Pitt's roster shrunk by one Monday with news that guard John Johnson has left the program.
"We wish him the best," head coach Jamie Dixon said after the Panthers beat Fordham at the Petersen Events Center Monday night. "I've talked to him a few times over the last couple days; actually, more than that. We're just going to help him out, so we discussed some things today and we're really just trying to help him find the best place for him down the road."
Johnson, a sophomore from Philadelphia (Pa.), played in all 39 games for Pitt last season, averaging 4.2 points and 1.25 assists in 14.1 minutes per game. He entered this season as a likely backup behind redshirt senior point guard Tray Woodall, but he did not appear in the Panthers' season opener against Mount St. Mary's Friday night.
At the same time, freshman James Robinson has been in the starting lineup at the point next to Woodall, while junior transfer Trey Zeigler and redshirt sophomore Cameron Wright have been taking the bulk of the backup guard minutes.
All of that left Johnson apparently on the outside looking in, and he voiced his displeasure with the situation on Twitter Friday night after the game.
"We've got a lot of good players and a lot of guards," Dixon said Monday night. "I don't think there was any real surprise. We've got some good players."
"Honestly, I've been here for a while and I've seen a lot of things, so I know that Pitt's not really for everybody," Woodall said when asked about Johnson's departure. "Not necessarily in a negative sense, but Pitt just isn't for everybody. Some guys like it here, and some guys like it here but just don't feel comfortable as the years go on. But honestly, it's just not for everybody."
Robinson and Woodall figure to continue starting and rotating at point guard, although Dixon said Monday night that Zeigler, who was at shooting guard at Central Michigan before transferring to Pitt this offseason, has also been working at point guard and will likely see the floor this season at that position.
"Zeigler has played the point; he's been playing it in practice and picked it up really well and is really good at it. He gives us a third guy to play the point with good size and a really good decision-maker and a great leader that guys respect and trust. That gives us some real versatility."
Johnson's departure also opens up an extra scholarship spot for Pitt. The Panthers will graduate two players after this season - Woodall and center Dante Taylor - and have commitments from two recruits in the class of 2013, Raleigh (NC) Word of God Christian Academy point guard Josh Newkirk and Newark (NJ) St. Benedict's Prep power forward Mike Young. With Johnson's space available, Pitt will be able to pursue another recruit in the class of 2013.
Johnson is the second player to leave the Pitt basketball team mid-season in the last two years. Center Khem Birch left the team after 10 games last season and is currently at UNLV.
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