It has been a whirlwind week for the Pitt basketball program, but some good news came up on Monday evening as 6’7″ junior college forward Chris Payton committed to Pitt. Payton was originally a member of the 2019 recruiting class and signed with Southern Illinois out of Bloomington High School in Illinois.
He played the past two seasons for Indian Hills Community College in Iowa. This past season, Payton helped lead his team to a 21-3 record. He averaged 12.5 points and 10 rebounds per game. Payton comes to Pitt with three years to play.
Payton reportedly held additional offers from Maryland, Missouri, and Texas A&M as well. During his initial recruitment, he chose Southern Illinois over offers from Illinois, Murray State, New Mexico among others. Payton did not quality out of high school for Southern Illinois, and opted to head to Indian Hills for two years.
Payton will join a Pitt program that needs an infusion of talent at the forward spot due to the recent departure of Justin Champagnie. The 2020-21 All-ACC selection declared today that he signed with an agent and will not be returning to Pitt for his junior season. The commitment of Payton should help offset that loss some, and he will have a chance at major minutes next season.
Payton is the second recruit for Pitt in the class of 2021, as he joins New England prep shooting guard Nate Santos. Pitt also has brought in a pair of transfers to help for next season: Jamarius Burton out of Texas Tech and Daniel Oladapo from Oakland. The four newcomers will join a core highlighted by veteran guards Ithiel Horton and Nike Sibande, as well as promising sophomores to be in William Jeffress and Femi Odukale.
The commitment of Payton brings Pitt scholarship total to ten players for next season for certain. Sibande is using his extra year granted by the NCAA, which does not count against the typical 13-man scholarship total, meaning Pitt can still add as many as four players to next year’s roster. There is also the John Hugley situation to consider. He was suspended indefinitely last season, but is still listed on Pitt’s roster. His return could affect how Jeff Capel and his staff approaches these final few roster spots in the coming month.s