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June 26, 2012

Summer League Rosters Filled

Filed under: Basketball,Players,Practice — Chas @ 11:16 am

Here’s the thing to keep in mind about Summer Leagues. They are great for building team chemistry because everyone stays in the Burgh for the summer and does stuff together. They provide fan excitement and anticipation for upcoming season because the fans get to see the players in an organized setting. They help the team, but not because they are playing in a summer league. It is because they get to practice with coaches and the team over the summer. Especially starting this year, as the NCAA allows some team practices in addition to the individualized workouts with the coaches.

They are not, however, predictors of team or even individual success in the actual season. A great game in the summer league does not mean the kid is ready to break out. Just as a bad night does not mean he’s regressed. These are not pick-up games but there is a lot more one-on-one and two-on-two play in the course of the game.

Having issued that caveat on the unbridled optimism that can rival spring football practices at times, has the rundown on the games from last night. James Robinson made his debut.


His team came out on the winning end, but it was a lot closer than you would think with a squad that also had Trey Zeigler, Steven Adams and Lamar Patterson. Adams continues to fuel big man wet dreams.

SPK looked to be in control, up nine points with just over 13 minutes to go in the game, but PGT’s 8-0 made it a game again. After a nice reverse layup from Pitt freshman Steven Adams, Zeigler scored three straight, easy transition buckets.

Adams set up the first with a block on Talib Zanna, and Zeigler was on the receiving end of an alley oop from Ashton Smith. On the next possession, Pitt freshman James Robinson launched a pass the entire length of the court to Zeigler for a dunk. Zeigler finished the last one himself after making the steal and converting a layup on the other end to pull PGT within one.

“I just wanted to bring some energy,” Zeigler said. “I think, in the first half, we came out flat, so I just tried to play a little harder.”

Adams once again did it all for PGT. He put more of his total game on display Monday night, scoring 15 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and making eight blocks. Adams went 5 for 5 from the field in the second half, and a number of his blocks spawned transition buckets for PGT.

Adams did the damage against Talib Zanna. John Johnson was running the point a lot for SPK, and was apparently doing a good job. PGT won by only 1 point at the very end.

This may be odd to consider, but Cam Wright has been having a good summer league as he seems to be making an effort to be something of a combo guard. Running a little point occasionally. Here’s a review of last week’s second session. And last night Wright was shooting a lot — and effectively. 25 points on 11-20 shooting with 6 boards and 7 assists. Malcolm Gilbert, also on his team had another double-double.  Again, summer league and tempering expectations and hope.

One of the things you can look for in the summer league is what the players are working on in particular with their game — as in the case of Cam Wright working on ball handling.

Ray Fittipaldo has a post talking about what the Johnson boys are trying to do over the summer.

John Johnson played strictly shooting guard last season and performed well for a freshman, but he said the goal has always been to be a point guard. He is trying to be more vocal with his teammates this summer, continues to work on his ball-handling and penetrating the lane.

By John Johnson learning to play the point, Dixon might not have to worry about recruiting a backup for James Robinson, the incoming freshman who is expected to be the point guard of the future once Tray Woodall graduates after the upcoming season.

“It didn’t happen last season for whatever reason, but it was always in the plan for me to be a point guard,” Johnson said.

I’m guessing if Coach Dixon can land a quality point guard he still will. As for why, with John Johnson. It would probably be because he didn’t handle the ball particularly well. It’s not surprising — in fact it was indeed expected that Johnson would try to play more at point given his size — but that is definitely a project.

As for Durand Johnson, he’s working primarily on becoming more of a shooting guard.

So the 6-foot-8 native of Baltimore is working his on outside shot and ball-handling skills in an attempt to get on the court sooner.

Johnson currently plays small forward, the same position as Lamar Patterson and J.J. Moore, two players who figure to play the majority of minutes at that position next season. Transfer Trey Zeigler is the likely starter at shooting guard, but Jamie Dixon has several players vying for playing time as his backup. They include Durand Johnson, Cameron Wright and John Johnson, although John Johnson would like to leave his shooting guard days behind him and become a point guard on more of a full-time basis.

Durand Johnson said he can play shooting guard, small forward and power forward, “but the coaches tell me they see me as a 2,” Durand said Wednesday night after his summer league game at the Greentree Sportsplex.

Again not a surprise and honestly what I always thought was the plan. Not just because of the numbers. Johnson, unless he had a late growth spurt is not 6-8. Even the Pitt Roster lists him at 6-6 — (and as an aside to read into it what you will, lists Dante Taylor as a “forward”). When he was recruited, there was plenty of talk of him being best suited for playing the 2-spot. He’s got versatility — a feature that Coach Dixon definitely prizes in players — but he was always expected to play the 2.

almost everything I read so far has Zanna and Taylor pegged for the 4 (with Adams and Gilbert at 5) … but of course, it’s whatever is in Jamie’s mind and not on any bllog

Comment by wbb 06.26.12 @ 11:48 am

From a team chemistry standpoint, this years group SEEMS much closer than last years.

Last year Gibbs, Robinson and escpecially Birch were all loners and very stand off’ish to each other in Greentree. They kept to themselves and did very little, talking, laughing, joking with their Pitt teammates.

This year Adams, Zeigler, Patterson, Zanna, J. Robinson, JJ Moore (not even playing), J Johnson and D Johnson are all sitting together, laughing, kidding, joking and talking about basketball. How this will translate to the season, who knows, but for now at least they seem close. And on the court, Zeigler and Adams have been talking a lot.

Going to Greentree for years, it is clear that it is EASY to read too much into what goes on in glorified pick up game. And looking at the stats sheets can be very misleading. Last year I was really impressed with J. Johnson and Malcom Gilbert. Niether made huge contributions to Pitt when both were needed (Center and Point were holes at points during the season).

But, sometimes you can learn stuff about players that does translate. For expample, it is was also obvious that Birch was less than expected/hoped. Way too thin, too weak without a high enough motor.

So with that caveat, I am going to repost below what I said last night on a different thread……..Adams is for real (so is Zeigler).

Comment by boubacar aw 06.26.12 @ 11:49 am


Holy Crap!

Just came home from the Steve Adams show in Greentree tonight. Legit, legit, legit, legit, legit. The kid was amazing tonight. And the best part, he made it look easy.

He totally dominated Jakim Donaldson, the former Edinboro star who plays professionally in Europe now. He was the MVP of the league last summer. He was the one who used his quickness and guile to get the best of an admittedly rusty Dejuan Blair last year. Donalson could do nothing tonight against Adams. Adams caught at least two of his shots and blocked a couple more.

Talib Zanna fared no better. Like Donaldson, he called for the ball in the post only to kick it back out when he realized there was no where to go.

Adams had a nice pick and roll dunk. Had a nice offensive rebound dunk. Blocked a ton of shots and altered two for every one he blocked. He grabbed a bunch of boards and tipped/kept alive a bunch more. He showed a nice (albeit goofy looking) jump hook. He has a nice touch with his right hand. And he has great hands.

I think he had a triple double or darn close to it (points, rebounds, blocks). ***CORRECTION ONLY 8 BLOCKS***.

His team was losing most of the game and put on a nice push at the end to the get win.

Zeigler played well. He is lightning quick. Goes to the basket strong/well and can finish. He is a good rebounder and plays good defense. He has a good mid range game, but his jumper is lacking. He missed a couple free throws late that would have sealed the game.

Patterson was OK, but as overshadowed by Adams and to a lesser degree Zeigler.

James Robinson played. About what we expected, big, solid physical, smart but not overly athletic without a great shot. He had a real hard time staying in front of John Johnson. But when the game was on the line, he forced Johnson to take a contested three. My initial impression is that he is 10 minute a game guy next year, starting PG for three years after that. Low risk, but not a high reward kind of guy, perfect for Dixon.

Watched a little of the third game. Gilbert looked good, in shape, fast, strong. Same with Cam Wright. But Adams and Zeigler are obviously/significantly better.

Chris Jones surprised me. He is a fluid, agile nice looking player. Probably a redshirt this year but has serious potential, better athlete than Durand Johnson. Not a slasher like Moore or Gilbert Brown, more smooth like Jeremy Lamb. Can’t think of a good comparison.

But Adams was the show tonight. Jamie was there and watched it. Can’t imagine he saw it any differently.

Comment by boubacar aw 06.26.12 @ 11:57 am

Dokish on twitter just said he predicts Adams to have 10.4 ppg, 10.2 apg, and 2.8 blocks a game. That would be awesome.

Comment by Mike 06.26.12 @ 12:00 pm

I’m looking forward to Pitt having a BIG lineup this year…Adams/Gilbert at the 5; Taylor/Zanna at the 4; Patterson/Moore at the 3; Zeigler/ D. Johnson at the 2 and Woodall/Robinson at the 1….that’s a lot of size (except at the point) on the court at all times, hopefully causing a lot of matchup issues for other teams!

Comment by CJK 06.26.12 @ 2:07 pm

wbb I hope you are right about Zannia and Taylor at the 4 because it gives Pitt size and strength inside. Consider why we were terrible last year; 6’9″ at 5, 6’5″ at 4; high school size team.

This is not the NBA so the concern of Zannia or Taylor’s lack of outside game at the 4 is overestimated as is their defense. In college there are few quick and big players at the 4.

Also Adams is great at rotating and stopping penetration. On offense in my opinion either Zannia or Taylor neither needs to play far from the hoop. At their height they provide a match-up problem down low that should help Adams get more one on one opportunities as well as providing Taylor or Zannia opportunities for numerous junk baskets. They will not be going against centers so their ability to finish should be significantly better.

I like Taylor’s strength although I would like to see him drop 10 pounds and try to recapture the quickness for a big man that made him a 5 star in H.S. Despite the fact everyone hates him he was 2nd in rebounding last year in big-east. Playing next to Adams against players smaller than him he should be able to finish better.

As Pitt fans we are frightened to annoint a player until his career is over (Taylor, Birch) but I am going to step out. In watching Adams on film is the only big man despite being raw because of inexperience he is the most atheletic true center in a long time He can face up to the basket or play with his back to it.

I hope he stays two years. My other hope is that Dixon gains control of this team. No more this is “so and so’s team (Woodall).” Now the younger players have experience and the older one’s skills are the level of role players the coaches need to not retrain some players but until they prove they can be consistent in certain past deficiences. Such as limit Woodall over dribbling and forcing shots and Moore forcing contested 3’s.

Pitt should have one of the best inside out teams in the country. Adams is special and should be encouraged in the non-conferebce schedule to work on his offensive game and realize his unlimited potential.

These are my opinions. I sincerely believe if the coaches can help Adams continue to refine his game and realize how good he can be and what it would mean to him and his fsmily. Pitt has enough parts to be more than competitive by January 2013

Comment by drw 06.26.12 @ 2:31 pm

drw, I’m only going by a few things that I read (and we all know hoe misleading the internet can be.) Nonetheless, I believe both Zanna and Taylor will benefit greatly by playing with a strong post presence.

Comment by wbb 06.26.12 @ 3:18 pm

Thanks boubacar, for the Greentree coverage….Also, Taylor has always been listed as a forward by Pitt SID. Blair was as well.

Comment by SilverPanther in NYC 06.26.12 @ 4:06 pm

wbb your right about the internet but I hope your right. Everyone knows neither of them is effective at the 5 so making them Adams backup would not make sense.

Going back to their natural positions may help their games immeasurably. At worst it gives something Pitt has never had a front line in size to match up with any team.

Comment by drw 06.26.12 @ 4:42 pm

we will be great next year.

Comment by FRANKCAN 06.26.12 @ 10:07 pm

This is getting me pumped. 3 big time newcomers! Can’t wait to see our transition into an Elite Program completed when we win the first NCAA Championship in Pitt history sooner than later

Comment by TonyC 06.26.12 @ 11:30 pm

Funny that Adams will play in 2012 and Birch will not. Funnier if Adams turns out to be the real deal and darts for the NBA in 1 or 2 years. Funniest if Adams darts and Birch has to actually stay in “school”. (UNLV a school?).
Winning is the best revenge…let’s win!!

Comment by SFPitt 06.26.12 @ 11:57 pm

boubacar, love your reporting. Thanks again for the live updates.

Comment by steve1 06.27.12 @ 7:30 am

Birch gets to play beginning Jan 1. He only has to sit out 2 semesters BUT UNLV is loaded this year and he may have less PT than he had Pitt…that would be funny. He also would have been the starting 4 this year.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 06.27.12 @ 8:29 am

For Pitt, success begins with defense. Last years team was the worst defensive team since Willard was coaching. Adding Adams and Zeigler and losing Gibbs will make Pitt significantly better. How much better will go a long way to determing how far they go. The Big East looks to be down this season, Louisville is the prohibitive favorite, but then only Syracuse and ND crack the top 25.

While I am not losing any sleep over Birch being gone, it is scary to think about how good Pitt MIGHT have been defensively had Birch been a little tougher and stayed. Imagine Birch and Adams in the paint together protecting the rim? Pitt’s guards and forwards could have played a little tougher on their man knowing that they have two monsters in the paint to clean up any messes. Plus being so deep, Pitt would have had 25 fouls (5 each for Adams, Gilbert, Birch, Zanna and Taylor) at their disposal in the paint. And while teams can design plays to pull one of the bigs out of the paint, they can’t get BOTH out. Last year when teams pulled the center out on a high ball screen, Pitt was left with a 6’4″ dude alone to protect the rim. Not ideal.

But even without Birch, having Zanna or (God forbid!) Taylor at the four, Pitt will be much tougher inside with a 6’9″ body instead of a 6’4″ one. I like Zanna better defensively at the four because he has better feet, better lateral movement in space than does Taylor. Which means he can defend other fours out on the perimeter. The thought of Chane Behanan getting the ball on the wing with only Taylor in front of him gives me night sweats.

Comment by boubacar aw 06.27.12 @ 9:36 am

Thanks Steve! Missing tonight. Unfortunately I have to be in Philly tomorrow am. If I run into Scottie Reynolds I will punch him in the face.

Some intriguing match-ups in Greentree. Adams will be going against, 7’1″ giant, Martins Abele of Duquesne. Dude has the biggest head I have ever seen. Abele has no where near the skills or athleticism of Adams, but it will be interesting to see how Adams fares against someone actually BIGGER than he is.

Zanna might be guarding Chevy Troutman. That will be a great preview of what he might see in the big east. Can Talib defend against a skilled, quick, tough, polished four?

And then in a battle reminiscent of Rivers v. Epps, Taylor will be going against Nwanko. Sorry that was a cheap shot.

Comment by boubacar aw 06.27.12 @ 9:56 am

I agree with boubcar and wbb. My hope for Taylor is that he drops the weight he gained to played the 5 and gain regain part of the game that made him and All-American. The reasoning is that if he can he may regain the form along with the size he has over Zannia, that made him a concsensus All-American.

I believe that his 200 pound weight gain and playing out of position for 3 years severly dimminish his game. Rather than condemn him I think we ought to consider the sacrifice he made for the team because the coaches could not recruit a true center for 3 years.

Comment by drw 06.27.12 @ 10:06 am

Remember, boubacar-Thabeet was bigger (taller) than Blair!

Comment by Lou 06.27.12 @ 11:24 am

If Birch stayed we would never have gotten Zeigler. So I’m happy the way it turned out

Comment by Tony C 06.27.12 @ 1:21 pm

Maybe, but just as likely we wouldn’t have gotten Jones. I’d be ok with that….

Comment by Boubacar Aw 06.27.12 @ 1:39 pm

We took Zeiglet after booting Epps.

Comment by Boubacar Aw 06.27.12 @ 1:40 pm

DRW, first off – I don’t hate Taylor, I would love to see the young man fulfill his hype. But I’ve ignored for too long now your accusations that he coaching staff didn’t recruit a center. Seems to me that in Taylor’s 4 years he will have played 2 with McGhee, and now one with Adams. So let’s not revise history, or the future. I also recall that Dixon was none too happy when Sleepy showed up overweight and out of shape his freshman year – who are you going to blame that on? I love that he never complains – at least not that I’ve witnessed – so I completely agree he’s a team player. But you might want to consider that his weight is more directly tied to his owwn health and habits than Jamie telling him to gain weight. Ever notice he’s not done much in the body sculpting area – pretty sure Dixon didn’t tell him to lay off the weights.

Comment by marcus of schaumburg 06.27.12 @ 6:45 pm

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