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July 30, 2010

International Basketball Fun Begins

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

While the Pitt football team is making the Mouse Monopoly rounds, the basketball team should be in Ireland. For many it is their first time out of the United States, and while they are looking forward to seeing some of the sights, they also just want to play some basketball.

“I’m anxious to play,” Wanamaker said. “I can’t wait. Guys are learning their roles. We’re becoming better as a team, bonding together. Guys are getting their confidence and getting ready for the season. I think it will help a lot.

“We know what we have to improve on, what and what not to do. I think it will be a big plus for us.”

And Coach Jamie Dixon isn’t doing this trip just because it is fun for the kids. It’s an opportunity.

“We’re going over there more for the freshmen,” Dixon said. “More and more teams will be doing it with the new freshman rule.”

Until this year, teams could take foreign competition tours, but incoming freshmen could not participate. As a result, teams did not always take advantage of the NCAA rules that allow a foreign trip once every four years.

Dixon predicts that will change now.

“We got a lot out of it already with the practices,” Dixon said. “For returning guys it was good. But even more so for the new guys and for Lamar [Patterson] and Talib [Zanna], the guys who redshirted.

“You can see their growth. You’ll have the experience of the travel. You gain some things doing things together.”

While these games are exhibitions, the players aren’t taking them lightly. They know that some of the competition is more than merely a local team.

Pitt will face Australia’s oldest and most respected basketball club, the Melbourne Tigers, on Aug. 6 in Belfast. The Tigers, which feature former Syracuse guard Eric Devendorf and former Utah center Luke Nevill, have claimed four Australian NBL championships. The Panthers will take on the English National Team the following day on Aug. 7 in Belfast and the Irish National Team two times in Dublin.

“We’re going out there playing against grown men, and we all want to show how much stronger we got as a team, especially in the Big East,” Woodall said. “The rules are kind of different, they’re a lot different, but we’ve just got to get acclimated much faster. It gives us a chance to build chemistry and play against more physical talent.”

There will also be adjustments to some of the international rules.

The ball has a slightly different feel. The three-second lane is wider. The shot clock is shorter (24 seconds). There are no one-and-one free throws. There are four 10-minute quarters instead of two 20-minute halves. Only the coach can call timeout, and the three-point line is three inches closer.

To simulate the foreign game, Dixon employed a 20-second clock during 5-on-5 drills in practice.

“It’s basketball,” Brown said. “There are just a few different changes. We’ll be all right.”

The one rule that has the Pitt players excited is the lack of goaltending, offensive or defensive, once the ball hits the rim. Any player can touch the ball in the cylinder, which could lead to some thunderous put-backs.

“I like that rule,” Woodall said. “We’ve got a bunch of athletic guys who will definitely do that.”

I kind of worry about some bad habits developing with the goaltending stuff, but I think that is counterbalanced with an encouragement to be more aggressive on rebounding and shot-blocking.

Of course, lost in all the talk of what this means for Pitt and the Pitt players is the aegis under which Pitt is traveling and playing in Ireland.

When he speaks of the 10-second rule, Ringland is referring to basketball programs that bring Protestant and Catholic kids together through a non-profit organization called PeacePlayers International. The Pitt basketball team will get a close-up look at the program during a 12-day, six-game exhibition tour that is sure to leave a lasting impression. The Panthers take off today and are scheduled to visit Belfast next weekend.

Steelers president emeritus Dan Rooney, the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, and his wife, Patricia, helped organize Pitt’s trip. So did the Panthers’ director of basketball operations, Brian Regan, who has witnessed first-hand the power of PeacePlayers.

“These are kids who could be sitting together at the negotiating table someday,” Regan says.

Basketball is a non-sectarian sport in Ireland. It is neutral. The miracle happens almost the instant the PeacePlayer participants — usually ages 9 to 15 — are set loose on the court and immerse themselves in a swirl of chatter of errant shots.

Ten seconds later, the whistle blows, and the kid standing next to you might be from the other side of the wall. But you’re 11 years old, so why would you care?

“The idea is to throw them together before they realize they’re actually together,” Ringland says. “They mix naturally. The divisions disappear.”

New England Swing

Filed under: Football,Media,Mouse Monopoly — Chas @ 9:31 am

Today is Pitt’s turn for the ESPN blitz in Bristol, CT. Coach Wannstedt, Dion Lewis and Greg Romeus.

“This is one of the most anticipated seasons for the University of Pittsburgh in recent history,” Pitt spokesman E.J. Borghetti said. “In addition to having extremely high team aspirations, we believe we have two of the elite talents in all of college football in Dion Lewis and Greg Romeus. And I can’t think of a better place to promote that than the worldwide leader in sports.”

And on Tuesday, it is Big East Media Day up in Newport, Rhode Island. In addition to Coach Wannstedt, Lewis and Romeus, Jason Pinkston, Jonathan Baldwin and Dom DeCicco will be representing Pitt.

Closing fast on the start of training camp and the start of the 2010 season.

Maybe it says something about recruiting and the whole spectacle it creates, but I am already very happy about Terrell Chestnut becoming a Pitt Panther.

Chestnut’s local paper shot some shaky video of his announcement — unfortunately they used a non-embeddable video player so you have to go to the story. The other annoying thing is that they broke it up into two parts, but set both to auto start.

Still, they aren’t particularly long, and worth the annoyance. The first clip is of Chestnut’s high school coach speaking glowingly of his character, intelligence and leadership. He also calls it the biggest signing at the school since he has been the coach.

The second clip is Chestnut making the announcement, or as he puts it “one of the best moments of my life.” Chestnut’s announcement is almost entirely about thanking family, teachers, coaches, teammates, and everyone who has helped him. There is nothing about the process. Nothing about himself and making the choices. Then at the end, simply putting a Pitt hat on his head and saying he is going to the University of Pittsburgh.

No multiple hats. No self-aggrandizement. Just taking the opportunity to acknowledge and thank the people that helped him, before announcing his choice.

I don’t begrudge the kids who make it a spectacle. I don’t particularly like it, but I don’t begrudge it. They are young. For the great majority, they will never again receive that kind of attention and interest. Once they get to college all power shifts away from them.

Yet, watching the video of Terrell Chestnut make his decision, fills me with pride that he chose Pitt.

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