Eric Hamilton wasn’t very happy after Pitt’s exhibition win against Slippery Rock last week.

The graduate transfer said it was “ridiculous” that Slippery Rock outrebounded Pitt in the first half and he wasn’t pleased he wound up in foul trouble.

“There’s a lot of things I need to correct myself. I mean, I had four fouls,” Hamilton said. “The best way to keep or stop a player from producing is to keep them on the bench.”

Hamilton is one of five new faces on the Panthers and he plays a position where they sorely needed help coming into the season. The 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward was brought in to help solidify a front court that was seriously undermanned last season.

Hamilton previously spent time at both Wichita State and North Carolina-Greensboro. At North Carolina-Greensboro, he averaged 6.1 points and 4.4 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game.

For Hamilton, the decision to spend his final year of eligibility at Pitt was an easy one.

“I just wanted to challenge myself at the highest level and just prove a few things to myself,” Hamilton said.

The forward believes he can aide the Panthers in a major area of need.

“I just feel as though our team needs rebounding, so I’m definitely a guy who can fill a void with that.”

Another addition to Pitt’s front court is freshman Abdoul Karim Coulibaly, who impressed on the world stage this summer. The 6-8, 215-pound forward led his home country Mali to a silver medal in this summer’s International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Under-19 Basketball World Cup. Coulibaly averaged 13.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game in the competition.

Coulibaly attended high school at Scotland Campus in Central Pennsylvania, where he scored 1,000 points in two seasons.

Freshman Justin Champagnie had a roller coaster summer. Following a strong showing on Pitt’s trip to Italy, the 6-6, 200-pound guard/forward suffered a knee injury, initially believed to be a torn ACL, which would’ve ended his freshman season before it began. He was later reevaluated and diagnosed with a knee sprain, but the injury scare took a toll.

“It took three weeks to reevaluate him, and then you’re told you’re fine go back full speed, so there’s some mental hurdles to get over with him,” coach Jeff Capel said.

The highest rated of Pitt’s freshmen trio, guard/forward Gerald Drumgoole, is the most likely to see significant playing time to begin the season. Standing at 6-5 and weighing 200 pounds, Drumgoole started against Slippery Rock and scored 13 points in nearly 22 minutes of playing time. He was 2 of 5 on 3-point attempts, something he thinks will be crucial for the Panthers this season.

“I think it’s important for the team because we can space the floor,” Drumgoole said. “It gives players like (Xavier Johnson), Trey (McGowens), (Au’Diese Toney), and especially Eric (Hamilton) room to operate and get to the basket.

“So me being able to get to space the floor and knock down shots is a good thing. It helps our offense flow and it just keeps us consistent.”

Another player that will help replace the production of Jared Wilson-Frame, Pitt’s best 3-point shooter last season, is junior college transfer Ryan Murphy. The 6-2, 185-pound guard comes to Oakland from New Mexico Junior College.

“We have to prove that we can be consistent (from three). That’s an area where we hope Murph can help us out with,” Capel said.

Capel was asked how comfortable he is relying on so many first-year players.

“We need those guys,” Capel said. “We need quality minutes for them, we need them to do their job at a very high level. We need them to fulfill their role at a very high level, and we think they’re capable of doing it but as we go forward, as the competition increases, we’ll see.

“We’re going to challenge them, we’re going to work with them, we’re going to help prepare them, and I think they’ll be ready for it.”

Hamilton seems ready and willing to make an immediate impact with the Panthers.

“I’ve always wanted to be one of those key, main guys as far as to help the team advance as far as they can in the postseason. That’s definitely a goal of mine,” Hamilton said.

“I feel as though I can achieve that here at Pitt, with this great group of guys.”

Amanda Filipcic-Godsey is a freelance writer in Pittsburgh. She covers Pitt football and basketball for CNHI Pa. newspapers. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaFGodsey

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