June 5, 2012

The NCAA finally changed some of the rules for college basketball players in the summer. The old rule forbade any organized practicing overseen by the coaching staff. Some individualized sessions were allowed, but not the whole team at once.

The rationale was that summer practicing under the coaches control would make college sports too much like a professional sports system, and all the other justifications. This led to fascinating work-arounds. Like the head coach have his office built with big windows to oversee the practice court. And if he happened to be in the office when the kids came for their own voluntary practices, well, then he could stand and watch them through the class. And, hey, that banging on the glass by the coach wasn’t to get their attention. He just heard something on the TV that caused him to react.

The NCAA finally loosened the rules and allows the coach two whole hours a week to work with the entire team.

Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News has long been a proponent of changing the rule, and he talked to various coaches about how they are using the practice time. Which also gives Pitt fans some injury updates.

How the coaches use the time available to them will be an individual choice. Some worry about burning out their players, although that fear seems misplaced given that most serious players were attending camps or hiring personal trainers to get quality offseason workouts.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon says he wouldn’t mind having his guys do a little 5-on-5 work, but he doesn’t have 10 healthy players in his sessions.

Center Dante Taylor turned his ankle on the first day and hasn’t been available since. Wing J.J. Moore has been out with a broken foot since an early April pickup game. Bothered by injury throughout the 2011-12 season, point guard Tray Woodall also is not participating.

Dixon admits he was one of those who thought, “Be careful — you might get what you wish for.” But getting his players up several times each week for 7:30 a.m. sessions has proven to be fruitful, even with so many essential players missing.

“Our feeling is they’re going to get their shooting on their own, get a lot of that done,” Dixon said. “So we’ve done a lot of 2-on-2, 3-on-3 stuff … We’re trying to improve on guarding the dribble, keeping people in front. That’s probably why we’ve done more live stuff, rather than dummy technique, one-on-0ne stuff.

“The ability to interact with our guys, hold them accountable, get them up in the summer — it’s good for everybody involved.”

Well, Moore and Woodall were known to be out all summer. Taylor is a concern. The conditioning issue aside, the are he still struggles to handle is footwork and positioning. A bad ankle means no chance to work on those.

Dont worry about Dante, we wont be seeing him much this year

Comment by Yup 06.05.12 @ 8:49 am

Yup, agree. Based on what we’ve seen for the last three years, it is hard to imagine a scenario where Taylor plays a significant role and Pitt contends for BE title.

Comment by boubacar aw 06.05.12 @ 10:09 am

Has anyone heard whether or not the incoming freshmen are there? Assume Zeigler is participating.

Comment by boubacar aw 06.05.12 @ 10:12 am

This will really help the team gel a bit better than last year – especially with some new (key) players coming in. By the time they hit the floor in the fall, there should be no chemistry issues.

Comment by Pitt it IS 06.05.12 @ 10:21 am

If healthy, Taylor will play 15-20 minutes per game. The question is how much of Gary Mcghee and Aaron Gray’s development trajectory can he catch up to and/or if Malcom Gilbert can pass him this early in his career.

Comment by SilverPanther at NYC 06.05.12 @ 10:34 am

Boubacar, Zeigler, Adams, and Robinson are all on campus and training. I talk to Steven every couple of days.

Comment by sta7ic 06.05.12 @ 11:26 am

SP let’s try to be fair. Is it possible that a 5 star perfectly built 6’9″ forward (big and strong for a college forward) who starred in the Mac games and won the skills contest who was recruited by several top schools all as a forward may have made a unintentional mistake coming to Pitt.

Comparing McGhee 6’11” 270lbs. and Gray 7’0″ both athletically limited yet both centers, back to the basket, players throughout high school with bodies, unlike Taylor’s that benefited from weight gain. Taylor was a forward at 6’9″, 220 lbs perfect playing weight and he never played with his back to the basket during his entire high school career.

He was recruited to play forward the position he gained All-American honors but he was forced into playing out of position because Dixon and his staff failed to recruit any type of center for 3 years.

Dixon’s only option was to hope that because of Taylor’s athletic skills he could adjust and be an effective undersized center. For ever he had to gain 20 lbs to avoid getting brutalized in the BE. The weight gain obviously backfired causing unnecessary injuries,knees, back, now ankle. On any athelete a unnecessary weight gain would reduce any quickness, footwork, and jumping ability.

Now to my chagrin it seems that Dixon is not going to give Taylor the chance to prove that he was not a bust. There has been no talk of having him drop weight and moving him to his natural position were he was a high school all-american.

Why is this reasonable move not happening after all Taylor was not the answer in the being or the past or future at center. Gilbert needs to backup Adams not Taylor. Let us not forget that Taylor is a better rebounder then Zanna now. My quess is that if Taylor was moved to his natural position and succeeded it would be more embarrising to Dixon adding credence to the Birch accusations.

Comment by drw 06.05.12 @ 1:40 pm

Gilbert will surpass Taylor rather quickly this season.

Comment by Yup 06.05.12 @ 2:26 pm

Your thoughts on weight gain are ridiculously antiquated. Twenty pounds on a 6’9″ frame is less than 10% of body weight and anyway, 20 pounds of muscle will make you jump higher, faster, and stronger if done correctly. Jeremy Lin put on a similar percentage and went from grabbing the rim to dunking….Taylor has games where he puts it all together and looks fine at center. It’s consistency and mental game he needs to put together. Your theories about how Taylor was injured, how Dixon affects player’s egos, and suggestions that he is manipulating player careers in order to avoid embarrassment, are farfetched.

Comment by SilverPanther at NYC 06.05.12 @ 2:46 pm

Not to mention, Taylor arrived at Pitt admittedly and significantly overweight and out of shape. I’m not sure how that can be blamed on Dixon. He tried to play his way into game shape during his freshman season, which is never easy to do. Taylor also had virtually no outside game at all (offensively or defensively) and has never demonstrated the court awareness that would lead one to believe he would succeed at the 4.

Comment by Pantherman13 06.05.12 @ 2:58 pm

SP your staement implies Taylor was recruited as a center. Basketball like any sport at the college level requires and understanding of the unique qualities of a particular position. We may as well but Gilbert at Guard since he would have a distinct height advantage over his opponents.

As for your argument about body weight by using one player who was probably significantly under weight coming out of high school is no argument. Lamb was probably buildt like many H.S., signficantly underweight as I was at 6’1″ 150 lbs.
Taylor was not underweight although he need to change the 220 adolescent fat to 200 or 225 of muscle but 20 pounds on a player who is already at his optimum playing weight because he is being moved to center is different.
He maybe a bum as all of you contend but basketball is a sport I do know and had started playing organized ball since 6th grade at age 10 and through 1 year of college ball. Coached for
6 years and still play organized ball at the age of 60.

YUP I hope your right for Pitt’s sake because Taylor was not and never was recruited to be a center.

Last question can anyone truthfully say that Dixon recruited a 6’9″ high school forward as his center of the future. Before you answer Blair 6’7″ played center his entire high school career and could not and still can not play forward because he never developed a game facing the basket.

Comment by drw 06.05.12 @ 4:45 pm

Unfortunately it seems your age and experience more often reveal a rather dated perspective on positions, player weight, fitness, and college basketball today. And I’m not
sure how any of what you are bringing to the table qualifies you to draw up theories about player egos, specifics to how players are reacting to the coach, his motivations behind actions, or really any of this. It’s one thing to have a particular opinion about
one or two issues on the behind the scenes goings on, but you are trying to tell us because you are 60 years old and dribble around a little that you’ve cracked the code? Come on. I play a LOT of full-court basketball here in New York City (3-4 times a week).
So blinking what?!? Twenty pounds on Dante Taylor is irrelevant. And don’t tell me that a 6’9” 200+lb. high school player spent the entire time with his face to the basket in high school. That’s
a joke…. Merely two years ago he averaged 15 adequate minutes a game as a backup center on a team that won the Big East regular season, received the #1 seed in the NCAAs and was a freak play away from the Final 8. It doesn’t matter how many cones he dribbled
through in a contest three years ago, he proved he can play center in college basketball and, over the course of his career, clearly demonstrated he lacks the court vision to play the 4 in Pitt’s system- as nearly everyone on the blog acknowledges regardless of how old they are or whether they played high school basketball in 1970. My advice to you is to get over this issue. And get over what position a player is recruited for. In all sports, players get asked to move positions around.

Comment by SilverPanther at NYC 06.05.12 @ 5:16 pm

let’s just hope Robinson adjusts quickly so Dixon HAS to play him substantial minutes.

It is interesting to wonder who on Pitt’s staff thought Taylor was center material. The minute we saw him in summer league it was obvious he wasn’t an athlete/shot blocker, wasn’t a low post scorer or a bang-in-the-paint rebounder. First thought I had upon seeing him was that they must have recruited him because he had some potential as a face-up, finesse forward who could develop an interior passing game. Plus, I’d heard the skills competition crap from McD’s.

I have no idea whether to blame Taylor or Pitt’s coaches for his soon-to-be-over, unproductive career. But I do know whichever coach convinced Dixon that Taylor could play 5-man in the Big East should be doing something else for a living.

Comment by hugh green 06.05.12 @ 6:09 pm

Sorry drw, but you seem to be either confusing the facts or creating them. Taylor has been a disappointment, was obviously over-hyped. Where to start?? A 6’9″ perfectly built forward? Really? I seem to recall a chubby out of shape freshman showing up on campus. Dixon failed to recruit a center, thus forcing Sleepy to play out of position? Wasn’t that Gary McGhee playing center during Taylor freshman/sophmore campaigns? I guess Sleepy didn’t show enough in practice to merit some time along side big Gary in the games. I’m fairly confident that if Taylor showed the great skills you would have us believe he came in with that they would have found a way to show during practice – regardless of which position he was practicing at.

As for Dixon recruitng a 6’9″ forward as his center of the future, I’m more sure he didn’t recruit a 6’9″ McD AM so he could misuse him, hide his great face-up game, and hurt his own future recruiting credibility.

And not to pile on, but Taylor is not a better rebounder than Zanna, probably about even, but one thing you can see in Zanna that you can’t with Taylor is – he competes.

Comment by marcus of schaumburg 06.05.12 @ 6:27 pm

In the backcourt, whoever can control the game and prevent turnovers should play. That absolutely killed us last year. Fields saw a lot of minutes his freshman year because he brought this ability to the table. If Woodall and co. can’t do it, let’s see if Robinson can.

Whether Taylor was brought here to play center or the 4 is completely irrelevant. Both positions, in the Big East or otherwise, require the player to be strong, physical, rebound, and be around the basket. Center is technically the easiest position to play. With hard work, good coaching, and a weight program, there is no reason with someone like Taylor’s physical attributes he couldn’t fill that role. It’s certainly easier than the 4. So yeah, failure in recruiting, failure in coaching/development, failure in self-development, or combination of those. Maybe the light will go this year. He at least seems to be a good team player who accepts whatever role he’s asked to fill.

Comment by SilverPanther in NYC 06.05.12 @ 8:52 pm

Regardless of personnel, it’s good to hear Dixon acknowledging and looking to improve last season’s biggest weaknesses — guarding the dribble, especially. Of course, just losing Gibbs will be an incredible improvement on that front.

I’ve read a lot about Ziegler’s offensive game — driving, slashing, etc. — but haven’t seen much about his defense. Anyone see/hear anything on that end? To have a guy with his size and athleticism be able to match up with the opponent’s scorer could be an even bigger addition.

Comment by JW 06.06.12 @ 7:45 am

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