Pittsburgh Panthers All-American DeJuan Blair has declared for the NBA Draft, and will not return to the Panthers next season. The fact that he declared for the NBA Draft was not surprising, as most players do to go to the pre-draft camps, and feel out where they will be drafted. If you do not hire any agent or representation, then you are allowed to pull your name out of the draft and return to school. DeJuan Blair has hired representation, leaving out the possibility of returning to school for next season. We pretty much knew this was going to happen, and is the right move for Blair, I just didn't want to believe it.
This all means that the Panthers lose four starters from last season, and lose their three best players. I still feel as if Pitt will be a tournament team come next season and will crack the top 25 at some point, but it will still be somewhat of a "rebuilding" year, and probably not up to the standards that Pitt basketball has been at these past eight seasons.
Let's take a look at how this leaves the team for next season.
PG: Blair leaving will not affect the guard position, you still will have Travon Woodall, the only true PG on the roster, and Gibbs in the mix at this position.
SG: Dixon, who will be the lone senior who plays next season will most likely get the start here, with Gibbs, and Wanamaker coming off the bench to knock down some 3's. Dixon really needs to take his game to the next level next season, and will need to average over 10 per game.
SF: Still probably Gilbert Brown's position, with Nasir Robinson getting some time here, and Wanamaker also. Look for incoming freshman Lamar Patterson to get some minutes also.
PF: With Blair come, Dante Taylor will definitely be a starter right away, and will be relied on to contribute right away. Taylor is Pitt's first McDonalds All-American since the 1980's, so let's hope he is ready to step in immediately. If Taylor plays well on the inside, Pitt should be better than people think.
C: This is a very interesting position going into next season. Gary McGhee is the only player on Pitt's current roster who can fill this position right now. However, McGhee did not have a good season last year, and should not be starting. I don't actually see McGhee starting, but he is a true center. J.J. Richardson, Dwight Miller, and incoming freshman Talib Zanna are also in the mix here.
Recruiting: With Blair leaving, the Panthers have an extra scholarship to give out now. ESPN's 31st ranked player coming in this season, Kyryl Natyazhko, a center, has narrowed his choices down to three school, with Pitt being one of the finalists. If he comes in, he could get some immediate time at center. Also, remember the name Will Coleman. Chose Memphis over Pitt in his recruiting, but may back out of his Memphis commitment with Calipari leaving, and re-open his recruitment.
It will be very tough to replace not only Blair, but also Sam Young, who will also be a first round pick, and Levance Fields. Pitt has established a basketball program, and thus a "down" year for this team right now will not hurt as much as people think. They will still be able to challenge in the top half of the Big East, and hopefully get in the top 25 at some point this season. In my opinion, this is still a tournament team this season.