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Rozelle Nix to transfer from Pitt basketball program

Just when it appeared there might be some stability with the recent Pitt basketball additions, there's at least one more exit as center Rozelle Nix has decided to take his game elsewhere.

Thank you Pittsburgh! #NextChapter #Grindtime #TimeWillCome #Dat — Rozelle Nix (@Ro_Boogie_34) May 8, 2017

Nix will have one year of eligibility left and should be able to play immediately as a grad transfer.

If you're wondering when this vicious cycle will end, well, this might be it. Jonathan Milligan remains as a question mark but the Post-Gazette's Craig Meyer says he could return:

I wouldn't be surprised at all if Jonathan Milligan's back next season, so this may, just may be the end of Pitt's offseason transfers. — Craig Meyer (@CraigMeyerPG) May 8, 2017

The Nix departure is not completely unexpected. He did play some last year but that was largely because the Panthers were in such a bind losing Ryan Luther for much of the season and not really having any other options down low to back up Michael Young.

Nix's exit, of course, is not the end of the world. Not only that, but it's barely a blip on the radar screen of Pitt's problems. Sure, he's one of the few players from last year's team that was left to potentially return but the 1.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per game will hardly be missed.

It can even be argued that Pitt will be better off playing a younger body because, at the very worst, they should get some experience and be able to produce as much as Nix did. And while I know there's angst about not wanting to throw young/inexperienced guys to the wolves next season, next season is basically a lost cause. And I'm not going to get up in arms about a project having to play immediately and burning a year of eligibility. If Pitt is going to return to any sort of level of prominence, they're going to need better recruits than the ones they're getting, anyway. It's a moot point in my mind.

None of that even mentions that Pitt still has several scholarship spots still open - at least three and possibly four if Zach Smith goes back to walk-on status, per the PG. If playing Peace Ilegomah is really such a problem, there are plenty of spots to bring another body in. I think the whole thing about keeping Nix for depth concerns are kind of overblown.

That isn't to say his contributions this past year weren't appreciated. Nix was, at times, one of the few players who looked like he was giving 100% out there. It was refreshing to see him come into games and do whatever he could try to make things happen. Heck, sometimes he did make things happen. But as I said during the season a few times, he just didn't look like an ACC caliber player. Nix's motions were all over the place sometimes and his defensive recovery after being lulled away from the basket was so bad that it was actually something to be hold.

Great guy, great effort - just not enough talent/agility to play consistently well in the ACC (which, by the way, is hardly an indictment).

In the end, this is almost certainly about Nix hoping to play more than it is an indictment on Kevin Stallings for losing another player. Nix should be able to do that if he drops down a level in competition and doesn't have to face guys quite as athletic as what he saw this season.

If you're trying to keep up here, Pitt has either three or four spots available, depending on what happens with walk-on Zach Smith and his scholarship.

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.

Pitt guard/forward Jamel Artis readying for NBA Combine

The Pitt basketball season has been over for some time. But there's still some amount of intrigue left for players from last year's team, if you can believe that.

The NBA Draft will be held on June 22nd this year and while a Pitt player being selected might be somewhat of a long shot, both Jamel Artis and Michael Young may be in the conversation as potential late picks among some teams holding them.

The NBA apparently believes at least one of them is, anyway.

ICYMI from last week, Artis was invited to the NBA Combine. Artis was one of 67 players chosen to attend the event. Fellow senior and the ACC's leading scorer Michael Young will not be there. The entire event starts on May 9 and runs through May 15 but the drills/games appear to be on the 11th and 12th.

If you're not aware of what the NBA Combine is, you're not alone since it's not nearly the event that the NFL Combine is. But in a nutshell, players go through a variety of measuring, strength and agility drills, and interviews. It's a little different from the NFL version in that GMs and scouts will actually see what the players can do in 5-on-5 games.

The event can be an important one for sure. You might remember that Steven Adams was invited a few years back and turned in an incredible performance, sending his stock through the roof in part because a crazy good jump shot. Adams actually was selected in the NBA Lottery portion of the draft and that performance likely helped a great deal.

Some players skip the 5-on-5 stuff but I don't think Artis should be doing that. He is an above-average passer and has the ability to hit long range shots so his skills can actually stand out quite well in real competition. His stock isn't really high enough that hurting it should be a concern and playing in the games could really benefit him.

Almost as critical in my opinion will be the interviews. Coaches will no doubt want to hear about the dumpster fire that was Pitt basketball this year as well as the conflicts with the players and coach Kevin Stallings. Artis will need to do quite a bit of selling of himself not only on the court, but in the interview process as well if he hopes to be selected.

Also, keep in mind that this isn't only about being picked. Sure, that's the focal point and what the players will want. But even if Artis isn't selected, having a good Combine will convince teams to give him a good look in the summer leagues. Artis should end up in a summer league if he wants to regardless of the Combine. But a strong performance could earn him more minutes and more of a look in those games.

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.

Pitt softball misses ACC Tournament despite finishing over .500

Pitt's softball season ended over the weekend as the Panthers dropped two out of three to Georgia Tech. On the year, the team finished a game over .500 at 24-23. It wasn't a terrible season, but definitely a step down from what they achieved over the past two years when they finished 15 games over .500 in 2015 and ten games over last  year.

The really interesting thing, though, is that the Panthers' regular season not only ended but the team will not even be in the ACC Tournament, which takes eight of 11 teams.

If you had told me before the year that the team would finish 24-23, I would guess that they would have made the ACC Tournament. Eight of the 11 teams make it and it usually includes teams with losing records. But that wasn't the problem. Rather, it was the 7-16 ACC mark that will keep the team from playing in the ACC Tourney. It was the worst conference winning percentage they've had since 2014 when the Panthers first came into the ACC. And because of it, two teams with markedly worse overall seasons will play instead of Pitt.

Look at North Carolina State, which finished an abysmal 17-37. Not only did the Wolfpack get into the ACC Tournament with that record, they weren't even the last seed and, as a result, will avoid powerhouse and the No. 2 team in the nation in Florida State, who is the top overall seed. No team that finishes 20 games under .500 should really be in any sort of postseason - I think we can all agree on that. But the Wolfpack's 10-14 ACC record was three games better than Pitt so they got the nod. And, for the record, Pitt also took two out of three games against North Carolina State this year so that makes it even more painful.

Also finishing ahead of Pitt in the conference standings was Virginia. The Cavaliers won two more conference games than Pitt but were well under .500, finishing only 22-31 on the season. But it's the ACC games that count and Virginia also got in over the Panthers. The two teams did not play this year.

The Panthers, of course, have nothing to complain about. Conference standings determine where teams rank and while the overall records are important, if you want to play in the ACC Tournament, you have to win, well, ACC games.

The sting of missing the conference tournament should be fresh in the minds of the team all season long next year. It's a reminder that while every game matters, the conference games carry significantly more weight.

That the Panthers couldn't do more against the top teams in the conference really hurt. They played series' against five of the top six teams in the ACC this year and were a miserable 1-14. To be fair, the schedule was a particularly brutal one as evidenced by facing so many of the top programs in the conference (teams play eight of their ten conference mates every year) but you still have to find a way to win more of those games. This year proved that and as I said, there shouldn't be any complaints because that's the way conference tournaments are arranged.

But when you consider that these three teams were all relatively close in the conference while Pitt had so much more regular season success than they did, the whole situation is just kind of unfortunate.

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.

Khameron Davis commits to Pitt

Pitt lands a new basketball recruit

It's finally official Go Panthers! @Pitt_MBB— Khameron Davis (@kidder900) May 4, 2017

Pitt landed a new basketball commitment today, as Khameron Davis verbally committed to the Panthers. Head Coach Kevin Stallings confirmed it with his New to the Zoo Tweet. Now, just exactly who is Khameron Davis?

It’s hard in this day and age to go under the radar, but that’s exactly what this recruit is - under the radar. The traditional recruiting sites have very limited information on Pitt’s newest recruit. I tried to do some digging.

Davis is is a 6’4” shooting guard and a native of Colorado. Davis played up through his junior season at Valor Christian Academy in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. As a junior, Davis led the team in scoring with 14.7 points per game and took his team to the state’s Elite 8. Davis was named to second team All-State in the CHSAA in Class 4A.

From there, Davis moved on to play for Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Air, Kansas. His team played a national schedule, and helped guide them to a 27-8 final record. This is where his lone recruiting profile comes into play, as ESPN graded him as a two-star recruit. Here are some highlights from his time at Sunrise.

This past season, it appears Davis played for Forest Trail Academy in North Carolina while completing a prep year. Today was a bit of a surprise as this name seemingly came from out of nowhere.

Hard to know what to expect out of Davis, since he literally is off the radar entirely. As we all know, Pitt needs to fill out a roster for next season. The class of 2017 is pretty well picked over, so between grad transfer and regular transfer and players like Davis, that is what Pitt is likely going to add from here on out.

To recap where everything stands with the roster, Ryan Luther is back. Pitt has five recruits signed on to play for next season as well. They have also added Malik Ellison as of yesterday, although he won’t be able to play next season to meet the transfer requirements. In addition to that, they have Rozelle Nix and Jonathan Milligan available, but it’s still in question whether those two are returning or not. Now they have added Khameron Davis. If Nix and Milligan return, they have four roster spots available, and six if they do not.

Stay tuned, more news will likely be on the way in the coming weeks.

Malik Ellison transfers to Pitt

Pitt lands St. John’s transfer Malik Ellison

St. John’s transfer Malik Ellison told ESPN he will play for Kevin Stallings at Pittsburgh.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) May 3, 2017

Pitt has landed Saint John’s transfer Malik Ellison, as tweeted by Jeff Goodman of ESPN. Ellison will have to sit this upcoming season, and will have two years of eligibility to play for Kevin Stallings and the Panthers beginning in 2018-19.

Ellison started 26 games last season for Chris Mullin at St. John’s. He averaged 7.4 points per game, along with 3.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per contest. The junior to be stands in at 6’6” 215 and originally hails from New Jersey. He is the son of former NBA player Pervis Ellison.

Coming out of high school, Ellison was a three-star recruit and chose St. John’s over the likes of Pitt, Maryland, Xavier, and Temple among others. He played for Life Center Academy for his father. Here are a few clips of his from back then.

Ellison has played two years at St. John’s in the Big East, with two very similar seasons. He averages less than 25 minutes a game, and scores around 7 points per game. He is not a big time three-point shooter, but he can make them when needed, as he shot 34% this past season.

Pitt needs starters and role players alike. They need to rebuild a roster from the top to the bottom, and it appears that Ellison is a good piece. He received interest from Virginia and Harvard in addition to Pitt during the transfer process. Is he going to be a breakout player in 2018, or continue as a secondary scorer like he was for the Red Storm? That remains to be seen.

Pitt gymnastics coach Debbie Yohman retires

As if athletics director Heather Lyke hasn't been busy enough, you can add another responsibility to her list. On Wednesday, it was announced that Pitt's gymnastics coach Debbie Yohman was retiring.

Yohman was by far and away the longest-tenured active coach at Pitt. She was only the school's second head coach in that program and had been here for 31 years. Yohman actually even was one of the founders of the gymnastics team's conference, the EAGL.

"I am nothing but grateful for the many years I was able to serve as the head gymnastics coach at the University of Pittsburgh,” said Yohman, who is a past EAGL, Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) and NCAA Northeast Region Coach of the Year. “It has been a wonderful journey.“I am indebted to all the support personnel and assistant coaches throughout the years who have worked with me to better our student-athletes. I have learned so much from all of them. It's been an honor to work at Pitt, be a part of the amazing growth of the University through the years, and now to retire from coaching in the city I call home.“Most importantly I am so thankful for the many gymnasts I've been fortunate to work with for so long. I will continue to enjoy keeping an eye on their journeys through life and feel blessed to begin my own new journey!"

Pitt has certainly had some success under her watch and to last that long in the world of major college athletics is pretty remarkable. The team defeated No. 15 New Hampshire last year and was ranked as recently as 2013. There is, however, no doubt that the program could take another step forward and improve. How Lyke handles the gymnastics job will be an interesting one to watch in the wake of the wrestling hire that didn't sound as if it went exactly according to plan.

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.

Former Pitt receiver Devin Street joins New England Patriots

It's hard to believe but Devin Street will be entering his fourth NFL season this fall. If things work out, he'll be playing for the New England Patriots.

Street was picked up by New England through a waiver claim earlier today.

The former Pitt receiver spent his first two years with the team that drafted him - the Dallas Cowboys. Last year, he played for the Indianapolis Colts.

This is actually Street's second go-round with New England. He briefly signed with the team's practice squad last offseason but the Colts added him to their active roster.

Street definitely hasn't lit the world on fire since joining the NFL. Through three seasons, he has only ten catches for 152 yards and one touchdown. But he's also still only 26 and there are no guarantees as a fifth-round pick, which Street was. If he lands on a roster for a fourth straight season, that would be an achievement in itself.

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.

Pitt baseball wins series with SIU Edwardsville Cougars

As I wrote about recently, the Pitt baseball schedule was lightening up a bit as the season nears its completion. The Panthers mostly took advantage of their first opportunity to win some games, taking two out of three from Southern Illinois Edwardsville (SIUE) this weekend.

Pitt dropped the opener, 6-4, but rebounded for 7-6 and 17-5 wins in the final two contests to take the series. First baseman Caleb Parry went 4-5 with two home runs in that blowout win in the finale.

It's disappointing that they couldn't have gotten a sweep since that would have put the team at .500. Taking two out of three, they have a 19-21 record on the season.

Next up for the baseball team is a pair of midweek games against Maryland Eastern Shore before a weekend series at Georgia Tech.

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.

Pitt football in five years? What, am I a crystal ball or something?

SB Nation is pretty great about giving individual sites all kinds of flexibility and leeway. We rarely do collaborative things where everyone writes about the same thing but they broached an interesting topic recently about where you see your football program in five years.

I'll admit it - I hadn't thought about it before, really. The furthest ahead I allow myself to look into the future of Pitt's teams is usually limited to a couple of years. Beyond that, there are just so many variables. Even when a team has a great recruiting class, success isn't guaranteed in three years. As we saw before the start of last season, Pitt had give guys all go down with medical issues in one shot, and a few couldn't even play football anymore. Guys transfer. There are busts. And don't get me started on the need to retain a coach. Trying to predict a team's success beyond two years is a foolhardy venture.

But if you're talking about the overall health of a program, that's a little different.

Looking at Pitt's long-term prognosis, I'm generally encouraged by what I see and that, of course, all starts with head coach Pat Narduzzi. Narduzzi is energetic, wins games, and as last year proved, can win some big games. He's a dynamic recruiter and a go-getter that has pushed almost entirely all of the right buttons. If Narduzzi is still here in five years, I feel pretty strongly that Pitt's football program will be having success.

As I said earlier, trying to think about actual players five years out is kind of nuts. Sorry, but projecting which 8th graders are on Pitt's radar is beyond my level of expertise or, more importantly, level of interest. But in terms of the way Pitt recruits now, I trust the process and the way Narduzzi does things. Pitt has expanded its borders and has even gotten creative with landing grad transfers. The last two quarterbacks they secured through that process (Tom Savage and Nathan Peterman), by the way, were incredible acquisitions. Pitt has a lot of work to do locally where they are still being beaten too often by Penn State for recruits. But as a whole, I feel like they are moving in the right direction in the quality of talent they're able to land.

In terms of stability, Pitt also finds itself in a great place in my eyes. There may be some uncertainty now with the ACC Network deal after ESPN's recent Order 66, but in general, Pitt's financial future is pretty set in the ACC for the moment. They are making much more money now than they were five years ago and, while it isn't as much as other programs are reeling in, Pitt is just in a much better position to remain competitive. And the conference isn't as ripe for poaching, anymore. In fact, the biggest thing with expansion and the ACC is if they can ever manage to land Notre Dame.

That money is helping with all sorts of things, including bigger recruiting budgets and facility upgrades. And with a new recreational domed lacrosse/soccer facility, Pitt could eventually even add lacrosse as a sport down the line. Financially, the program also reportedly made very solid offers to keep their last two offensive coordinators that left for other places, Jim Chaney and Matt Canada, and you can thank the ACC revenues for that. The idea that Pitt has to go cheap in positions like that is long gone. Will they always do that? I'm not sure. But they're at least in the position to do that now and that's refreshing.

So, I sort of chuckle at this point because I know there are people thinking about the stadium issue. As a refresher, Pitt's current home, Heinz Field, is slowly starting to age. In five years, it will be about 21 years old (buy it a drink or something), if you can believe that. That sounds ridiculously young, but not so anymore with the average shelf life of stadiums being about 30 years these days.

There's no way of knowing what kind of state Pitt will be in by the time five more years have gone by. But, no, I don't anticipate an on-campus stadium by that time. And to be honest, Pitt has bigger fish to fry, anyway. I'm not going to go into the ins and outs of more stadium talk right now but if I had to guess if Pitt was any closer to building an on-campus stadium, I'd probably say no. As I've said before, Pitt has a nice situation now where they don't have to worry about maintaining their own facility, making upgrades, etc. If it was on-campus, that would be ideal. But when you consider the amount of money Pitt is probably saving by not having its own facility, it makes it easier to understand the decision to go off campus.

Pitt will eventually need a new stadium, but so will the Steelers. And Heinz Field still has quite a bit of shelf life remaining. The Steelers are right in the middle of the league in terms of the age of their venues and even in terms of that 30-year clock, there would still be nearly a full decade left. The Panthers will probably be in the process of beginning to figure out what they need to do next in five years, but assuming the stadium goes for at least 30 years, the decision-making would be sort of early in the process.

What about you? Where do you see the program in five years? Better, worse, about the same?

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.

Detroit Lions Undrafted Free Agents: Pitt receiver Dontez Ford signs with team

Pitt had a flurry of guys sign undrafted free agent deals immediately after the NFL Draft this weekend. Another one came a little later in wide receiver Dontez Ford. Per head coach Pat Narduzzi, there was a lot of interest in Ford and he decided to join the Detroit Lions:

Congrats to @D12Ford... after taking dozens of calls... he has signed a great deal with the @Lions!! #H2P — Pat Narduzzi (@CoachDuzzPittFB) April 30, 2017

Ford missed much of the season with reportedly a broken collarbone. But after going out early during the Penn State game, he returned around the midway point of the year and finished the season with 17 catches, 288 yards, and a pair of touchdowns.

His best game was arguably against Syracuse when he caught two passes for 89 yards (one went for 79 yards) and a touchdown. His other score came against Duke the week before.

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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