April 20, 2009

Bright Stars Coming Soon

Filed under: Basketball,Recruiting — Chas @ 12:46 pm

Well, this is not exactly coming to Pitt. Or even Seton Hall. It’s not even Rhode Island. DeAndre Kane, once-upon a time of Schenley High and once a player in which Pitt had interest, is headed to the Thundering Herd of Marshall. Playing time is claimed to be the main issue for him. He’ll get it at Marshall. Academic issues, which have dodged Kane for quite some time, is something of a subtext in his decision in my view.

Over the weekend the AAU Tournaments got underway. In case you were unfamiliar with the NCAA logic, coaches are now banned from attending these April tournaments. Why? So the high school students wouldn’t miss as much school for the spring tournaments. The idea being that if the coaches were not there, the interest in these tournaments would be deadened and not happen. Naturally, it hasn’t worked that way.

Instead, it creates a new revenue stream for the promoters who can now sell video of the events to coaches. It may also lead to a new gray area where coaches may hire (unofficially of course) someone they trust to attend and evaluate players. Even shadier, the unofficial “scout” would be able to make direct contact with potential recruits. Maybe let them know that “Coach X” sends his regards or whatever. I’m not impressed or enthused by the rule.

At the Reebok All-American Game in D.C. over the weekend there were a couple Pitt commits playing. Talib Zanna and Dante Taylor made appearances and stood out in their respective games.

Zanna was part of the undercard.

Talib Zanna has turned himself into a player. I saw Zanna last year at the National High School Hoops Festival, and there was certainly potential there, but the big man hadn’t yet grown into his body completely. The 6-8 forward who plays at local hoops power Bishop McNamara has since signed a letter of intent to suit up in the Big East next season with Pitt. Zanna did most of his damage inside, playing aggressively on the glass and showing a developing post game. At this point he is limited to a drop step and baby hook to the middle, but the potential for more is there. I was most impressed by his ability to handle the ball in transition, which he did on several occasions, leading the break for Team Finish.

Zanna finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds. He was named one of the game MVPs

Then there was Dante Taylor in the prime game.

Taylor went to work in the first half, netting 16 of his game high 26 points before the break in action. There wasn’t a question that he was the most physically imposing and gifted player on the floor during the game, getting his baskets on a variety of thunderous dunks in the lane and the a pair of spot up three’s on the wing. Having only seen video of Taylor in the past, I was most impressed with the big man’s motor. He hustled up the court on seemingly every play (rare in these kinds of games) and overall has good speed for a dude packing 220+ onto his frame. With Pittsburgh losing Sam Young and DeJuan Blair there is no question that Taylor will be starting from day one when he arrives on campus and this performance indicates the rook will handle himself just fine in the Big East.

Taylor also shared in MVP honors in the game. Taylor shot clutch free throws at the end of the game to clinch it for his team — very promising.

Pitt’s 2010 verbal, Isiah Epps, was in Pittsburgh for the Jam Fest. He does not lack for confidence in his game and has a vision for his future.

Epps can’t wait to take the court at Pitt — even if one of his goals is not to stay a Panther for long.

“I want to make them No. 1 in the nation,” Epps said. “I want to be their leading scorer, lead them in assists, just make them good in everything. I want to be one and done, too. I want to go straight to the NBA after a year.”

There is an instinctive quesy feeling about any kid already thinking NBA. The fact is, most top basketball players envision themselves in the NBA sooner rather than later. That’s where their dream is. The pros. So, hopefully his game is really that good.

I can understand why Epps is too old to be able to play his senior year in high school. He may have been left behind one or two years. He doesn’t come across as being a bright light. God bless him for wanting to be a one and done. It is another thing to make a public announcement that it is almost a done deal. In any case, I wouldn’t anticipate that we can put him in “Received His College Degree” column in the future.

Comment by BigGuy 04.20.09 @ 3:26 pm

Big-program coaches have to walk a delicate line. You want to chase players who think they’re of the “one and done” variety, but you rarely want them to succeed as quickly as they’d like. Maybe once in a while, if you have a squad who can make a run at a national championship with the right catalyst (Derrick Rose), you’re OK with a 1-yr pitstop by a major talent on his way to bigger and better things, but most of the time you’d rather win with ballplayers who aren’t using your college program as an all-too brief ready-made platform for their financial ambition.

I guess your ideal player thinks he’s “one and done”, but major conference competition convinces him otherwise, and he stays a couple years to get better.

This is probably a minority opinion, but I’d rather have Pitt be an average to good team in the Big East without recruiting many kids who even think they may be “one and done”.

And I’m not blaming or labelling Epps; this is more a of a general issue I’m raising. I’m sure this specific kid is just giving voice to his dreams and who can fault him for that? I’m just a bit too old-school to want to see a parade of kids “matriculate” here for one year.

What’s also sad is that it’s impossible for Dixon to be honest with a recruit like Epps and say “John Wall……one and done. You, not so much.”

Comment by hugh green 04.20.09 @ 3:34 pm

“This is probably a minority opinion, but I’d rather have Pitt be an average to good team in the Big East without recruiting many kids who even think they may be “one and done”.”

Hugh, I’m with you. In my opinion, having a number of one and doners changes the character of the school. This doesn’t seem to bother UConn and a number of other schools, however.

Comment by BigGuy 04.20.09 @ 4:04 pm

If Zanna is so good why did his team finish 4th in a 10 team conference?

Comment by Topper22 04.20.09 @ 4:16 pm

Anyone who has seen Zanna play think he can start next year at center alongside Taylor? If not Zanna, any thoughts on who starts at the 5 if we don’t recruit any other bigs in 2009?

I also agree that building a program around “one and dones” isn’t a sound strategy to remain consistent…unless of course you’re UNC, in which case the best players somehow inevitably flock to chapel hill.

Comment by hail2pitt 04.20.09 @ 5:44 pm

“Academic issues, which have dodged Kane for quite some time…”

I think you meant dogged.

Comment by frankinshamokin 04.20.09 @ 5:44 pm

Hugh & BigGuy, I am another in the monority that wasn’t unhappy with the status quo of the Pitt program of the past 7-8 years. Sure, I woould love to see a Final 4 team, but not at the expense of not reaching the NCAA every other year. Our 4 year mainstays (Page, Brown, Troutman, Kinght, Fields and Young) will always be my favorite players

I think the optimum would be is a good mix of these solid players who will stay 3 or 4 years along with a handful of ‘one and done’ or ‘two and adieu'(I just made that up.)

Lastly, it appears that both Taylor and Zanna prefer uptempo …. as I assume Gil Brown, Wannamaker, Woodall, Gibbs and Dwight Miller do .. next yearmay be different in a couple of ways.

Comment by w bill 04.20.09 @ 6:28 pm

“two and adieu” — i’m going to use that. copyright it quick.

i think just about all players prefer uptempo, but don’t hold your breath waiting for that at Pitt.

They could have run more this year, even with the Dixon reins held tight, but Blair never learned to throw outlet passes. He liked to grab those rebounds and hold them and flex a bit and wasn’t really interested in firing an Unseld-type pass upcourt to a guard with momentum. But that’s nitpicking…..I could live without the outlets because at least he was dominating the boards.

Comment by hugh green 04.20.09 @ 7:33 pm

As hugh described recruiting one and done players is great if you have a team like Memphis did a couple of years ago. However for programs that don’t have teams around them it is hardly worth it. What did it do for Kansas State to have Beasly? Not much. I prefer kids like Levance and Sam who stick around and get better every year. I really felt a connection to those kids. Dejuan was a wonderful player and I loved his attitude, but I don’t feel the same connection to him as I do to Fields, Young, Ramon, Keith Benjamin, Brandin Knight or Carl Krauser. Ideally, you have the 4 year guys like Sam and Levance and bring in a Dejaun Blair to put them over the top. It almost happened this year. Hopefully, the new group can make it happen in 2 years with Brad, Gilbert, Gary and the younger guys like Woodall, Gibbs, Miller with the high-end talent of Epps and Taylor to get to the final 4.

Comment by Omar 04.20.09 @ 8:50 pm

With Epps’ one and done stategy, it’s going to be interesting if he even shows up to take his final exams. Say he is the 12th best point guard in the country his freman year. That’s not going to qualify him for the NBA. Jamie and the AD may have to enter into some serious talks with a few instructor if there will be two and adieu or tre and I’m going away.

Comment by BigGuy 04.20.09 @ 11:02 pm

Quick question: Does PITT award Associate Degrees for two year programs? I just wonder if any of these kids who don’t finish their Baccalaureate degrees can at least have something to show for their time in school.

Comment by Reed 04.21.09 @ 4:21 am

Omar, your ‘connection’statement was right on and really emphasized my point. While Blair was in the spotlight with a bubbly personality, I still remember fondly the Monday night 5 years ago (or so) when Troutman took on 3 future NBA frontline players at UConn (Boone, Gay & Villaneuva) and scored 29 points to upset them … and he didn’t have Sam Young scoring 27 pts to aid him.

My fondest memory however is when UConn came to the Pete with B Gordon and Omekufor and jumped out to a 14 pt lead, but Pitt clawed back highlighted by a Jaron Brown steal right in from of Calhoun late in the game, .. and even though Jaron wasn’t known for his speed, he was not going to be denied and drove all the way for a 3 pt play … Gordon and the other Husky guard couldn’t get to him until he made the layup.

I just hope the program’s personality doesn’t change too much, and I doubt that it will.

Comment by w bill 04.21.09 @ 8:53 am

It is a fact of life for the “elite” of college basketball to have some turnover with kids committing early. While I am proud of what the Pitt teams have done over the last 8 years, I look forward to Pitt gaining elite status.

I have no problem with some “one and doners” as long as they are high character kids which seems to exemplify Pitt players for the most part. You need them to get to the mountain and to ultimately win the fight once there.

We don’t get to the Elite 8 nor have a chance to play to go to the Final this year without a player (Blair) who has left early. I guarantee you that any of the players in these past 8 years would gladly have taken “one and doners” to have a better chance to get the prize.

I am not satisfied with keeping a ‘status quo’ of good teams at the expense of not incorporating “one and doners.” Also it is my belief that JD has come to that conclusion as well. Blair and most likely Epps confirms it.

Comment by Kenny 04.21.09 @ 12:04 pm

I agree with Kenny’s post above. In order to get to an “elite” level, you need to compromise somewhat and get the one-and-done kids from time to time. It’s a given that those kids are unlikely to come back and earn a degree, though as we found out, Pitt gives them the option once their careers are over.

I believe Chas told us about this option around the time that Shady declared, so to answer Reed’s question, a two-year degree is unnecessary. Also, I would punch the Chancellor and Provost in their faces if he ever decided to offer an Associate’s Degree at Pitt. I hope that after lengthy and lucrative careers a dozen or so years from now, we can also count Larry, Revis, Shady, and DeJuan as alumni.

What would disappoint me more would be if the graduation rate dropped for the players who are otherwise at Pitt for 4 or 5 years. At that point, I would find it difficult to argue that we have not compromised some of our academics for athletics. For example, UNC and Duke are both elite programs with players who leave early, but they still graduate a respectable percentage of players. As much as people bag on the rigors of a degree in fields like Sociology or Administration of Justice, it is still a degree and makes them more marketable than a high school diploma.

Comment by Orange Julius Page 04.21.09 @ 1:25 pm

As far as Blair getting a degree, I can envision his job interview.

“Well, Mr. Blair. The work day begins at 8:00 am and ends at 5:00 pm. You are expected to show up for work every day.”

“Say, what?”

Comment by BigGuy 04.21.09 @ 2:50 pm

In defense of Blair, that’s the same reaction of any current college student or recent college graduate.

Though, I would love to see DeJuan supplement his income by teaming with Max Talbot to drop a new A & L Motors commercial. Max could show him what the “Superstar Treatment” is all about.

All DeJaun would have to do is learn the lines, “Joookajoojoo joookajoojoo.”

Comment by Orange Julius Page 04.21.09 @ 3:16 pm

Do you think any of those Pitt 4-year players would have given up their playing time for a kid who showed up just long enough to be eligible for one season in the Big East? Players who spent 4 yrs working on their games, practices and summer leagues………. I don’t know about that.

Be careful what you wish for. Those elite players come with a price and my guess is you won’t be nearly as proud of Pitt’s program if it becomes a revolving door for those type of players.

I think it’s fine for the occasional kid to leave early because the NBA is calling. Blair was right to leave and get paid and he wasn’t hyped as a short-term player coming in. I’m just hoping Dixon isn’t interested in short-term players every year, but like I said, that’s probably a minority opinion.

Comment by hugh green 04.21.09 @ 4:58 pm

“I’m just hoping Dixon isn’t interested in short-term players every year, but like I said, that’s probably a minority opinion.”

I don’t think that you are in a minority…at least not until Pitt loses a few games and has to struggle to make the NCAA tourney. (LOL)

I question whether Dixon has changed his philosophy. He’ll have to recruit a greater number of players every year. The ones that remain, presumably, are not the (NBA) stars. (Young and Gray counter that argument.)

To me, college sports lose their appeal when the team is comprised of mercenaries instead of students who later serve as ambassadors for the university.

Comment by BigGuy 04.21.09 @ 9:36 pm

well said, big guy

Comment by hugh green 04.21.09 @ 11:44 pm

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