January 20, 2007

Sorry to go dead yesterday and to date. Had to drive to Pittsburgh to pick up a new futon couch at IKEA. I might get it assembled this weekend. The wife decided it was what she wanted, and I know better than to argue with a pregnant woman. That essentially wasted most of the day. Things just seemed to conspire to keep me away from the computer that evening. Let me clear a few things off the browser as I spend the entire day immersed in basketball (and beer).

The Seth Davis piece on talking to scouts was interesting.

On Aaron Gray, Pittsburgh senior center: “I know a lot of people don’t like him, but I do. People don’t give him credit for his skills. He’s not athletic, but he’s really big. He’s a legitimate five.”

On the Pittsburgh players outside of Gray: “I don’t see any definite pros there. Maybe Sam Young in a couple of years, maybe Tyrell Biggs. Maybe [Levance] Fields, though he has to address his body. I talked to a coach who played them, and he said they’re really good but they just don’t have that one perimeter guy that puts the fear of God into you.”

I see Gray a lot like Chris Kaman of the Clippers when he gets to the NBA. It’s true, though, there is no one guy.

Luke Winn moved Pitt to #8 in his power rankings. I don’t take Winn’s rankings personally. At least he’s trying to look at the rankings with at least an eye on statistics and not just traditional teams.

An article on Barry Rohrssen in his first season at Manhattan. I admit to not following the Jaspers too closely after they dropped some early games. Turns out they are challenging for the MAAC title in what was supposed to be a transition/rebuilding year. Lots of credit in the story to being from the Howland/Dixon/Pitt coaching tree.

The University of Pittsburgh has some more Big East titles to win and maybe some Final Fours to get to before it feels truly comfortable in the most elite class of college basketball. But, clearly, the 17-2 Panthers are getting there.

Along the way, they’ve made a name for a coach or two. Or perhaps, it’s time to say three.

Rohrssen worked under both of them. And while he’s at a different level, with different talent – the Jaspers obviously won’t soon be in the Top 10 with Howland’s Bruins (No. 3) and Dixon’s Panthers (No. 6) – the similarities are striking.

“If you look at the practices at UCLA, at Pitt and here, from Day One all the way to the last day of the season, everything is the same,” Rohrssen said. “The letter is the same, you just have to change the letterhead.”

Dixon isn’t surprised.

“He had such a firm grasp of what we were doing and we figured he’d stick to the things he knew best,” Dixon said of Rohrssen. “We talk, but there’s no advice being handed out. He knows the system, feels comfortable in it, and he’s turned it around there.”

Moon Township Guard Brian Walsh saw his stock soar at the basketball shoe camps this past summer.

St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli, West Virginia’s John Beilein and Pitt’s Jamie Dixon are just a few of the dozen or so coaches who have ventured to Moon High School with hopes of luring the three-star prospect. Brian has 15 scholarship offers, highlighted by full rides to Maryland, Pitt, St. Joseph’s, West Virginia, Xavier and Memphis.

So you can expect Mike Rice, Jr. to be at a lot more of his games as he has hit the ground running in recruiting for Pitt.

“My first year is going well because of the assistants and head coach, the previous 7 to 10 years, have been successful,” Rice said. “It’s easy to sell the University of Pittsburgh nowadays.”

Rice combines with assistant coach Orlando Antigua to give the Panthers another formidable recruiting tandem. They replaced Rohrssen and Joe Lombardi, who took head coaching jobs at Manhattan and Indiana (Pa.), respectively.

“We’ve always had good assistants,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said. “They’ve both done a very good job.”

National scouting services are taking notice. The first recruiting effort, the Class of 2007, is ranked among the top 20 in the nation. The early commitments for ’08 put Pitt tied for No. 5 among all recruiting classes.

On Thursday, Rice did something that no other coach — head or assistant — has accomplished in three decades at Pitt. He convinced a player from St. Anthony in Jersey City, N.J., to play for the Panthers. The 6-foot, 185-pound Woodall, considered one of the top junior point guards in the East, will be the first from the national prep power to commit to Pitt.

Let’s hope Pitt can end a very good homestand on and off the court with that final win on Sunday.

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