PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Freshman forward Khem Birch officially announced he’s leaving the Pitt basketball program Friday night, according to a report by CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman.
Birch cited personal reasons for his departure and told Goodman that he didn’t feel comfortable as a Panther.
“I’m leaving,” Birch told CBSSports.com on Friday night. “I’m headed to Toronto now. I enjoyed my time at Pittsburgh, I love Coach (Jamie) Dixon, had no problems with the staff and the players. It just wasn’t the right fit for me.”
At 6-foot-9, Birch was the highest-ranked player to ever commit to the Pitt basketball program — a 5-star recruit and one of the most highly touted high school players in the country.
He was talented enough to earn a starting spot as a true freshman, which rarely ever happens on a Dixon-coached team. In fact, only two other front court players — Chris Taft and Dejuan Blair — have accomplished such a feat.
In 10 games at Pitt, Blair averaged 4.4 points, 5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.
Birch told CBS he has not made plans for the future. There is speculation regarding a transfer to another school or even waiting this year out and entering the NBA Draft.
“Khem has decided to leave the team for personal reasons,” Dixon said in a statement released by the university. “We thank Khem for his contribution to our program over the last semester and wish him great success in the future.”
With Birch gone, Dante Taylor will likely re-assume a starting spot alongside Nasir Robinson in the front court. Talib Zanna should see added time off the bench, which has been the case over the last few games as Birch’s time has dipped.
Seven-foot freshman center Malcolm Gilbert has only played a few minutes this year and will now likely see him time drastically increase as well.
Steven Adams, another highly touted front court player, has made a verbal committment to play at Pitt next season.
Pitt plays its first game without Birch at 6 p.m. tonight against South Carolina State at the Petersen Events Center.
Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog