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October 25, 2012

More Basketball Link Clearance

Filed under: Basketball,Players — Chas @ 8:15 am

As I said. A lot more links to get through before tomorrow’s exhibition game against IUP.

Hey, here’s something that isn’t the complete focus of Pitt’s upcoming season from a media coverage perspective. More pieces on Steven Adams.

Starting with the lists. Even though he hasn’t played a minute of college basketball yet, Steven Adams came in at#22 on CBSSports.com list of top 50 big men.

ESPN.com recruiting also tabbed Steven Adams as the top incoming player to the Big East (Insider subs.):

Jamie Dixon’s club could have used the New Zealand Sensation last season. Khem Birch’s mid-semester transfer left the Panthers undermanned in the middle, to say the least, and they’ve been anxiously awaiting Adams’ arrival ever since. Although he won’t be ready to play a starring role from day one, Adams will be ready to make contributions on both ends of the floor.

Offensively, he’ll be a game-ready finisher right away and has the jump hook to become an increasingly dangerous threat on the block. Defensively, he’ll replace the shot-blocking presence that Birch was supposed to be while also providing a dependable rebounding presence.

As an added bonus, they list the top-5 recruits in the Big East for next year.

Mike Young is on that list.

After leaving his hometown of Pittsburgh after his freshman year to pursue high school basketball on a bigger stage in New Jersey, Young is now headed back home to play his college ball. The 6-foot-8 big man committed to Dixon less than a week after the summer evaluation period had come to an end, and had his choice of high-major suitors at that point. He’s a guy who should fit well into Pittsburgh’s smashmouth system on the interior while also showing the offensive potential to go inside-out, depending on his matchup.

ESPN.com moved Young up to #54 in their overall ranking of the top-100 players after the summer AAU circuit.

But back to Steven Adams. From yet another list. (They aren’t Bleacher Report slide shows, but you can’t tell me the rising number of lists all over the place don’t have a connection. Yes people want the lists but the media companies want eyeballs and know that lists generate eyeballs and pageviews. /end side rant) This one on things to watch in the Big East.

5. Is Steven Adams for real?

Last season, Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon brought in No. 1-ranked center Khem Birch. That lasted all of a few weeks. Soon, Birch was vocally complaining about not getting along with teammates (or something like that; the whole thing was kind of confusing) and sealing a transfer to UNLV, where he is likely to form one of the nation’s best frontcourts in 2012–13. As Pitt struggled throughout the season, the Birch departure looked like it could have been a long-term killer.

Enter New Zealand native (and borderline Adam Morrison look-alike) Adams, who is billed as “maybe the dominant defensive player in the Class of 2012″ by ESPN’s recruiting scouting report.

“For a 7–0 player, Adams possesses unusual athleticism, excellent basketball body and a relatively high motor for a young player,” the scouts write. “He has broad shoulders, long arms, quick feet and excellent hands for a big man.”

The only problem? He’s not all that polished around the rim.

Even so, the addition of an active, athletic 7-footer to a program that always, always rebounds on the offensive end — even when it has the ever-so-rare bad season, like 2011-12 — is a fearsome sight indeed. Combined with Dixon’s returning assets and fellow signee James Robinson, the No. 4-ranked point guard, the Panthers have a chance to leave a mark on this league by the time the regular season is through.

Everyone is sleeping on Pittsburgh. Let’s see if that’s a mistake.

Coach Dixon had been trying to downplay Adams a little. Or at least trying to reduce the hype around him. Pointing out that he has lots of room for improvement and the raw offensive ability. And yet

“We really want to get the ball inside,” Dixon said. “That’s something we’ve really emphasized this summer and fall. We have to be able to play out of inside touches, whether we’re scoring or kicking it back out. We want to go inside-out. It’s always been our strength. We need to develop our inside game early in the season and continue to grow with it.”

[Dante] Taylor will be in the mix again for playing time at center, but the linchpin for Dixon’s plans is Adams, who has gained the respect of his teammates during his brief time on campus.

“Steven is a big guy,” junior small forward Lamar Patterson said. “He has a big frame, he’s a hard worker, and he’s skilled. It’s benefitting our other guys to go against that type of player every single day, battling and fighting and getting better. There aren’t that many guys who have Steve’s height and body in this league. When game time actually comes, they won’t be playing guys as good as Steve, and it’ll be a lot easier for them. Once they get things going, it will open things up for the guards and me being able to create for our shooters. It will complete our game. It will make us better all around.”

Taylor, who has battled back problems the past three seasons, said he is healthier than he has ever been at Pitt and hopes to become a more productive offensive player. The same goes for junior forward Talib Zanna, who averaged 6.3 points per game last season when he was a part-time starter at center and power forward.

“This year we’re emphasizing it,” Taylor said. “It will definitely help us out. Me and Steve and Talib, we’ve been having great practices playing against each other. It will help our offense out in terms of spacing and having us move around.”

There’s more in the article with Woodall raving about Adams. If you want the biggest difference from last year to this year. Last year had lots of people outside the program talking about Khem Birch and his potential impact. This year while people outside the program are talking up Adams, the teammates and coaches inside Pitt are unable to contain their enthusiasm and excitement at what Adams can mean for the team.

For example, after the Blue-Gold scrimmage last Sunday.

“The best thing is he’s worked so hard, and it’s going to come defensively,” coach Jamie Dixon said of the prized freshman from New Zealand. “He has a good feel, good hands and (is) a pretty good passer, too.”

Adams recorded the only double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. He looked comfortable catching the ball in the post and passing it from inside, and he made baskets with each hand while shooting 7 of 11 from the field.

Pitt didn’t make Adams available to reporters after the game, but his teammates had plenty to say.

“When he’s on the court, the game comes a lot more easy to me and other players because we know we have him to protect us on defense,” freshman guard James Robinson said. “And (on) offense, we can get it in down low, and he’s pretty much going to make it every time.”

And…

“He’s one of the best big men I’ve played with right now,” junior forward J.J. Moore said. “He just opens up the floor for us. If you throw it in the post, guys are going to come and double him, and that’s just going to up the floor more for us.”

Adams’ personality probably helped in having his teammates speak well of him, but their obvious excitement for what he brings on the court and how he will help them win games is blatantly apparent.

“In my opinion, he’s just as good as the player of the year in this conference as a freshman,” Woodall said. “He doesn’t understand that. He’s just out there playing his game, playing hard. That’s what makes him an elite player.”

And other players and coaches are aware of him.

Notre Dame center Jack Cooley, named first-team all-Big East, competed against Adams at an Adidas camp this summer. He came away impressed.

“When I first saw him, I remember joking with him that’s he’s too big of a dude,” Cooley said. “I asked him what farm they grew him on overseas. He’s very strong, very physical. He’s got a pretty good skill set on offense and he’s a really good defender. It’s going to be exciting playing against him.”

Cooley’s coach, Mike Brey, never has seen Adams play, but he will make a point of doing so when the Panthers play non-conference games in November and December.

“I’ll be tuned into Pitt’s early season games when they’re on TV because I want to get a look at this guy,” Brey said. “Whenever you have a guy who wasn’t on the recruiting circuit, you kind of want to tune in. ‘What’s the big fella doing?’ And, if he’s really good, you lose sleep. Or have a drink. One or the other.”

The other advantage with Adams, is that he is a center. He may have a bit of range to his shooting, but he is and wants to play around the basket. He doesn’t picture himself as a power forward or some sort of wing player. He knows what he is, and where he should be playing. Something that creates a bit of flexibility for the rest of the team.

Patterson and Moore can play either of the forward positions with Adams out there. Zanna is set to go at forward and occasionally center. Even Dante Taylor will get some time at power forward.

Dixon seems excited about Pitt’s prospects at center, where senior Dante Taylor will team with freshman Steven Adams and sometimes alongside him. “Dante’s been scoring a lot in practice, so we think between the two of them we can get some interior scoring,” Dixon said.

Now if he can just play enough defense.





Let’s not mentioned Birch from here on out.

Comment by Pittastic 10.25.12 @ 9:09 am

I can already tell that Adams will be one of my favorite players to ever play at Pitt. Not only is he a once in a decade talent, but from what I’ve heard, he’s also ridiculously humble. One of my friends lives on his floor in Lothrop Hall, and he’s told me that Adams will talk with anyone on the floor. If you’ve ever lived in a dorm with D1 college athletes, you know this normally isn’t the case. I can’t wait for this season to start.

Comment by PatMac 10.25.12 @ 10:06 am

Teasing that Taylor and PF business is going to start a whole lot of arguments on here.

Comment by PantherP 10.25.12 @ 12:27 pm

PatMac…
one of your fav players to ever play at Pitt!!!
a bit early for that forecast… don’t cha think… he hasn’t even played a game yet!
I don’t know ur definition of favorite player.

Comment by Joe D 10.25.12 @ 12:35 pm

Dante Taylor = Marcus Dupree

Comment by pghFred 10.25.12 @ 12:40 pm

Pitt is going to be very deep this season.

Can you see Moore, Taylor and Woodall being the first three guys off the bench on a final four team? I can.

That group is experienced, capable and flexible. Each can play a couple of positions. Each can bring something valuable to the team. They are not cornerstones, starters, on a good team, but valuable role players, back ups? Absolutely.

If you have five guys BETTER than they are, you have a chance to be good. So this season is all about the new guys. Can they approach their potential? Can Robinson play like Kendall Marshall from UNC? Can Adams play like Greg Oden? Can Zeigler play like Dion Waiters?

We won’t really know anything conclusive until February/March. Woodall is a starter for the foreseeable future. The non-con games won’t provide many answers. If they struggle it could be growing pains, if they do well it could be due to sub par competition.

Agree on Birch. Adams is much, much better. Young will be a better fit for Pitt. Let’s never mention Birch again, unless he really sucks at UNLV, then we can pile on!

Comment by Boubacar Aw 10.25.12 @ 1:16 pm

Dante Taylor was never, ever, even HALF as talented a Marcus Dupree. Marcus Dupree was a once in a generation talent. Taylor was, at best, the 10th best player in his recruiting class.

More than half the players in the McDonalds all american game don’t go on the stardom.

We will be better off if we admit our expectations for Taylor were too high. He just isn’t a star. Never really was.

But, as I said above, he could be a valuable role player for a good team this season.

Comment by Boubacar Aw 10.25.12 @ 1:26 pm

Dante is a good guy with a sense of humor as well. At the Blue Gold pregame signing I told him I thought he looked like Sleepy Floyd and to sign “Sleepy” on my basketball. He did!

At the end of the signing session with no one around ‘cept the 8 players, I showed Dante a cellphone image of Sleepy Floyd. The 7 other players having nothing else to do grabbed the phone and passed it around with much glee and mirth. All the while this was happening I was apologizing profusely to Dante. Luckily, he passed the phone back to me with a smile.

We’ll be auctioning the signed ball at the pregame event for the RU basketball game in January (proceeds to the NJ Pitt Club scholarship fund). The “Sleepy” auto along with Adams’, Coaches Dixon’s and Knight’s will certainly add value.

Comment by steve1 10.25.12 @ 2:53 pm

I had a dream last night that all of us Pitt Blatherer’s met up in a hotel room at the NCAA Championship game Pitt vs Kentucky!

Have a very good feeling about this team!

HTP

Comment by Dan 72 10.25.12 @ 4:01 pm

Birch is a headcase, but he is really good. He isn’t going to flop at UNLV.

I haven’t seen this team play yet, but on paper there is talent. Adams will have to be a super talent to get to the NCAA championship game. The supporting cast is good, but not extraordinary.

Comment by Omar 10.25.12 @ 4:10 pm

patmac– thanks for concurring with some written reports about adams’ modesty. it’s a great combo if he’s as talented as described. i’m looking forward to the season, even the preconference games. would like to see the team gel and be at their best for the post season.

keep calm

hail to pitt

Comment by pittkeith 10.25.12 @ 5:17 pm

Any chance of canceling the rest of the football season ang going straight to bball? It would help my ulcer!

Comment by Jimbo 10.25.12 @ 6:35 pm

Can’t cancel the football season till we beat Brian Kelly.

Comment by alcofan 10.25.12 @ 7:40 pm

I’m happy to see JD make D an early point of emphasis. Additions of Adams, Ziegler and Robinson (not to mention subtraction of last year’s senior class) should make this version more fearsome and more to Coach’s standard. I don’t get the ‘Woodall was injured’ storyline. This team couldn’t defend anyone at all last year. This team will be far better defensively.

Comment by GhostofHornman 10.27.12 @ 9:54 pm

For those of us who are optimistic about the prospects for the Pitt hoop team this year, Friday night’s exhibition game was more than a little unsettling. Even though it is really early, the mistakes, the lack of flow or even purpose to the offense and the horrible shooting are cause for concern.

A few notes:

*James Robinson started and played the point on offense. Woodall played the two. Most of us thought that Zeigler would start at two and Woodall at the point. Robinson looked very comfortable and his skill set seems tailor made for Dixon’s offense. He also looked good on defense and grabbed a couple boards. With all of his experience in AAU and USA Basketball, he doesn’t seem like the typical freshman. He is ready now.

*Coming off the bench, Zeigler did not seem to get into the flow of the offense. He tried to force a few drives to the basket and committed a couple charges. Something to watch. Zeigler is going to have to do more for Pitt to have a good season.

*Adams looked comfortable, but not dominant. Pitt didn’t get him too many looks inside. And when he did get the ball, he was mostly ineffective. He did have a 7 footer defending him. He was good on defense and on the boards.

*Moore came off the bench and played very well in the four spot (not one minute at the three). He looks bigger and stronger. He shot the ball well. If he can hold up on defense, he is going to be a match up nightmare for most fours. I would like to see him play with Adams. He played with Taylor at center. That combo may be too small in the big east.

*Taylor was very active. He seems to have found an extra gear. He was all over the boards and appeared much more explosive than in the past. Maybe he’s finally healthy? Let’s hope so.

*Gilbert and Jones didn’t play, fueling redshirt rumors.

I realize this is really, really early. But I did see a few big yellow flags pop up. Shooting and flow offensively could be off early – understandable. But most disturbing, late in the second half, IUP actually had more rebounds than Pitt. This team HAS TO BE DOMINANT on the boards. Can’t get out rebounded by a D2 team. Lots of room for improvement.

Comment by boubacar aw 10.29.12 @ 10:06 am

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