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April 4, 2012

Recognizing the Issues

Filed under: Basketball,Recruiting — Chas @ 2:38 pm

As the past couple days posts on basketball recruiting have shown, Pitt and Coach Dixon are being very active in trying to add at least one more player to the recruiting class, if not two. It makes sense. Pitt needs frontcourt help and the backcourt needs ball handlers immediately.

The frontcourt need is looming. Even assuming Talib Zanna becomes the answer at power forward for next year (he’ll be a redshirt junior), there is really no one behind him.

That is why Savon Goodman is being pursued hard by Pitt whether for this year or next. His talent is obvious, but the need is great. It is why Pitt had been looking at JUCO power forwards. Unfortunately, Orlando Sanchez appears to have eliminated Pitt from his list favoring options where it is almost certain he could start right away.

In the backcourt the key is, are the players good ball-handlers (and of course defense)? One of the big problems for Pitt was turnovers. Blame Woodall, a bit, but when you look at the guards and wings on this squad,  there’s a reason Woodall had the ball in his hands for so much of the time. Who else in the backcourt made you feel comfortable with the ball in his hands?  Especially against teams that would exert defensive pressure. Johnson? Wright? No. The “best” options after Woodall were Patterson and Gibbs.

That’s why you actually saw Coach Dixon play Epps to spell Woodall when Gibbs was hurt in the final games. So even guard/forward, Chris Jones, from whom Pitt has a verbal has good ball-handling skills. As does transfer target Trey Zeigler.

That concern is also seen in a target for 2013 — when Pitt will definitely need to look for wing or small forwards to have ready after Patterson and Moore graduate in 2014. Preferably one who is sure-handed. A good argument could be made that part of the attraction Pitt has for Chris Jones is that he is a good ball handler, in addition to a solid defender.

One possible target for the 2013 class is Jamel Artis.

NBE saw Artis this season with Vermont Academy as well as last summer with Baltimore Elite. Our National Recruiting Analyst Brian Bosworth had this scouting report of Artis from the Hoop Group’s End of Summer Classic last AAU season:

Artis is a big guard standing at 6’6” and while he can play both guard positions his true calling seems to be at the point. He is a mismatch nightmare at that spot because he is just too big for defenders to handle. He has a good combination of power and speed which allow him to work his way into the lane repeatedly. Artis is a skilled passer both in transition and in half court ball screen sets. Probably his top skill right now is his toughness on the glass which he exhibits on both ends of the floor. Despite playing point guard for Baltimore Elite, Artis was unquestionably their best rebounder today. He loves contact inside and finished through it multiple times both on drives and offensive rebounds.

Artis is hoping to show scouts and college coaches this spring and summer those same traits when he hits the floor.

Right now, Artis only has an official offer from TCU, but is getting interest from Pitt, Arizona, Georgetown, UConn, Florida and Maryland. He has a 3-star listing at the moment (Insider subs). Mainly because his weakness is in consistent shooting from outside. But his size and potential make him very attractive.

Artis is a very good athlete that excels on the break by running the outside lane or by defensive rebounding and starting the break with a bust out dribble. His length allows him to be a good finisher when he slashes to the basket in the half court set. Artis is a good passer as well when he draws a second defender. He is also a good enough athlete to defend both wing positions as well.

Artis is a long athletic wing that can get to the rim with slashes in transition as well as in the half court set. He is a good ball handler, rebounder and multiple position defender as well. He must get stronger and extend his shooting range but has very good upside.

The fact that he is capable of slashing to the basket in the half-court is an extra plus. His performance on the AAU circuit this summer could raise his profile, but he definitely has the attention of a bunch of high-major programs.

Ho Hum. 16 year old kids.

Comment by Yup 04.04.12 @ 3:14 pm

6’6″ guys who can handle must be becoming more common. this year it was kyle anderson, next year its artis and amile jefferson.

i think for 2012, if dixon is going the guard route, someone like trey zeiger would be a top priority. hes 6’4″/6’5″ with good athleticism, lenth, ball handling, and a good scorer. he could be the dynamic 2 guard thats pitts always wanted. plus his length would be a big help with perimeter defense. its a shame pitts now on the outs with sanchez, though

Comment by pk 04.04.12 @ 3:17 pm

Sorry, I might be late to the party on this. But any more news on Steven Adams academic issues?

I agree with the whole ‘sure-handedness / quickness’ it was painful to watch the lack of penetration this year, even on some softer defenses. Even if its someone who may get 10 minutes a game just to mess around with the opponents offense a bit and keep them off balance.

Comment by Benzene 04.04.12 @ 3:30 pm

Excellent point about Woodall lack of ball handling skills as well as defense that cost Pitt the Conneticut game and several others.

Because of this obvious fact I cannot believe that the sports writers still say Woodall should start at PG next year with Robibson his backup.
It has been one of Jamie’s problems to play young players with more talent immediately and let them make mistakes in the non-conference schedule, the only way to accelerate their ability to gain confidence and contribute in January-March. Unless pictures lie or Robinson has a maturity problem adjusting to college – unlikely starting at DeMatha since he was a freshman at this moment Robinsons ballhandling skills, defense technique, hustle, shooting mechanics, penetrating ability, height,and most importantly apparent composure and understanding of the game are at a point Woodall will never achieve.

Jamie loves going into January undeafted. This years example was not playing both Taylor and Zanna minimize Pitt’s extreme lack of an inside presence. Instead he stuck with a 6’5″ strong forward with no shot or ability to put the ball on the floor and who was overmatched defensively by all big-east strong forwards.

Also not giving Moore siginficcantly more time before January so he could gain his confidence that was destroyed early by Dixon’s lack of patience and overconcern with racking up early victories.

Comment by drw 04.04.12 @ 3:32 pm

Epps announced he is transferring.

Comment by longsufferingpittfan 04.04.12 @ 3:33 pm

i dont think its fair to question woodalls effort. he played the second half of the season getting shots into his abdomin before every practice and game and the injury limited his lateral quickness and jumping abilities

Comment by pk 04.04.12 @ 3:38 pm

Benzene this is certainly not a definitive answer to the question all of us are holding our breath about. I went to the only source I had at my disposal the internet and enterd every type of query concerning this issue to locate some hard evidenceor even heresay.

There was nothing only early reports (january and Feburary about how well he has adjusted and how how he works on and off the court.

Concerning his non-partipation in the slam fest being an indicator of academic problems all I could find were statements concerning him and another non-American player that Addidas hopes will participate but no reasons why they may choose not to.
Actually Adams has nothing to prove he has already played head-to-head against Nolens (#1 ranked center and Twaarski#4 ranked center) and outscored by double figues and outrebounded both of them.

As for academics this is always an issue with players. Despite the fact that Adams appears much more mature than most American players his background of limited formal schooling is a concern. In reality however what formal schooling have many of the top players really have. How much formal education did Birch and others like get being play for hire basketball gypsies attending 4 or more different High Schools.

Comment by drw 04.04.12 @ 3:56 pm

Woodall was leaps and bounds Pitt’s best player before the injury and never got all the way back from his injury. Woodall will be fine and I’m sure ball security will be his top priority going into next season. He’s gotten better each season and with some competition at the point next year should be better. 2 out of 3 of Pitt’s major problems are gone next year … Gibbs (attitude) and Nas (injured/undersized). Taylor being the third but based on the CBI will be a reserve – which is what he should be.


That’s a legit BE starting lineup. Need a little more athleticism for the move to the ACC but based on what Dixon’s recruiting, it looks like he realizes that.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 04.04.12 @ 4:14 pm

Epps has anounced he transferred today…

Comment by PantherP 04.04.12 @ 4:23 pm

We need Zeigler.

Best of luck Epps.

Comment by TX Panther 04.04.12 @ 4:26 pm

Get Zeigler and Goodman. Let Chris Jones go.

Comment by Tony C 04.04.12 @ 5:20 pm

DRW, I’m convinced now that you are trying to get a job as James Robinson’s agent, the way you promote him. Kid’s a highschool great player, dont get me wrong, but he hasn’t even played a minute of college ball. And as someone above said (and as I said pre-injury), Woodall was our best player until he got hurt and he never came back. You need leadership and experience in your senior and no one of the team will have it like Woodall will next year. He’s gonna be our starter for good reasons. Robinson will ave 15+ minutes though I bet and take over in 2013.

Any word on Chris Obekpa? A bunch of schols offered, and we haven’t. He’s listed as a C but at 6-9 and with his skill set could be a PF I think. I dunno, but he’s still out there for the 2012 class.

Comment by PantherP 04.04.12 @ 5:39 pm


Opekpa is actually a 2013 recruit. Pitt is hard after him — but so are a lot of teams. Yes, Robinson is his teammate, but so was Grant who is going to Cuse — and they are after him as well. We will see.

Comment by Chas 04.04.12 @ 7:50 pm

Pitt is an after thought in these “way to early” preseason polls. Not surprised after last season but when was the last time we didn’t get the respect in the offseason? Something these guys should realize and be motivated for.

Comment by Max 04.04.12 @ 7:51 pm

We should be fine next year. DRW – you make Robinson sound like a top 5 recruit, he’s not even 5 stars, Woodall will be demonstrably better. I would not be at all surprised to see Gilbert red-shirted next year – assuming Adams is all we hope him to be – he’ll be a one and done, leaving us short of experienced big men the year after – Zanna (who I think will have a break out year next year) and Gilbert.

Comment by marcus of schaumburg 04.04.12 @ 9:41 pm

If we ever want to make a final four we need to continue to recruit at a high level. No more 3 stars

Comment by Tony C 04.04.12 @ 10:51 pm

thanks Chas…Scouts had him for 2012 but i believe you. maybe doing a postgrad year.

We’ll need a PF for the future anyway, short term and long term. Need one now that can bridge until we hopefully bring one in in 2013.

Comment by PantherP 04.04.12 @ 11:24 pm

Pitt sports should be taking a little bit of a back seat right now with everything going on at Pitt’s campus these last couple of weeks. I love bashing Tino Sunseri as much as the next person, but the campus is very uneasy right now with what is now almost 20 bomb threats. 7 today.

Comment by Timmeh 04.05.12 @ 12:03 am

It’s quite amazing that nobody believes we are a possible top 25 team next year. I love reading how Nerlens Noel and all these other guys are gonna make ‘huge’ impacts. If that’s the case why is it that it seems that Adams impact is being overlooked. i’m obviously a little biased, but how in the hell is this team not top 25 if Adams is as advertised.

Comment by Pitt Rob 04.05.12 @ 12:03 am

Panther P Anthony Davis did not play a minute of college basketball. I am not comparing Robinson to Davis but frankly I stand by my contention of Woodall v Robinson based on the high level of competiton DeMatha plays and Robinsons success. Also based on numerous videos I have seen of Robinson and two years of watching Woodall. My assessments may be my own but I base them on my knowlege of playing guard for seven years of basketball; high school and Division A and 4 years of high school coaching.

Frankly I think this is one of Dixon major flaws as a coach in addition to his inability to teach his players how to break a press and the only coach I have ever seen but the end of the half or game in the hands of one guard who dribbles around until the final seconds and then throws up a desperation shot, rather than get into their offense at about 12 seconds left.

We have drank the Kool-Aid and believe Jamie has no flaws as a coach. Consider why during a down year in college basketball Pitt could not get beyond the elite 8 with two top twelve All-Americans on the same team.

Against Villanova Blair was 12 for 12 and Young could not be stopped but as usual Fields dominated the ball and Dixon let him. Also why even pressure the the inbounds pass and the end of the game rather double team Cheeks on the inbounds pass to deny him the ball. Everyone knew who Villanova wanted to have the ball.

Sorry Marcus I have to disagree with you on Robinson the #4 ranked PG coming out of high school. Compared to a 5’11” junior guard playing out of position who scored most of his points against powder puffs (11-1) before the conference schedule and when he returned in two games against big east bottom feeders.

Against the better teams in the league his number of turnovers per time played equaled the number of points scored. Both were in the high single digits.

Comment by drw 04.05.12 @ 12:53 am

I think Robinson and Adams will bring excitement beyond this world, they are both + addys, D Johnson will bring it, more than you Think!…!

Comment by Gordo 04.05.12 @ 5:37 am

Pitt needs better guards first. I like Dixon’s aggressiveness in pursuing these players. When Adams goes pro, it will open the door to 4 star big guys lining up to get in. A down year is probably the best thing that could have happened to Pitt. Makes you humble, hungry and mad. I love traits.

Comment by TX Panther 04.05.12 @ 7:28 am

DRW, I agree that Dixon “let’s” his PGs get away with dominating the ball a little too much.

It’s kind of ironic that Knight was the least selfish Pitt PG we’ve had. He hit big shots, and got his, but you never felt like he held on to the ball too long, tried to do too much or took shots he shouldnt have. You can not say that about Krauser (obviously) or Fields and you can’t say it about Woodall. They all had just a tiny bit too much ego.

Just like Woodall. Maybe Knight as coach can help Woodall with this — getting him to not try to do too much.

But in any case, this is his major flaw. But that’s really it. Trying to do too much yields TOs. Otherwise Woodall is a senior PG with really no other major flaw. No other major assets either. But of any position you want leadership/experience at PG. So no way should Robinson get more minutes there than Woodall. 15+ per game.

Comment by PantherP 04.05.12 @ 9:48 am

Dixon’s offenses are routinely the most efficient in the nation. I don’t think anyone has to worry about how Dixon has his point guards play.

Really Levance fields held on to the ball too long? Levance fields assist-turnover ratio was 3.8, which was 28th in the nation and 1st in the Big East. So it wasn’t too much to always have the ball in his hands.

And in regards to Carl Krauser, he gets way too much of a bad rap from Pitt fans. His perceived selfishness was due to the players around him. Just look at who he played with his senior yet. Yuri started 14 games that year. I mean with those players around you of course you are going to shoot a lot. But then his junior year when the team was better he passed a lot more and accounted for about 40% of the teams assists, which was more than every season of Brandin Knight except for 1.

Comment by Wardapalooza 04.05.12 @ 11:24 am

I don’t think our past PGs were bad by any stretch.

And from worst to best in terms of holding on/trying to do too much, I’d go Krauser (though as Ward says, with arguably good reason), then Woodall, then Fields, then Knight.

Krauser does get a bad rap. But its not toally undeserved. And Fields’ assets far outweighed any draw backs. His a/to ratio was great.

Assit/to ratio stats only tell part of the story. Decision-making isn’t always relfected. Bad decision making usually means bad a/To ratio, and in that way the stat comparison between Woodall and past PGs is telling. Field’s generally made the right decisions.

But Fields really couldn’t make his own shot and could not do too much to create plays. He put the ball where it should’ve been most of the time — but that job was made much easier by having Sam Young and Dejuan Blair around — but he did it only when not taking the ball for himself which instances dont show up in A/TO stats.

Don’t take that comment as a knock on Fields. He was very good and I’d love to have him right now.

But he did have a habit, esp after he hit the big shot against Duke, to try to be the guy in clutch moments often times to ill effect. Not a TO, but an effective TO like a missed shot. His A/to was great but his shooting % was worse than anyone else who got playing time, incl both starters and the bench. He shot it a little more than his %s would indicate he should.

link to

Overall Fields brought more to the table than he took away, but far. Imagine if he didnt take ill-advised shots. I use this only as a point of reference for Woodall, who is way worse and has a little more ‘i need to be the guy’ attitude. In context, Woodall doesn’t have Young or Blair as obvious options. Still he tries to do too much.

Comment by PantherP 04.05.12 @ 1:18 pm

youre saying 2009 was a down year in college basketball? then what have the past 3 been? that year had some stacked teams, like unc( best college basketball team in over half a decade),a top 15 team in 09 wouldve been a top 3 team these past 2 years

Comment by pk 04.05.12 @ 8:33 pm

PK in hindsight you are right. 2012 was awful UConn-Butler in finals. 2009 would have been a tough final four for Pitt. Inside I think Pitt could of handled N.C. as it did every team but our guards, Fields and Anderson would have been easy prey for for N.C.

Comment by drw 04.09.12 @ 5:00 pm

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