Last week when Pat Skerry became the guy for Towson and Khem Birch was having his Twitter moment (and panicking the easily panicked), there was some questioning why Assistant Coach Brandin Knight was planning a meeting later that week with Birch to reassure him, but not Coach Jamie Dixon.
As usual, there is a decent reason. Coach Dixon made advanced plans to be elsewhere — and was. In this case New Zealand.
Instead, University of Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon is in Wellington barking out instructions to young Kiwi hopefuls at a two-day camp at Newtown’s Southwest Stadium.
Judging by the picture at the top of the article, that includes a future Panther that Coach Dixon obviously wanted to pay a visit.
Dixon will have a Kiwi on his roster next year, giant Wellington teenager and NBA prospect Steve Adams, but NCAA rules prevent coaches from discussing their recruits.
He was, however, happy to talk about his strong links with New Zealand, rattling off his Kiwi acquaintances Casey Frank and Brendon Polyblank, who played for him at Northern Arizona, Tab Baldwin, Mark Dickel and Curtis Wooten.
Oceania Basketball president Barbara Wheadon also played a part in Dixon’s return Down Under with the pair hitting it off in 2009 as Dixon coached the United States under-19 team to their first gold medal in 18 years at the world championships in Auckland.
Dixon was named USA basketball coach of the year for his efforts. “I got to know Barbara Wheadon when I was over here with the US national team and I just said any time I could help out with the basketball federation and their junior programmes or national teams, I would be willing to do that,” Dixon said.
“I don’t have a lot of free time or opportunities, and it’s a long trip, but the opportunity arose and I’m thankful that they asked me to come out and be a part of the programme. It’s a great opportunity to see friends and this is where I started out coaching, New Zealand.
Dixon, obviously won’t be spending a lot of time down under, since the recruiting cycle is just getting underway. Not to mention, Coach Dixon needs to be back in the states to talk to potential new hires as an assistant.
As for Skerry, he owes this job to Pitt’s Jamie Dixon, who is now suddenly the hot coach to land a head-coaching gig. (See: Mike Rice and Tom Herrion.) Skerry spent one season at Pitt after years in Rhode Island.
Don’t think the other assistants out there aren’t well aware of the opportunity. Dixon lets the assistants get plenty of exposure and credit. That makes them more marketable and noticed by athletic directors looking for a new head coach.
The Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (College seniors only) was this past weekend.
A large contingency of NBA scouts, GMs and executives is still in attendance, mostly grumbling about the poor quality of talent assembled and complaining about bad decisions made by a huge amount of NCAA seniors that elected to pass on competing at this event.
Many would like to see significant changes made to the format of this camp and the way that players are selected, but we hear these complaints every PIT, and nothing much has really changed in our seven years attending this event.
I really love how the NBA continues to grumble about the individual decisions when they can’t reach a league consensus on setting up a combine, pro-days, workouts, and so much else. Instead they just rely on others to set things up and then complain that they aren’t good enough.
For the most part Pitt’s players: Gary McGhee, Gilbert Brown and Brad Wanamaker were who they have always been in the PIT.
Gary McGhee is among the least skilled players here, but his value as a prospect is fairly obvious. For one, the former Pittsburgh center has excellent size for the NBA post, standing 6-11 with a long and rugged 250-pound frame. That said, he is neither a great athlete nor the most mobile big man.
Though he has little trouble holding his own defensively in the post by bodying up his man and denying position, he struggled when his man took him away from the basket as his poor lateral quickness limits his ability to hedge screens.
McGhee’s offense is very raw at this point, evident in his extremely limited footwork and his inability to execute anything outside of a basic jump hook and put backs. He finished with 13 points on 6-10 FG with eight rebounds in just 19 minutes of action.
Brad Wanamaker had another solid game here, highlighted by a great stretch with under a minute remaining in the game where he hit a pull-up jumper to pull his team within three points; stole the subsequent inbounds pass and hit a contested floater to cut the lead to one; then hit another pull-up jumper the next time down the floor to give his team the lead. He ultimately missed a potential game-winning buzzer beater, but the overall display was impressive.
Looking at the game as a whole, Wanamaker did a very good job playing team defense and doing all the little things scouts look for in role players. He was once again non-descript offensively, except for the final sequences of the game. His underwhelming athletic abilities are exposed occasionally on both ends of the floor, but he continually wills his way to positive contributions with his hustle and basketball IQ.
It’s easy to see why Wanamker was such a valuable player for Jamie Dixon over the last several years. He’s smart, tough and has some talent to go with it. Though he might not get drafted, Wanamaker would raise the level of play in any setting, be it summer league or training camp.
As for Gilbert Brown. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. He looked impressive one day and not so much on others.
Brown did just about everything on the offensive end that scouts expect in an NBA wing prospect, scoring in transition, off of cuts, off of the dribble from the mid-range, and by slashing to the basket. While he struggled to create his own shot during his senior season, he looks far more comfortable putting the ball on the floor where he is able to use his quick first step and explosiveness to his advantage.
He also made good decisions, only taking one questionable shot and deferring to his teammates when necessary despite being the best scoring option on the floor. He has looked both assertive and unselfish thus far, and he must continue to show scouts that he can be an effective role player at the next level.
Brown’s defense was notable, as is often the case, and he guarded just about every position on the floor. He was extremely physical and scrappy inside despite his lack of size. He played very well on the perimeter, as well, as his lateral quickness allows him to stay in front of most guards here.
For these reasons, potential match-ups against John Holland, Bill Clark, and Corey Fisher in Day Three’s nightcap are intriguing, as Brown will get to showcase his abilities on both sides of the ball against better competition. Brown is currently projected in the late second round pick, but continued success at Portsmouth could potentially boost his draft stock.
Overall, these grades seem about what you would expect.
GILBERT BROWN – GRADE: C+
Brown played well in his first game but then struggled in the next two games. He showed off his incredible athleticism, but what else can he do? He struggled shooting the ball and he can’t create.
GARY MCGHEE – GRADE: B
McGhee played solid defense, grabbed rebounds and scored when he had the ball near the basket. He struggles against double-teams and often panics with the ball.
BRAD WANAMAKER – GRADE: B
Wanamaker was efficient. He was unselfish, he knocked down some shots, he rebounded well, and he played defense.