Pair of Pitt commits reopen recruitment in wake of Stallings hire
On the day Kevin Stallings was introduced as Pitt’s new basketball coach, Panthers recruits Justice Kithcart and Corey Manigault asked to be released from their scholarships and reopened their recruitment.
The third member of Pitt’s 2016 recruiting class, Crisshawn Clark, said late Monday night he still was waiting to hear from Stallings, who already had communicated with Kithcart and Manigault.
Paul VI (Va.) coach Glenn Farello confirmed Manigault’s decision to decommit. All three recruits said they signed with Pitt because of coach Jamie Dixon, who left for TCU last week.
“I haven’t talked to anybody. No old coaches. No new coaches,” said Clark, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard who plays for Canada College, a junior college in San Mateo, Calif.
Clark selected the Panthers over Sweet 16 teams Oregon and Gonzaga.
“If he doesn’t contact me, I’m just going to open my recruitment back,” Clark said.
That was the request made by the 6-2 Kithcart, a four-star point guard from Virginia Episcopal. Kithcart and his family have spoken with Stallings twice since Sunday.
Stallings was among the first coaches to recruit Kithcart when he was at Vanderbilt. However, Vanderbilt never made an offer, said Virginia Episcopal coach Curtis Staples.
Kithcart selected the Panthers over Providence, Creighton, Memphis and TCU. He also received interest from ACC members Virginia Tech and Clemson.
“Vanderbilt recruited him really hard. I was there to witness that and was part of that process, but they never offered him,” Staples said. “When other schools swooped in on Justice once they realized how good he he really was, Vandy kind of got put on the back burner. They had an inside track on him earlier, but they backed off.”
Staples said Vanderbilt’s reluctance to offer Kithcart a scholarship is the reason for the player’s decision to decommit from Pitt.
“Stallings did identify Justice earlier than anybody, even before Pitt,” Staples said. “He noticed him last summer and recruited him pretty hard. He was courtside at a lot of Justice’s games when a lot of other schools had their assistants there.”
Staples said Kithcart needs to feel comfortable about fitting in at Pitt, which is losing senior point guard and four-year starter James Robinsion.
“He doesn’t have any schools in mind. He’s just looking to see if there’s something out there that he should be paying attention to,” Staples said. “He’s not closing the door at Pitt. He’s just asking to open it back up. Justice wants to feel like Stallings wants him to come there and not that he has to deal with him because he’s already there.”
Asked about the status of the three recruits at Monday’s introductory press conference, Stallings said he still was trying to gauge their interest in Pitt.
“I had discussions with two of them and hope to talk to the third one,” Stallings said. “I was very candid with both of them. If they don’t want to be here, I understand how change can affect some people. We’ll do what we can to keep them but not be in the way if they want to go elsewhere.”
North Allegheny junior guard Curtis Aiken Jr., a member of the 2017 recruiting class who received an offer from Pitt, is encouraged by the Stallings hire.
Aiken has offers from Pitt and Tennessee.
“I’m a student of the game. Just to hear (Stallings) articulate pushing the ball, playing fast, that’s how my son plays,” said his father, former Pitt great Curtis Aiken Sr. “He was very excited.”
Robby Carmody, a sophomore who led Mars to the PIAA Class AAA championship game and has offers from Pitt, Duquesne, Penn State, Purdue, Cincinnati, Xavier and Louisville, would strengthen the Panthers’ 2018 class.
He also is receiving “heavy interest” from Michigan, Notre Dame, Dayton, Virginia and Syracuse, said his father, Mars coach Rob Carmody.
The elder Carmody doesn’t know Stallings, but he did have a conversation this fall with a Vanderbilt assistant, so Stallings knows who he is.