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Cam, not Kham: Pitt's Kevin Stallings avoids questions about former player

Jerry DiPaola
| Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, 1:21 p.m.
Head coach Kevin Stallings of the Pittsburgh Panthers directs his team against the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game at the Dean Smith Center on February 3, 2018 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Head coach Kevin Stallings of the Pittsburgh Panthers directs his team against the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game at the Dean Smith Center on February 3, 2018 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
North Carolina's Cameron Johnson and Pittsburgh's Khameron Davis (13) reach for the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018. North Carolina won 96-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
North Carolina's Cameron Johnson and Pittsburgh's Khameron Davis (13) reach for the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018. North Carolina won 96-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Cameron Johnson #13 of the North Carolina Tar Heels dunks against the Pittsburgh Panthers during their game at the Dean Smith Center on February 3, 2018 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Cameron Johnson #13 of the North Carolina Tar Heels dunks against the Pittsburgh Panthers during their game at the Dean Smith Center on February 3, 2018 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
North Carolina's Cameron Johnson drives past Pittsburgh's Khameron Davis (13) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
North Carolina's Cameron Johnson drives past Pittsburgh's Khameron Davis (13) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings with his fingers crossed against High Point in the second half Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 at Petersen Events Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings with his fingers crossed against High Point in the second half Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017 at Petersen Events Center.
The North Carolina bench watches a 3-point attempt by Cameron Johnson against Pitt on Feb. 3, 2018 in Chapel Hill, N.C.
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The North Carolina bench watches a 3-point attempt by Cameron Johnson against Pitt on Feb. 3, 2018 in Chapel Hill, N.C.
North Carolina's Cameron Johnson drives to the basket against Pitt during Saturday's game.
North Carolina's Cameron Johnson drives to the basket against Pitt during Saturday's game.

It was surprising and out of character for Kevin Stallings, the normally open and accommodating Pitt coach, to start talking about Khameron Davis when a reporter asked him about “Cam” after a 96-65 loss at North Carolina on Sunday.

The reporter meant former Pitt player, current-Tar Heel Cameron Johnson when he asked Stallings if he felt “any emotions seeing Cam out there in another uniform.”

“Yeah, I wanted Kham Davis to play better,” said Stallings of his freshman guard, avoiding the question.

Later, when another reporter made it clear her question was about Cameron Johnson, Stallings again didn't answer.

“I don't like to comment on other people's players,” he said. “Ask Roy (Williams, North Carolina's coach) about how he played. I couldn't tell you. I was worried about my guys.”

He said he told Johnson, “Good game” after the game.

The issue of Johnson transferring from Pitt to North Carolina last year, which Pitt initially tried to block before relenting when the NCAA stepped in, does not sit well with Stallings.

The loss to North Carolina was Pitt's 11th in a row — a school record — and Johnson contributed by scoring 14 points. If Johnson had stayed and Ryan Luther had not suffered a season-ending foot injury, Pitt's season might be playing out differently.

But the 31-point loss to North Carolina was the second-worst of the season for Pitt (8-16, 0-11 ACC).

“I haven't been disappointed too much lately with my team,” he said. “I'm a little disappointed (Saturday night). I didn't think that we, particularly on the defensive end, I didn't think we competed like we have to and we know we need to.”

Johnson, who had strong family ties to Pitt even before he was recruited there by former coach Jamie Dixon, said he understands how Stallings feels about his situation.

“I'm sure he's focused on his team. He's not focused on me,” he said. “For him to not want to answer that question, I understand. I'm not on his team anymore.

“I tried not to look at this game any different. You know what I mean? Obviously, you're going to feel some things when you play against your former team.

“I spent three years there. I grew up in Pittsburgh. My dad played at Pitt. My mom went to nursing school there, and my brother is still doing research for the university, so obviously, I have a pretty strong connection there.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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