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Pitt freshmen from ACC country see improved recruiting in south

Randy Jarosz | for the Signal Item
Robert Morris guard Dave Appolon drives past Pitt's Jamel Artis during the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am League last week. Appolon and the PGt squad defeated UPMC, 97-87.

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By Adam Bittner
Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 11:06 p.m.
 

Even if its location on the map didn't change, Pitt became a lot closer to home for incoming freshmen Josh Newkirk and Jamel Artis with its official switch to the ACC on Monday.

“I get to come home two or three times a year and play in front of my family,” said Newkirk, who hails from Tobacco Road anchor Raleigh, N.C., located just miles from member schools North Carolina, North Carolina State and Duke.

The 6-foot-1, 175-pound guard said getting that opportunity was part of the decision-making process during his recruitment. He committed to Pitt as a four-star prospect and ranked the 19th-best point guard recruit in the country by Scout.com. He played at Word of God Christian Academy, the same high school that produced Wizards point guard and former Kentucky star John Wall.

Artis, a 6-foot-7, 210-pound Baltimore native who grew up near Maryland's College Park campus, is also looking forward to trips to the region, even when the Terrapins join the Big Ten after next season. Rated a three-star forward prospect, he said he was most drawn by Pitt's style and coaching staff but expects the team's family-friendly traveling schedule to add excitement to his college experience.

Together, the two — who are also teammates on the UPMC squad in the Green Tree Pro-Am Summer League — add a southern flavor to a program that typically draws most of its talent from the Northeast. Newkirk said Pitt's transition to the new league could spark interest for others to follow the duo north.

“I think some people in North Carolina, the South, they'll start wanting to go to Pitt because it is in the ACC and they'll get to play in front of their family, friends and all of that,” Newkirk said.

Assistant coach Brandin Knight said geography isn't a focus of the staff's talent-gathering efforts and that Pitt should be able to recruit any region of the country. He said finding good fits is the priority.

Fellow freshman Mike Young, a McKeesport native, believes the diversity is good for the program.

“Certain guys from down there play a little different than certain guys up here, so just to get different players here moving to the ACC, getting a new look, is great,” Young said.

Newkirk and Artis said they're bonding on and off the court. Newkirk believes Artis' passing skills and ballhandling in transition allow them to play off each other.

And from learning Pitt's system, the two hope they're building a relationship that can set the stage for memorable and productive trips back home for years to come.

“We've got to go ahead and get that early chemistry because we're going to be together for a while,” Newkirk said.

Adam Bittner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at abittner@tribweb.com.

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