3 Malik Ellison

The Pitt Panthers basketball team missed a key player, but they looked like they didn’t miss a beat as they upended Youngstown State in their first game of the 2018-19 College Basketball season, and more importantly, the first win in Head Coach Jeff Capel’s tenure.
“It’s exciting. Said Capel. “More importantly, it’s exciting for our guys. I was just really happy, pleased and excited for them.”
The Panthers wanted to do whatever it took to get off on the right foot this season, especially after their disastrous 2017-18 season that saw them lose their first game to Navy and then failing to win a game in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Play. The arrival of Capel and several freshmen and graduate-transfers has seemed to breathe life into this team.
“I’m really proud of the guys for the effort that they displayed for 40 minutes.” Capel said “We knew that YSU was going to shoot a lot of 3’s. We decided to start Kene in the second half because he gets rebounds. Overall, I’m proud of the effort.”
Chukwuka did earn his spot in that second half as he added 8 rebounds to go along with G Au’Diese Toney’s 9 and Pitt’s 44 rebounds as a team. On offense, the team has proven that they can score as 4 Panthers scored in double-figures, led by freshmen G Trey McGowens 17. Fellow Freshman G Xavier Johnson added 16, Grad-Transfer Malik Ellison 13, and Toney had 12. All this took place in the absence of Senior G Jared Wilson-Frame, who missed the game due to a violation of team rules.
“The University of Pittsburgh Athletic Department has high standards and every student-athlete is expected to uphold those standards.” Said Capel. “Jared did not meet those standards this past spring.” When asked if Wilson-Frame would play in their next game, Capel replied “Yes.”
Except for trailing 2-0, the Panthers led most of this game, showing aggressiveness and hustle throughout the game, but also occasional sloppiness that comes along with the growing pains of playing together. After all, this team hadn’t played together before. But when they played with synergy, the dominated the Penguins and manhandled them in the second half. And as a result, will aim to improve their record to 2-0 when they take on VMI on Friday.
“We have a lot to work on, but I also believe there’s a lot to build on. It’s not sending a message; the standard is the standard.” Said Capel. “Everything in our program needs to be elevated. We need to be hungry every time we step on the court. That requires discipline and it requires hunger”
Please e-mail Ray at ray@urbanmediatoday.com
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Pitt vs. Youngstown State • Tuesday, November 6, 2018
Petersen Events Center • Pittsburgh, Pa.
Pitt Head Coach Jeff Capel
Opening Statement:
“First of all, I am really proud of our guys for the defensive effort we had for 40 minutes. To have four new guys wearing a
Pitt jersey for the first time in a real game and come out and perform that way on the defensive end was big time. We
knew that Youngstown State was going to shoot a lot of threes. Our preparation for this game was three-point defense
and long rebounds. We knew with them shooting a lot of threes that we could turn those misses into offense, and I
thought we did that. When we broke the game open in the second half I thought we were able to get the ball out in
transition and we were finally able to rebound. For three freshmen to perform the way they did in their first collegiate game
is really good and for Malik [Ellison] to have his imprint on the game in different ways. The guy I thought the guy that really
changed the game was Kene [Chukwuka]. We decided to start him the second half because he rebounded in the first half
and he gave an energy. That is who Kene has been since I have been here and he earned the right to start in the second
half. I thought his energy on both ends of the court really helped us break the game open. I am really proud of the effort
on the defensive end to hold them to under 30 percent from the field and 21 percent from the three-point line was really
good. We have a lot to work on but we have some things we can build on as we move forward.”
On the focus switching from Pitt bringing in a new coach to now focusing on the team and season starting:
“For me, it’s always been about the team. For me, it’s always been about us. We talk to our guys and they all need to use
words like us, we and ours. It does not need to be about I or me, we do not need to speak that way. It’s never been about
that. Is it good to have the first game over? Yeah, especially since we won and we can continue to build. For the returning
guys, this is their first win in 2018 and so it was good to see guys excited in the locker room after the game. For our new
guys, this is their first win. The way we did it on the defensive end is something we should be proud of, not satisfied with,
but proud of. We’ll move forward and build from it, learn from it and get better.”
On allowing freshmen to make mistakes and letting them play through it:
“I think if you are going to allow guys to have freedom then you have to allow them to make mistakes as long as their
mistakes are them going hard. There’s not a perfect player, and our game is not perfect, but what should be perfect is our
effort and how hard we play. We certainly made some mistakes and those guys did, but it was not just the freshmen, it
was all of us – including me. Those guys were playing hard and you allow them to grow, you allow them to fix it, you allow
them to learn from it. That has been my thing – as long as guys are playing hard and competing and getting after it you
have an opportunity to play. The guys that did and who played today are the guys who earned it.”
On freshmen having a confidence and attitude and being beyond their years:
“Those guys work really hard and they believe they are really good players. When those kids decided to come here it
wasn’t popular. You have Xavier [Johnson] and Trey [McGowens] committed within five days of each other, and they
never asked me about the other players on the roster. They did not care who was here. They felt like they could come
here and contribute. They do have a confidence and they do have a passion, but other guys do too. We have a lot of guys
like that and that is what it is going to take for us to have a chance to be successful this year.”
On sending a message of how the game will be played and what he expects from his players:
“For me, it’s not about sending a message. This is just how it is, and this is how it’s going to be. This is the standard. The
standard is the standard and the standard is not changing. As a player, you need to raise your standard. That’s been my
thing since I have gotten here. Everything in our program needs to be elevated and we have tried to do that with
everything and the guys need to understand that. We don’t have anyone fighting it, but the standard is the standard,
period.” www.pittsburghpanthers.com


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