February 11, 2007

Eyes on the Future

Filed under: Basketball,Recruiting — Chas @ 2:25 pm

I’m chalking this up to more from Mike Rice, Jr. More reaching out to recruiting Philly — for 2009.

He was on top of it early on against the Bulls, scoring on three consecutive trips down the floor to keep Chester close. Then in the second quarter, Robinson combined with 6-5 sophomore Rahlir Jefferson for a 14-4 run that gave Chester a 26-18 lead.

Jefferson, who according to Chester coach Fred Pickett also has received an offer from Pitt, would wind up with 16 points to go with four blocks and seven rebounds. He also kept former Chester player and Glen Mills star Alonzo Jones limited to 11 points.

“He’s still a baby,” Pickett said of Jefferson. “He’s satisfied with being the third or fourth wheel. He’s not aggressively trying to take anything over. But he’s going to be a big-time player.”

[Emphasis added.]

This is the Chester Clippers where Nasir Robinson — a Pitt commit for 2008 — plays.

This goes along with the early verbal from another sophomore. I take these as seriously as I took Terrelle Pryor and Herb Pope’s sophomore verbals. They are nice. The kids may be talented. But I’m not holding them to it. It’s just too soon and too many things can change on both sides.

On the truly committed side, DeJuan Blair had another stellar performance.

Some have called the 6-foot-7, 250-pound Pitt recruit a great low-post scorer. Others tend to focus on his rebounding or his innate passing ability.

Last night at the prestigious Primetime Shootout at Sovereign Bank Arena, there was only one word to describe his play — dominating.

Behind a gargantuan effort from its star senior center, No. 21 Schenley (20-2) stormed to a 85-74 victory against No. 20 DeMatha Catholic (Md.), in a battle of two of USA Today’s Top 25 teams.

Despite being loaded with Division I recruits, DeMatha had no answer for the hulking Blair, who finished with 32 points, 20 rebounds, 5 blocks and 5 steals. Blair dazzled the crowd with an array of emphatic dunks, smooth footwork, crisp passes and demoralizing blocked shots.

In a tournament field littered with top-tier teams and premier talent, Blair used it as a coming-out party on the national stage.

He finished the tournament by being named the MVP.

“I love the pressure,” Blair said, “I really do.”

After the game, Blair was treated like a star. Hugs, smiles and standing ovations were abundant as he waved to fans wearing Pitt apparel.

There wasn’t a lot with an evening game and a deadline for the Sunday paper. Plus, there’s a fast turnaround to get ready for Louisville.

You know, during the game, I kept marveling at how well Providence was playing. I’ve seen about 5 of their games this season, but this was one of their best — definitely the best on the road. Of course, 5 isn’t a particularly large sample size. Plus, I could have been a little delusional because of my biases for Pitt. Turns out others had the same view.

The Friars played as well as they have all season on the road (including a win at Connecticut) considering the atmosphere in the Petersen Events Center but still came up short.

Pittsburgh — and especially the Pete — is just not a fun place for the Friars to visit.

Pittsburgh improved to 22-3 on the season and stayed atop the Big East with a 10-1 record. PC is now 0-4 at The Pete and 3-17 all-time at Pittsburgh.

Hill and Curry led the Friars with 20 points apiece. PC is now 15-8 overall but at 5-5 and stuck in the middle of a muddled pack of Big East teams.

The article, though, also calls the intentional foul call “debatable.” Right. Great quote, though, from Gray about the style of this game.

“This is the Big East, so referees traditionally allow a lot of contact. I like it though, because if I get pushed on one end, it means I can push back that much harder on the other end. It’s the kind of game that I enjoy playing and where I excel.”

Just don’t go over the back.

With Gray’s 22 point outburst, naturally a lot of attention comes to the big guy.

“I was really working hard for post position and getting it pretty close to the basket,” Gray said. “My guys did a great job of feeding me the ball.”

Gray sat for only 2:47 of the final 16 minutes, and part of that came when he landed hard on his back following an intentional foul by Providence freshman Ray Hall on a layup with 2:37 to play.

“I was frustrated from having to sit out the whole first half,” Gray said. “That was my fault. I made some stupid mistakes. I thought maybe I could convince him a little bit. I sat for a few minutes, and it worked out well. Obviously, I was still a little hot from picking up my third foul. I could have very easily right away picked up my fourth foul.”

Gray picked up his fourth foul with 22 seconds to play, with Pitt ahead, 71-66.

“He fought through it and played very well,” Dixon said of Gray. “It was good to see.”

It was a great bit of camera work early in the second half when Gray picked up his third foul. You could see him shouting/pleading back to Coach Dixon not to take him out. Where Gray pointed to his own head indicating he would be smart.

Naturally Dixon, after the game, suggested he wasn’t going to pull Gray at that point. Providence decided that with its size inside, the main focus would be on limiting the action on the perimeter. Which they did, limiting 3-point shot opportunities and holding Pitt to only 5-13 shooting from outside. Not every team, though, has the size Providence does to try that.

“It was pick your poison,” Welsh said. “Very rarely do you see a team shoot 43 percent from the 3-point line. That number can hurt you. I’ve seen teams try to zone them and they’re very efficient with the zone. We’ve played them with the zone over the last few years. They’ve always attacked our zone well. I don’t like leaving Gray loose. I wanted to have a body on him. What our problem was they have now surrounded him with great shooters, which makes it tough.”

Pitt shot 46 percent from the field. Antonio Graves and Mike Cook joined Gray in double figures with 13 and 11 points. Providence center Herbert Hill and point guard Sharaud Curry led the Friars with 20 points apiece.

It’s interesting, that Pitt and Providence have similar correlation with certain stats. The eFG% was a wash, and while Providence actually beat Pitt on the offensive glass, that advantage was negated by the number of turnovers for Providence — and their inability to make free throws.

Gray’s back may be sore, but it should be alright come Monday. Ron Cook continues his series on lauding individual Pitt players with one for Gray. Seriously, get Smizik in there for some backhanded compliments and nit-picking questioning of tactics. Just so I have something to get annoyed over.

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