In Pitt-Louisville, battle of graduate transfers
No. 20 Pitt visits No. 21 Louisville on Thursday night in an ACC showdown that is a strong endorsement for the NCAA's graduate transfer rule.
Pitt signed three graduate transfers and starts two: guard Sterling Smith and center Rafael Maia. Their veteran leadership has helped lift the Panthers (14-1, 3-0) into the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in two years.
Louisville (13-3, 2-1) signed a pair of graduate transfers, Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, who not only start but also have emerged as the Cardinals' leading scorers.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, noting how the rule has impacted both teams, adopted a phrase for the 9:05 p.m. matchup at KFC Yum! Center.
“The grad transfer championship,” Dixon said. “That's the story.”
The story highlights how the rule can enhance the right teams under the right circumstances.
Pitt needed a veteran guard to replace Cameron Wright and found one in Smith, who has started every game and averages 7.2 points and 4.2 rebounds and shoots 49.1 percent from 3-point range. Maia and another graduate transfer, Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, fill a void at center that was a weak spot in the Panthers defense last season.
Lee and Lewis have more than adequately replaced Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell, who were Louisville's leading scorers last season. However, when Lee and Lewis don't play well, the Cardinals struggle.
Such was the case Sunday.
Lee and Lewis combined for 16 points on 5-of-31 shooting and were 1 of 18 from 3-point range in a 66-62 loss at Clemson. Louisville coach Rick Pitino singled out both after the loss.
“Damion and Trey both realized their mistakes,” Pitino said. “They were apologetic about the way they played. They got caught up in it, and they learned a valuable lesson. I've got great confidence in both young men. They had a bad night — we all did. I know they'll respond in a big way.”
Dixon is familiar with both, especially Lee, whom he attempted to sign after Lee graduated from Drexel.
“It's a small world,” Dixon said. “I was watching clips of Damion Lee when we were trying to recruit him.
“There's a lot of returning (Louisville) players, but the guys that are scoring are the new guys. We're dealing with the same thing. You need guys for different reasons, different spots, different roles. You find each role covered between our two teams.
“Theirs have done well. Ours have done well.”
Pitt junior Michael Young said the graduate transfers give Louisville a different look.
“They're a better shooting team,” Young said.
Graduate transfers are changing the college game, according to Dixon, who said he plans to continue recruiting them.
“This is where we are headed with recruiting and where the game is going,” he said. “You're going to see that across the board. It's game changing, and it's only going to get bigger.”
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.