Pitt Basketball: Freshman Khem Birch Leaves the Pitt Program

Matt ShetlerCorrespondent IDecember 16, 2011

Khem Birch brought a lot of hype with him entering his freshman season with the Pitt Panthers basketball team.

Birch was considered one of the best recruits in Pitt history and was one of the highest rated big men in the country. Many viewed Birch as the missing dominant big man that the Panthers have been missing for years.

So far we haven't seen anything resembling that out of Birch, who despite starting the past six games has only averaged 4.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game for the 9-1 Panthers.

Pitt fans will never get the opportunity to see if Birch would live up to the hype as he has left the Pitt program for what head coach Jamie Dixon called personal reasons.

Rumors stated late Thursday night about Birch possibly transferring from Pitt and a day later it was official that Birch is gone and won't be in uniform when the Panthers take on South Carolina State on Saturday.

One rumor had Birch leaving Pitt for Kentucky, but Ray Fittipaldo, Pitt beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette,reported that's likely not the case considering Kentucky head coach John Calipari had to be told exactly who birch was because he wasn't familiar with him.

Dixon actually holds the fate of Birch in his hands. Per NCAA rules, Birch can't play at all next season if Dixon doesn't release him from his scholarship. He would be eligible in December of 2012 is Dixon lets him out. To play at another Division I school, Birch will have to sit out two full semesters.

As for the Panthers in the short term, expect Dante Taylor to return to the starting lineup and Talib Zanna to see a ton of minutes off the bench at both the 4 and 5 spots.