According to a release, Husker big man Walter Pitchford has opted to forego his senior season of eligibility at Nebraska and pursue his degree. This is certainly a major loss for the team and one of the more surprising offseason decisions across the country so far.
Pitchford began his career at Florida in 2011-12, but opted to transfer to Nebraska following the season. He was forced to sit out the 2012-13 season due to transfer rules, but he was a major contributor over the last two seasons for Nebraska including a key piece in 2013-14 when the Huskers returned to the NCAA Tournament.
This season, Pitchford played 30 games and 64.4% of the team's minutes. Considering that these numbers are artificially low due to injury concerns, it's pretty easy to see that he was a major contributor in the lineup. He had an offensive rating of 90.3 this season and was actually one of the team's best perimeter shooters. He scored a season-high of 19 points against Maryland.
Here are some of the statements from Pitchford and Nebraska head coach Tim Miles:
"I thank Coach Miles for giving me the opportunity when I transferred from Florida," Pitchford said. "I have learned a lot about myself in the three years I've been at Nebraska and it is not an easy decision to give up playing basketball. I believe it is in the best interest of both the team and myself that I devote my time to completing my degree at Nebraska and eventually go into a career in business.
"I appreciate all the support I have received from the coaching staff, my teammates and the fans during my time at Nebraska and it has become home for me," Pitchford said. "I know my teammates support me on this difficult decision, and I will be there to support them."
"I completely support Walter in his decision," Nebraska basketball coach Tim Miles said. "It shows a great deal of courage for a young man to see his career path and pursue it. I know leaving behind basketball is not easy for Walter or his family, but I also believe this is the best thing for Walt because it targets what he wants to do."
The Huskers were already facing major question marks heading into next season and a frontcourt without Pitchford is going to make things even more challenging. He played major minutes and two of his backups in Moses Abraham and Leslee Smith are both graduating. Perhaps Jake Hammond or one of Nebraska's two incoming frontcourt players can make an impact, but this could very likely be Nebraska's biggest question mark going into next season.