't expected but given Pitt's turmoil without a coach right now and some team disappointments this year, isn't completely incomprehensible.

On Friday, though, the women's basketball program lost Brenna Wise, who announced she will transfer, in a move that looked to come entirely out of nowhere for the casual Pitt fan.

As the Pitt News notes, Wise's departure is different from the basketball ones in that she is the star of the team and the men's players that transferred were all bench players who played sparingly or, in the case of Crisshawn Clark, not at all. Wise has been the focus of the team's marketing efforts this season and after averaging 14.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game this year, she's now led the team in those two categories for two consecutive seasons. She had a career-high 31 points this year in a home win against Virginia Tech and I was actually at that game.

When I heard of Wise's transfer, three things stuck out to me pretty quickly.

First, I remembered back to a game this year when Wise was really struggling. It was one of several games I watched on ESPN3 but for the life of me, I can't remember which one it was. I think it was Purdue and after looking at the box score of that game, it makes the most sense. But Wise was 1-11 and just had a miserable game. The interesting thing I remember specifically about that is that coach Suzie McConnell-Serio didn't hesitate to take her out of the game and leave her out. Usually you see that in blowouts but the game was close throughout (Pitt lost by six) and Suzie still only played her 19 minutes. Brenna wasn't in foul trouble, either. It was basically one of those 'If you're not making shots we'll try someone else' type of deals.

The second thing also tied into that a little. Suzie's comment in the press release was pretty straightforward, but one thing stuck out like a sore thumb to me. Here was the quote and I'll let you try to take a look and see if it sticks out to you as well:

“Brenna was a strong representative of the University of Pittsburgh and we wish her the best of luck as she pursues opportunities elsewhere. As a program, we will continue to recruit and develop well-rounded, team-oriented student-athletes. It is a privilege to be part of the foundation of a winning culture."

Maybe I'm making more of this than is there but that last bit about 'team-oriented' sort of jumped off the page to me when I read it, as did the part that followed about it being a privilege to be a part of the foundation of the team. That's not something you typically throw into one of these official statements when a player transfers out. 'We wish Player X the best of luck in their future endeavors and thank him/her for their contributions to the program.' That's about the size of it. When I read it, I thought back to that Purdue game where Wise had struggled and was subsequently benched for much of the game. It's easy to wonder if there was a little friction there.

Finally, this is noteworthy because it's the second season in a row where Pitt lost a star player. Stasha Carey transferred last season (ending up at Rutgers) and was the third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder on the team. Her loss, coupled with Yacine Diop's season-long injury, was a big reason the program struggled this year. Diop and Carey would have likely been starting for the team this year and two of the team's top three players. When you lost that much in one year, it's very hard to make up.

A lot of people will now look at the transfer of both Wise and Carey, look at the struggles of the women's program, and wonder about McConnell-Serio. But I remain fully convinced she knows what she's doing and is still an outstanding coach. She won 20 games a year at Duquesne in her last five season there (winning 24 twice) and was a National Coach of the Year semifinalist in 2015 when she won 20 games at Pitt and took them to the NCAA Tournament. McConnell-Serio, I fully believe, is not the issue. The team has won only 13 games the past two years but I would be surprised if she did not turn it around.

I don't say that to downplay the issue. Wise was a very good player and unquestionably the best one Pitt has had over the past two seasons. Her loss to a program that is already struggling hurts them right now. But as I said, I still have little doubt that McConnell-Serio will get this team turned around. She's already done it once when she took a team that was winless in conference play before she arrived and leading them to the NCAA Tournament only two years later.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Suns’ Devin Booker scores 70 in loss to Celtics

The Phoenix Suns made history two nights in a row.

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The Suns started the youngest lineup ever Thursday, with an average of 21 years and 14 days. Worse, the Suns were down to eight players and lost by 26 to the Brooklyn Nets. The lineup was younger than several of the Sweet 16 teams still in the NCAA tournament. 

Friday also netted a loss, but Devin Booker kept them in it. He scored 70 points for the Suns, and helped Phoenix claw back from a 20-point first quarter deficit. Booker’s scoring eventually won over the Boston crowd, who began cheering for him as the Suns tried to keep the game going late, calling timeouts to give Booker a chance to score more points. He finished with the highest single-game total in franchise history, but lost to the Celtics 130-120.

Booker joined Wilt Chamberlain, David Robinson, David Thompson, Elgin Baylor and Kobe Bryant as players to reach 70 in one game.

Booker was 21 of 40 from the field, four of 11 from the 3-point range and was 24 of 26 shooting free throws. The former Kentucky star also had eight rebounds and six assists. He averaged 20.9 points per game before Friday. 

Angels’ defense sparkles to preserve combined no-hitter

Eight members of the Los Angeles Angels’ pitching staff combined for a no-hitter Friday night — thanks to three diving stops in the ninth inning — in a 4-0 victory against the Seattle Mariners.

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Angels defenders made three great defensive plays as 24-year-old Abel De Los Santos closed out the game, The Associated Press reported. First baseman C.J. Cron dived to his right for a grounder for the first out, right fielder Shane Robinson left his feet for a fly ball for the second out and then third baseman Sherman Johnson ended the game by sprawling to his left for a grounder and throwing to first.

"That defense was unbelievable," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "C.J. and Robbie in right field and Sherm at third base, that's a good way to cap off a good night, with some plays like that."

Starter Bud Norris struck out two in two perfect innings, and Jose Alvarez followed with a perfect inning. Jean Segura reached on catcher interference against Cam Bedrosian in the fourth, and then Andrew Bailey threw a perfect fifth. Austin Adams walked Zach Shank during the sixth inning, and then Drew Gagnon, Justin Anderson and De Los Santos ended the game with a perfect inning each.

"It's fun for the kids," Scioscia said. "De Los Santos, all those kids. They've all been in camp for a long time now. I think the way it happened. You see C.J. making a great pay and Robbie and then Sherm at third, that'll be a fun night for those guys."

WATCH: Iguana stops tennis match at Miami Open

An iguana, later named Iggy, wanted to join the fun at the Miami Open Wednesday, but instead brought a match to a halt. 

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Iggy perched itself on the scoreboard during a match between Tommy Haas and Jiri Vesley, according to Sports Illustrated

Maybe the iguana just wanted a better view of the game? 

Or maybe Iggy wanted a selfie with Haas? 

Either way, Iggy wasn’t happy when officials tried to remove it from the court. 

The Iguana thought his new selfie friend, Haas, would let it stay and watch. But, instead, Haas quickly jumped out of the way. 

Eventually officials got the iguana off the court, but Iggy might have won this match. 

Baseball coach hits home run with social media plea for equipment

A Virginia high school baseball team in desperate need of equipment finally got the help they needed.

John Marshall High School coach Brent Butler told local TV station WTVR that his team needed essential equipment, like gloves, cleats and bats. 

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He said he’s seen his team make big strides in recent weeks, but now they need equipment.

The committed coach got so desperate he said that he took to Facebook to ask the community for donations.

“It’s been really beneficial so far,” said Butler because donations are starting to trickle in.

WTVR stepped up to the plate, too, and presented the coach with a gift of $500.

“We know you have gotten some things and that helps, but we wanted to help as well,” WTVR reporter Lane Casadonte said. 

Butler said he was caught off guard and surprised by the gift.

“This is going to be really beneficial… I thought you guys were here for the weather!” Butler joked.

 

UnScripted: The Cardiac Hill Podcast w/ Corey Cohen (S2 Ep16)

In this episode of UnScripted: The Cardiac Hill Podcast, Corey Cohen and Jim Hammett compliment the hire of new Athletic Director Heather Lyke, discuss Pitt Basketball transfers, and analyze the NCAA Tournament.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @CoreyECohen, @JimHammett, and @PittPantherBlog and vote in our Bracket of Hindsight: Coaches You Wish Pitt Hired bracket.

Damon Wilson transferring from Pitt basketball program

First it was Crisshawn Clark. Then came Corey Manigault. Now, Damon Wilson becomes the latest member of the Pitt basketball program to depart.

I am grateful for my experience at Pitt for these last two year, but I have decided to finish my college years at another school. H2P!! — Damon Wilson (@IHate_DamWilson) March 22, 2017

If you count the Justice Kithcart mid-season dismissal and the graduations, that makes a total of eight players that are gone from this year's sub .500 squad.

I'm not entirely sure where I come out on the Wilson departure but it's really difficult to be too upset about it. Wilson played nearly 11 minutes a game last season and, despite not making a big impact, certainly got onto the court to show a little of what he can do. He shot below 35% from the field and was benched for much of this season. When he did get onto the court this year, it mostly was not very good. He made only 26% of his shots and missed all 12 three-pointers that he shot.

There just wasn't a whole lot there and it's pretty clear that without a change in scenery, I'm not sure how much he would have progressed here. I always caution about giving up on underclassmen too soon and if Wilson went somewhere else and thrived, it wouldn't be the strangest thing in the world, I suppose. But I just think his confidence had to be shot here after this season. Pitt desperately needed guard depth and with Clark out and Kithcart often struggilng, Wilson's chance to play was probably as good as he was going to see. So when even this year he couldn't play, I'm sure he felt like the writing was on the wall.

Wilson averaged less than a point per game this year after scoring 3.3 the year before. Where he ends up is anybody's guess. But don't forget that he is only two years removed from being a four-star recruit once with several offers from programs like Georgia Tech, Georgia, and Virginia Tech. Maybe someone is convinced that all he needs is a year of development and some playing time. He also has two years of eligibility left. He may choose a lower level just to get playing time but a weaker major-conference team with holes to fill showing some interest wouldn't surprise me entirely, either.

The narrative that Kevin Stallings will have his own team next year only gets stronger. And ordinarily, while losing so many players in one season is a major blow, when you finish under .500 it's a lot easier to swallow.

As Craig Meyer of the PG notes, Pitt has two scholarship spots open for next year.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

NBA Outlook: Michael Young

Going into the last two seasons, I championed senior forward Michael Young as a player who had the tools to potentially play in the NBA one day. Of course, that should never have been viewed as a guarantee. Young is now at the end of his collegiate tenure, and the prospect of making an NBA roster, let alone being drafted, is less likely than when the season started. Perhaps that seems like a harsh reality for the guy who finished second in the ACC in scoring (19.6ppg), but here’s why.

The number one question I get asked about Young is whether there is the potential for him to play small forward in the NBA. The short answer is no; he is not an NBA-caliber small forward, even as a rotational player. Offensively, his handle is suspect and that manifests itself in the form of straight-line drives against a defender not used to defending so far away from the basket, or the in-and-out dribbles with his dominant hand that led to as many unforced turnovers as it did semi-contested three-point attempts.

Young is capable of getting into the lane and has a strong first dribble, albeit not accompanied by an explosive first step, but doesn’t demonstrate any shiftiness or creativity in the lane. He struggles to finish through contact at the rim, which really brings attention to the fact he’s an average athlete. Additionally, he carries the ball relatively high on his gathers and has been stripped of the ball numerous times by smaller guards as he looks to finish.

To his credit, Young is adept has shielding defenders with his body and uses the glass well from either block when finishing around the rim. However, the uptick in athleticism and shot blocking at the next level will see his already average finishing percentage (64.2%) decrease even further. For his position, he’s a good passer especially out of double teams when the extra defender comes through his vision. Most of the time, Young is able to take a dribble or two towards the corner and either take advantage of the one-on-one situation or catch the defense in rotation by passing. His assist percentage (20.4%) was no fluke, but the in-game situations in which he generates quite a few of those won’t exist in the NBA.

There is also very little evidence that he’ll be able to stretch the floor in the NBA. Up until this season, Young attempted just 57 three-pointers and converted 19 of them (33.3%). That’s hardly someone that I’d project as a stretch-4 or a small forward, especially when the three-point line will be at least one-foot farther back from the corners and two-feet farther straight away. His 34.1% on triples as a senior is a respectable mark, but he took nearly 4.5 attempts per game. Ask yourself if you see him going 1-3 on a nightly basis from beyond the arc in the NBA in limited and inconsistent minutes, and that’s not even an ideal rate of conversion. His current game just doesn’t lend to being even more perimeter oriented in the NBA.

Young isn’t a dominant rebounder; he ranked just outside the top-15 in the ACC at 6.8 boards per game. The fact that his rebounds per 40 minutes never projected in double-digits in any of his four seasons is another contributing factor to why I’ve been asked if he could be a small forward in the NBA. What’s even more disappointing for him is that his career total rebounding percentage of 13% is just slightly better than fellow senior forward Jaron Blossomgame (12.3%) of Clemson, who does project as a small forward in the NBA and has played on the perimeter more in college than Young.

But his ability to put the ball on the floor, connect from long distance, and average rebounding rate aren’t the only reasons I get asked if he can be a small forward in the NBA, it’s also because he lacks the size to be a power forward. Two years ago, I scouted then Louisville Cardinal Montrezl Harrell. Few thought that Harrell was anywhere near his listed 6’9” height; he measured 6’7.5” in shoes at the combine. Even with the way Harrell wore his hair, at best, Young was noticeably not as tall. Even if we presume a very small growth spurt for Young over the last two years, he’s not going to measure at 6’9” with shoes in a few months.

Additionally, his frame doesn’t look like it could add a lot of muscle and weight without sacrificing the level of athleticism he’s already at. Young doesn’t have tree trunks as legs, isn’t especially broad in the shoulders as far as power forwards go, and already lacks explosiveness in his current, lean state. For a senior like Young who was forced to exert a ton of energy on the offensive end, projecting what he’d look like on defense is a lot about his rebounding ability, size, and athleticism. None of those three things are positives for Young.

Perhaps you’d like more of an objective approach as to why Young won’t make an NBA roster. That’s fine. For starters, it always seems like people assume the NBA has an infinite number of available roster spots. That isn’t true. If all 30 teams carry the maximum number of players, 15, that would means 450 players are in the NBA (360 of those are eligible to dress in uniform). Now there is a lot of fluctuation both ways: Not every team carries 15 players and several teams will have upwards of 20 players that were paid by them over the course of the season. Still, just take a second and ask yourself, “Is Michael Young one of the best 450 basketball players in the world?”

The reality is in order to make an NBA roster, someone has to be replaced. In a vacuum, if we assume Young isn’t a first-round pick (he definitely isn’t), then any team he presumably joins will need to clear at least two roster spots (it’s rare that a team doesn’t sign first-round picks). That not only means beating out incumbents who will carry actual NBA experience, but it means he’ll need to be a better prospect than the pool of available players, which won’t just include the 2017 draft class. It will also include players who played overseas and are now looking to make an NBA roster. It will include players cut from other teams. It will include players from the D-League who may have spent time in the NBA under a 10-day contract. To avoid going down the rabbit hole too far, and so this article doesn’t reach an unreadable length, let’s just take a look at Young’s competition in the 2017 draft.

Let’s start with sophomore forward Tyler Lydon of Syracuse, who is already projected as a first-round selection. Somewhat like Young, scouts aren’t all in agreement of what position Lydon will play in the NBA. Comparing the on paper stuff, Lydon finishes slightly better at the rim (65.3% to 64.2%) with a very similar distribution, in terms of their individual attempts, taken there. Lydon connected at a 39.5% rate on three-pointers with 38.9% of his total attempts coming from long distance; Young clocked in at 34.1% and 25.7% of his attempts were triples. The former took 124 total three-pointers this past season, the latter attempted 123 of them.

Lydon was even more accurate as a freshman going 49-121 (40.5%), while again, Young took all of 57 triples through his first three seasons. And that’s just comparing them in one area. Lydon was statistically a better rebounder, comparable in assists, and a much better shot blocker as well. Take into account that he’s much closer to 6’9” than Young and is roughly two years younger, and it’s easy to see why one is projected as a better pro than the other.

Want someone closer to Young’s age? How about senior forward Alec Peters from Valparaiso, who is a better finisher at the rim, rebounder, and more accurate from beyond the arc than Young, statistically speaking. Peters is projected as a second round pick to undrafted, the exact grade someone may generously give Young. What if someone like sophomore forward Cameron Oliver out of Nevada declares again but stays in the draft? That’s just another player who has better numbers in all three areas than Young, is two years younger and has the added benefit of being a superior athlete.

Like Artis, Young was a very good collegiate player and honestly one of my favorite Pittsburgh Panthers to lace them up at the ‘Pete’. He’ll for sure make an NBA Summer League roster and has a career overseas waiting for him if he wants it. Still, he is pretty much at his ceiling and doesn’t possess one major skill that will translate to the NBA - rebounding is usually the one that translates the most. Unfortunately for Young, there are several younger players in this draft class who have a more proven track record in same areas that make Young’s skill set attractive in the NBA. I didn’t even touch on the fact that the culture surrounding the program doesn’t help his case, and for Young, that just makes an uphill battle even tougher.

- Stats courtesy of Hoop-Math & Sports Reference.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author @Stephen_Gertz

WATCH: Soccer player accidentally thanks wife and girlfriend in live interview

An African soccer player has some explaining to do after he thanked his wife and girlfriend in a post-match interview on Friday.

>> Read more trending news 

South African Premier League player Mohammed Anas had just been awarded the Man of the Match title when he made the blunder on live television.

“I appreciate my fans also,” the Ghanaian striker said during the interview. “My wife and my girlfriend, I mean, yeah, sorry to say. I’m so sorry -- my wife, I love you so much.”

Anas’ team, the South African Free State Stars, had just played Ajax Cape Town, another South African team.

Anas later said that he refers to his daughter as his girlfriend. 

“My family knows that I call my daughter my girlfriend. That's what I was talking about. I don't have a girlfriend,” he said.

Anas said he’s not worried about upsetting his wife of seven years because she knows he is loyal. 

“I love her so much. She's given me two beautiful children. She is fine. She knows what kind of man I am, so I am not worried,” he told the BBC.

Brianna Chambers contributed to this report.

 

TeShan Campbell transferring from Pitt wrestling to Ohio State

While the Pitt basketball team transfers weren't very unexpected, the Panthers' wrestling program received one that seemed to come out of the blue. Junior-to-be TeShan Campbell is leaving the program and heading to Ohio State.

Ugh

...

Ugh.

I had been working on an article highlighting the fact that Pitt was set to lose very little after this year. Glad I held off on that.

If you've followed this blog, you know what a big fan of TeShan's I had become. He was out of Penn Hills and had turned into a top ten wrestler at his weight class. He not only had developed into a top talent but had potential to do even more. Seeing him as an All-American at some point seemed like an afterthought. And seeing him eventually even compete for a national title didn't even seem that far-fetched, either.

Now, he wasn't perfect. Campbell had some missteps at NCAAs to be sure and two disappointing exits. Last year, he went home winless and also suffered a pretty bad loss in the consolation round in his second bout. This year, he managed to win two matches as he went 2-2. But even then, he was bounced from the championship round after one win and after a consolation-bracket win, he was upset by a lower-seeded wrestler.

There is no doubt that Campbell still has work to put it all together and reach All-American status. But he also showed so much at Pitt that it still seems like it's something that will happen - maybe even next year.

This loss should shine an even brighter on the wrestling coach vacancy. Pitt needs to bring someone in soon to quell concerns that other kids may be having about staying. The Campbell loss is really deflating as it was a local kid that was showing a lot of promise. And even more to the point, his loss leaves a pretty big hole in the roster.

New athletics director Heather Lyke doesn't have a football or basketball vacancy (Stallings jokes aside) to fill right now but hopefully she understands the importance of this hire. It's not on the same level as football or basketball, but a big hire nonetheless for a program that has had some success.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

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