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Pitt

Stallings: Players have committed to staying at Pitt

| Wednesday, April 6, 2016, 11:36 a.m.
New Pitt men's basketball coach Kevin Stallings speaks during a news conference Monday, March 28, 2016, at Petersen Events Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
New Pitt men's basketball coach Kevin Stallings speaks during a news conference Monday, March 28, 2016, at Petersen Events Center.
New Pitt's men's basketball coach Kevin Stallings speaks during a news conference Monday, March 28, 2016, at Petersen Events Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
New Pitt's men's basketball coach Kevin Stallings speaks during a news conference Monday, March 28, 2016, at Petersen Events Center.
Pitt assistant coach Brandin Knight
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt assistant coach Brandin Knight

Pitt men's basketball coach Kevin Stallings said Wednesday he will finalize his coaching staff this week, but he doesn't expect to retain anyone from the previous staff under former coach Jamie Dixon.

Stallings already hired longtime Vanderbilt assistant Tom Richardson. He said his other two assistants will have strong recruiting backgrounds.

“My desire with the other two positions will be guys that absolutely have a primary recruiting focus,” Stallings said during a one-on-one with the Tribune-Review. “(Athletic director) Scott Barnes said he wanted one. I want two more kick-butt recruiters.”

Stallings said discussions with longtime Panthers assistant and former player Brandin Knight to keep Knight on staff included a “sizeable pay raise” and touched on changing his title to associate head coach, but Knight declined to pursue other options.

Later Wednesday, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports reported Stallings was set to hire Illinois State assistant Jeremy Ballard.

Stallings, who conducted a second team workout Wednesday, said he received assurances from every player on the roster that no one is planning to transfer.

“I (can) honestly look at the nine guys we have here on scholarship and could see each and every one of them being in the rotation and being effective,” Stallings said.

That includes freshman Damon Wilson, a four-star recruit who appeared in 30 games but averaged only 3.3 points and 1.1 rebounds and shot 34.5 percent from the field.

Stallings said he isn't considering switching the lanky, 6-foot-5 Wilson, who struggled with his outside shot, from point guard.

“I think he's absolutely a point guard. Damon is a guy who next year could take a big leap. He certainly could be that guy,” Stallings said. “I like how he can get downhill and get to the basket.”

Stallings said leading scorers Michael Young and Jamel Artis, both juniors, aren't thinking about leaving school early for the pros.

“They both indicated to me with 100 percent certainty that they're coming back,” said Stallings, who expects both players to expand their games. “Even if it was just from a consistency standpoint.

“I've already issued challenges to Mike and Jamel. If you guys want to play at the next level, here are some things I've heard (you need to improve).”

Stallings said the door is open for incoming recruits Justice Kithcart, Crisshawn Clark and Corey Manigault to play right away next season.

“If a freshman comes in, and he's the best guy to help us win, he'll be the guy,” Stallings said. “All three of them could be in the mix.”

Stallings said he is familiar with Kithcart from when he recruited Kithcart at Vanderbilt.

“He's a tough, fast kid with a really good motor,” Stallings said.

Stallings said he would consider filling Pitt's final scholarship for next season with a high school player or a transfer and didn't rule out that player being a graduate transfer.

“We're going to try to fill it. I'd love to get somebody to come in and impact our team,” Stallings said. “We'd like to find another big. Those are the hardest guys to find.”

John Harris is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jharris@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jharris_trib.

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