Pitt forward Kene Chukwuka announced on Thursday that he will remain with the Panthers under new head coach Jeff Capel. He previously requested his release from the program after Kevin Stallings was fired in March and was the only question mark lingering from last season’s roster.
Chukwuka was one of nine Pitt players who requested their release in March. All told, Terrell Brown, Khameron Davis, Malik Ellison, Shamiel Stevenson and Jared Wilson-Frame joined Chukwuka in deciding to stay, while Marcus Carr, Ryan Luther and Parker Stewart went through with transferring out of the program.
During the 2017-18 season, Chukwuka played in 31 of Pitt's 32 games, averaging 2.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 0.8 assists over 17.0 minutes per game. As his stats suggest, Chukwuka was not the Panthers' most dynamic contributor last season, but at the least, he adds some frontcourt depth to what has become a guard-heavy roster this offseason.
Another positive aspect of retaining Chukwuka is the aforementioned fact that he'll have 31 games of Division I basketball under his belt heading into next season, which could lead to improvement in his junior year. And he’s certainly got room for improvement, as he shot an abysmal 19.1 percent from three-point range and 35.5 percent from the field overall.
Thursday's announcement also clarifies Pitt's roster situation, which has been in a state of flux since Capel's arrival. The first-year Pitt coach now has two scholarships available and is not awaiting any additional decisions from Stallings era holdovers.
It's possible Capel could put those scholarships toward additional 2018 reinforcements, but he’s also been showing interest in members of the 2019 class, including five-star guard Cole Anthony and four-star centers Kofi Cockburn and Oscar Tshiebwe.