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Pitt’s Jeff Capel offers up-close insight on NBA Draft | TribLIVE.com
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Pitt’s Jeff Capel offers up-close insight on NBA Draft

Jerry DiPaola
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Pittsburgh coach Jeff Capel, right, reacts to a call during the first half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Boston College in the Atlantic Coast Conference men’s tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, March 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Jeff Capel’s interest in this year’s NBA Draft goes beyond that of most Pittsburghers, actually most people in general.

Before he became Pitt’s coach, Capel was directly involved in recruiting Duke stars Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish. When the NBA Draft opens June 20, Williamson is the likely No. 1 pick of the New Orleans Pelicans. Barrett and Reddish are projected by many mock drafts, including USA Today, CBS Sports and Bleacher Report, to go third and eighth to the Memphis Grizzlies and Atlanta Hawks.

During an interview Wednesday on the MSG Network, Capel offered his opinions on Barrett and Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland, a former Duke target who is the consensus No. 6 pick, to the Phoenix Suns, by those three news outlets.

Also, all three outlets predicted former Our Lady of Sacred Heart and Pitt player Cam Johnson, who was at North Carolina the past two seasons, will be picked 21st (CBS), 22nd (USA Today) and 25th (Bleacher Report).

Capel offered an interesting take on Barrett that goes beyond his obvious basketball talent.

He said he loved how Barrett was able to live happily in Williamson’s shadow.

“It’s a testament to RJ that he was able to maintain his level of consistency when all the attention was not on him,” Capel said. “It’s a great example of continuing to go out and play your game and to be really elite and stuff a stat sheet.

“Some guys would have become jealous, especially because R.J. is used to being the absolute best player on the team he was on. When he was a junior in high school, he was still the best player.

“It’s a testament to him that he was able to adapt. It shows he can play and be really good with other great players.”

Plus, “he has that competitive streak that you just can’t teach,” Capel said.

Garland missed most of last season with a knee injury, but he averaged 16.2 points and shot 47.8 percent from beyond the 3-point arc in his five games.

Capel, who observed and tried to recruit Garland, said he plays with the basketball “on a string.”

“He has a flair to his game, but he can really, really shoot the ball.”

At the end of the interview, hosts Alan Hahn and Bill Pidto asked Capel about Pitt.

Capel didn’t break any new ground, labeling his efforts so far at Pitt as “a rebuild.”

“We created hope. We created energy. We had some really good wins and some really good moments,” he said.

Of the future, he said, “We want to do it the right way. We’re excited about the opportunity. We’re adding a really good recruiting class.

“There’s energy in the city, energy in the building. We are hoping to take a major step this year.”

Get the latest news about Pitt basketball and all things Panthers athletics.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Pitt
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