I made the semi-conscious decision* not to do rundown of the way too premature top-25 predictions for college basketball until after the May 8 withdraw deadline for the NBA Draft.
Luke Winn includes Pitt in his list of teams with the biggest interest in the May 8 withdrawal date.
The Panthers can be a top-four team in the Big East if they keep junior combo guard Ashton Gibbs, who’s one of the league’s most efficient scorers. Conflicting information has been floating around about him; he reportedly told one agent he was “100 percent certain” about staying in the draft after declaring, but NBA sources seem to think that’s just posturing, and Gibbs’ father has since said that his son’s future is still TBD.
That’s a good thing for Gibbs, because leaving now would be unwise; multiple scouts I spoke with predicted he’d go undrafted in June. “Very good college player,” one scout said, “but not prepared [for the NBA] on a number of levels.” A season as Pitt’s primary scorer and playmaker off the dribble (which was more of what Brad Wanamaker did last year) could enhance Gibbs’ preparedness for the pros.
No guarantees, but it could only help if he can show more ball handling and improve his ability to drive to the basket.
Not that there aren’t other lists to look at as the dead season of college basketball is here.
How about the most overrated and underrated schools for the NBA Draft? Pitt came in at Number 10 for underrated.
Scout.com released their final rankings for the top-100 players in the 2011 signing class. Pitt signees nabbed three spots. Khem Birch (#14), Malcolm Gilbert (#83) and Durand Johnson (#88).
He is a monster shot-blocker and simply dominates on the defensive end. He is very long and can cover a lot of ground quickly which makes you think you can get a shot off before he swats it into the stands. Birch is also a consistent rebounder on the offensive end which allows him to get a lot of easy put-backs and tip-ins. He runs the floor very well and always finishes above the rim as well. One area he needs to improve upon includes his post moves on the block although he has already displayed a better interior scoring skill set as well as his strength. Birch can also improve on his mid-range game but the bottom line is he will earn a spot in Pittsburgh’s starting lineup and will bring a great defensive game with him.
Even Kentucky fans who get to drool over and examine a slew of recruits in the top all-star games have noticed Birch’s defense.
Malcolm Gilbert has been doing some of the other all-star games like the Capital City Classic, but also getting ready to be at Pitt.
Standing 6’11” and pretty strong, Gilbert combines that size with quickness and good feet. Ten points and eight rebounds were tallied by him.
Going forward, the thoughtful Gilbert understands he must continue getting stronger, for which he’s “in a weightlifting program right now” and will report to Pittsburgh in early summer. He also indicated “I have to get my drop step better. Just (make) quick decisive moves”, as well as work on going over his right shoulder for jump hooks.
Keep the focus on the defense first, and Gilbert will get the opportunities with his offense.
Gilbert may also be a key factor for a possible 2012 commit. His AAU team is/was the I-3 All-Stars. That squad includes former 2011 commit Jaylen Bond (reclassified for 2012 as he heads to St. Thomas More in CT, and reopened recruitment) and one of the top targets nationally for 2012, Amile Jefferson.
* I just didn’t have the stomach to think too much about rankings in the days after the NCAA Championship. Had them in a saved file, but then kept putting it off until it got stale and not worth doing. That has since become a choice to wait until we know who is in or out of the draft.