When Pittsburgh begins ACC league play in 2013-14, the Panthers will enjoy the leadership of a Tobacco Road product. Raleigh (N.C.) Word of God star Josh Newkirk announced for Pitt on Wednesday over Georgia Tech, Missouri and Memphis.
A 6-1 floor general who emerged early as a high-major prospect, Newkirk offers early evidence that Pitt’s new conference affiliation will boost the program’s recruiting efforts. Jamie Dixon and his assistants actively used their upcoming transition as a selling point to get Newkirk:
“Pittsburgh is telling me that the are joining the ACC and they really would love to see me running the point,” Newkirk previously told GoJackets.com .
And running the point is exactly what Newkirk does. He isn’t a fleet athlete like N.C. State-bound Anthony Barber and doesn’t shoot like Syracuse pledge Tyler Ennis, but he’ll bring solid, versatile, above-average physical qualities to the roster. He’s a steady-as-she-goes point who does force the action at times, but he clearly understands his role as distributor and primary defender. He’s also an opportunistic transition scorer.
Pitt has won with numerous players fitting that mold during the Dixon era. Former Panthers Sam Young, Levance Fields and Nasir Robinson ranked outside the national top 50 in high school — Newkirk projects as a top-125 prospect — and went on to play critical roles for the program. The fact that Newkirk failed to draw serious interest from the ACC’s elite programs may have installed a chip on his shoulder, and players with extra intrinsic motivation have performed well for Dixon.
For Newkirk to succeed in similar fashion, he must improve his inconsistent jump shot. He isn’t a bad shooter but isn’t a particularly effective one, either, and to command respect from defenses he must hone that aspect of his game.
Pitt now holds pledges from Newkirk and N.J. big forward Mike Young.