October 31, 2013

So Many Basketball Links

Filed under: Basketball,Players,Recruiting — Chas @ 7:24 am

Lots of stuff basketball related I haven’t gotten to in a couple weeks. Hard to believe Pitt’s already played one exhibition game. There’s one more exhibition on Friday night and then it is realsies the following Friday.

I’ve made no secret over the year how much I like advanced stats in basketball. In particular the work by Ken Pomeroy has been very important. Turns out Coach Jamie Dixon likes the stuff too. He is quoted in an article about coaches who embrace advanced stats (Insider subs.).

Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon did his master’s at UC Santa Barbara on statistical analysis, and has been a numbers guy ever since he can remember, but even he is amazed by the recent explosion of analytical data.

“I love it,” Dixon said. “The numbers can be really helpful, but you’ve got to be able to understand them.”

Dixon said he has someone on his staff checking daily, and he’ll add different components each season. For 2013-14, he’s focusing on breaking down the Panthers’ efficiency after baskets, free throws, steals and offensive rebounds.

This also lends credence to my theory that Coach Dixon oft citing of rebounding margin (a highly discredited number by basketball stat people) is more as a motivating tool and quickie stat to look at after a game (like batting average and RBI are in baseball) rather than a vital statistic.

Pitt finally added their first recruit to the 2014 class. A power forward named Ryan Luther. He is a local product who plays is AAU ball in Maryland.

“They recruited me lightly at the beginning, but toward the end of the summer they really picked up their recruitment. It’s pretty hard to turn down a school I’ve like since I was a little kid. The opportunity to play in your home town and have your friends and family be at games is nice, and they have a great coach, great team and play in one of the best, if not the best, conferences in the country.”

Mike White of the P-G’s high school beat has more.

On this Western Pa. high school level, I’ve called him a baby Dirk Nowitzki. Now don’t get wrong. I’m not saying he’s as big or as good as Dirk, but around here, he does thinks like Dirk. In other words, he does a variety of things. He is a good shooter for a 6-8 player. He can bring the ball up against full-court presses and his size lets him see over pressure. He also can score inside on post-up moves. Yet he can go outside, make 3-pointers and also put the ball on the floor and drive it. Luther made the Post-Gazette Fabulous 5 last year. His older brother, Bill Jr., made the Fab 5 a few years ago and is having a nice career at Pitt-Johnstown.

It will be interesting to see what kind of player Ryan Luther develops into at Pitt. He has developed into a highly-respectable young man off the court. He might have to play some more defense at Pitt (ha ha), but I think he has a world of potential. You may not see him on any top 100 lists in the country right now, but he could be a factor someday for Pitt. Plus, he may grown even more. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up 6-9 or 6-10.

The talent for Luther is debatable. If you are not big on star rankings, then the fact that his other offers were A-10 schools Duquesne, Dayton and George Washington might be a question mark.

At the star rankings, he is a consensus 3-star recruit with even marking him as the 4th best prospect in Pennsylvania (which seems to indicate 2014 is a down year for talent in the state). Suggesting there’s more to him than the schools that recruited him.

Here’s the scouting report (Insider subs):

Luther is an ideally complimentary player because he’s tough, heady, and skilled with the basketball. He’s going to increase a team’s floor spacing and drill open jumpers beyond the arc. He can handle the ball some in the open floor and will attack bad close-outs going to the rim in straight lines. He moves the ball well within half-court offense, doesn’t let it stick, and has a good understanding of how to play within offensive structure…

…He’s a “program guy” who is going to be a great presence in the locker room and in practice, but he’s the type of guy you don’t bet against because he’s never going to do anything to hurt his team, going to have a good understanding of what his team is trying to accomplish on the floor, and always give maximum effort.

Almost assuredly he is going to redshirt because he will need to bulk-up at the college level.

At the Trib., Kevin Gorman sees Luther’s commitment to Pitt in the context of adjusting to the ACC.

“I’d say maybe I’m a three or a ‘stretch four,’ whatever they call it,” Luther said with a laugh when asked to describe his playing style. “I have some versatility that gives me an advantage.”

The numbers are basketball parlance for positions, with the “three” traditionally serving as a small forward or swingman, and the “four” as a power forward.

It’s time to get acquainted with the “stretch four,” as Luther called it, as Pitt prepares for its inaugural season of ACC basketball.

Where the physical power forward was synonymous with the Big East, the ACC relies more on someone with length who can help spread the floor and shoot from the perimeter.

While almost every coach at ACC media day in Charlotte, N.C., downplayed the differing styles between the Big East and ACC, Notre Dame’s Mike Brey pointed to the power forward position as evidence.

“The one thing I heard all summer from ACC coaches,” Brey said, “is the second big guy in the ACC is more of a face-up guy and maybe not the brute force four-man, a less-skilled four-man that we saw in the Big East.”

It’s already reflective in Pitt’s recruiting. The Panthers signed skilled forwards Mike Young and Jamel Artis last year and have verbal commitments from a pair of 6-foot-8 wing-forwards in former Beaver Falls star Sheldon Jeter and Luther.

It’s very true that Pitt’s power forwards for the last decade have been, shall we say, offensively restricted to within a few feet from the hoop. Talib Zanna has tried to show some range last year, but that ended up hurting him later in the season.

Some of this strikes me as adapting to the ACC. Some of it also strikes me at adjusting to paucity of true centers out there for recruiting. If you don’t get The trade-off when you are trying to recruit at a higher talent level, is that there just aren’t a lot of true centers. Most of them envision themselves as  a power forward. This means if you don’t land one of the few centers, you either have to take a flyer on developing someone or adapt a bit.

I really am not sure Pitt will see Joseph Uchebo on the floor this season. At least not for the non-conference. And if he does get out there, his effectiveness will be a question mark. The micro-fracture surgery he had is not something that is easy to come back from. And it is definitely not a quick return.

Coach Dixon emphasizes rebounding. Especially offensive rebounding, and that’s not changing. But with that emphasis, it has been as much about the teaching the kids position to go with their effort and energy. Last year with Zanna and Adams was the first time since the Gray-Kendall combo that Pitt had big size inside as opposed to 6-7/6-8 inside presence. So, I’m not going to stress at the lack of inside size on the Pitt squad in the near future.

Speaking of effort, energy inside… Mike Young.

But this exhibition season is about building depth and finding younger players who will be able to step into the lineup and give the team quality minutes off the bench.

To that end Friday, Dixon may have found one freshman who is ready to contribute almost immediately and that is 6-foot-8 forward Michael Young, who is from Duquesne but played at St. Benedict’s Prep in New Jersey.

Young played only 18 minutes but scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds, showing the kind of athleticism and scoring touch Pitt hoped he would bring when he was recruited.

But Young also showed some intensity and physicality, and those are things freshmen sometimes struggle with as they transition to college.

Yes, Pitt’s first exhibition game was a bit tighter than hoped/expected. The final score of 72-59 looks like a coast to a win, but Pitt was struggling to put away the Tritons. Pitt had large stretches where they didn’t score and let San Diego back into the game.

Coach Jamie Dixon said that while the Panthers didn’t play well for long stretches, there were plenty of positives.

“I can tell you that nobody in that locker room feels good about how we played tonight and that’s good,” Dixon said. “We are definitely not going to be overconfident after this, that’s for sure. We have to rebound better, we have to take care of the ball better, our shot selection at times wasn’t good and we have to finish better. We missed a lot of layups and some free throws.

“Positives were our conditioning for some of our guys was good down the stretch, we made some plays at the end to win the game and we made some adjustments on defense to their action on offense. So it was good to see how we responded.”

The closest thing to a caveat was the front court was undermanned with Derrick Randall out as well as Uchebo. Randall will not be a star player, but he has experience and can be physical inside.

Still, this was not a well-oiled machine out there.

“Lot of miscues defensively,” said senior Lamar Patterson, who started at power forward because of injuries and finished with 16 points and four rebounds in a game-high 36 minutes. “We’ll get out there tomorrow and fix our mistakes. It’s only October.”

It shouldn’t be unexpected. Lots of turnover from last year in graduations, NBA and transfers. And the struggles may be more helpful than just coasting to a win.

Coaches like to use exhibitions to get the kinks out, to finally watch their team against other competition. Preseason match ups often provide opportunities for coaches to- try different defenses, experiment with lineups, work on new sets and play against different sorts of playing styles than normal – all while hopefully winning in a comfortable enough fashion for the team to still feel decent while the flaws they displayed against inferior competition are being pointed out.

College basketball CEO’s often hope for a close-but-not-too-close situation that allows the swelled-up cabezas of their players to deflate just enough that their message gets through loud and clear as they watch the film at practice the next day.

For Pitt, mission accomplished.

It’s just hell on fans. Not you guys, of course. All of you are calm, well-reasoned individuals who would never overreact to anything related to Pitt athletics.

Going back to the big men, this piece on Talib Zanna is topnotch human interest. Not even bothering to excerpt it. It is all worth reading. Okay, maybe just this bit near the end.

In his first four years at Pitt, Zanna earned a degree in social sciences, and while he plays out his final year of eligibility, he has started working on another, in legal studies. His mother, Maimuna Zanna, a Christian who has grown close to his host mother, flew in from Nigeria for the ceremony. Zanna’s sister and brother-in-law were there, as were members of his host family. Keithline and Pitt coach Jamie Dixon were there. So was Patterson.

Something intangible happened at this gathering, as this collection of disparate people from all across the world celebrated Zanna’s graduation. “We sensed it before. It was becoming an event,” Dixon says. “The whole family was coming in. We had to kind of organize it, make sure every one was in the right position. We had to take (Maimuna Zanna) up, get her to the right spot, because we had it in an arena with 15,000 people. It was not our typical graduation.”

Players you just root. Zanna is one of them.

Okay, this is getting too long. I’ll have to finish the rest in another post.

“It’s just hell on fans. Not you guys, of course. All of you are calm, well-reasoned individuals who would never overreact to anything related to Pitt athletics.”


Comment by Justin 10.31.13 @ 7:44 am


Comment by JCE 10.31.13 @ 9:12 am

Steve Adams played 18 min last night for OKC: 2 pts, 3 reb, 3 personals

Dejuan played 24 min for new team Mavs: 9 pts, 5 reb, 3 personals

Comment by wbb 10.31.13 @ 9:31 am

Jamie has his Masters Degree. Never knew that, good for him.

Statistical Analysis yet, that’s not a dipolma mill degree either.

Good stuff.

Comment by Dan 10.31.13 @ 9:33 am

great story on Zanna … very happy he already had his degree and working on more

Luther seems a lot like Levon Kendall, only hopefully with a better shot

Comment by wbb 10.31.13 @ 9:39 am

Great story on O Antigua in ESPN this week. Claims he is the reason for Kentucky’s great recruiting classes.

Comment by alcofan 10.31.13 @ 9:45 am

Ok… Let’s get back to beating up on Chryst.

Comment by PittofDreams 10.31.13 @ 10:27 am

If that’s true alcofan, there’s no reason that we should not have him at Pitt.

Comment by panther94 10.31.13 @ 10:44 am

Chryst?! This is a basketball thread. Let’s beat up on Jamie Dixon! As I mentioned before, how about that guy’s hair! YEESH! Sometimes it looks good, sometimes it looks bad. Just like his basketball team! I truly believe that as in football where the coach’s clothes represent how the team plays, in basketball it is the same with the coach’s hair!!

Comment by JCE 10.31.13 @ 10:54 am

I was thinking the same thing wbb, as I was reading Chas’s article.

JD never really let Kendall attempt to become the scorer he was for the Canadian National team.

Since this Luther kid has a faceup game and can shoot outside, it will be interesting if JD has changed any, since the Kendall days. He didn’t with Adams.

Perhaps the ACC style of play as noted in the quotes of Brey will force JD to.

Comment by EMel 10.31.13 @ 11:07 am

Leave Jaime’s hair alone. At least he has some. lol

And he dresses to the 9’s.

Or would you prefer the Boeheim look ! lol

Comment by EMel 10.31.13 @ 11:10 am

and don’t even get me started on Mikey Alphabets or Huckleberry Hound down here on Tobacco Road.

Comment by EMel 10.31.13 @ 11:12 am

Sorry, couldn’t help myself after all the Paul Chryst dress code discussion from the other thread!

Speaking of Pitt basketball, people should slip over to Dokish’s blog if they get a chance. Since he has given up on Pitt football, he has several posts up about the basketball team and Jamie Dixon. Good reading.

Comment by JCE 10.31.13 @ 11:16 am

We only have 11 scholarship players this year and all we have on the recruiting front is an A-10 recruit? The A-10 is the MAC of the basketball world! If the foobtall fans find out they’re gonna run Dixon out of town…

Comment by PittHW 10.31.13 @ 11:20 am

Emel – Merry Xmas…Look out for a package from Upitt. Hot Item These Days…

link to

Comment by Upittbaseball 10.31.13 @ 12:01 pm

lol upitt

I prefer it saying “PITT” but what the hey.

At least Mr. Excitement wasn’t wearing a 4 x sweatshirt that was a hoodie.

Maybe when the weather gets colder. haha

Comment by EMel 10.31.13 @ 12:44 pm

EMel, I think we all heard so many times about Kendall dropping 40 while on the Canadian team that we all thought he should have been better offensively. Kendall’s scoring actually went down when he got more minutes as a Senior. He was a solid role player. He would have never been a great scorer.

Comment by Wardapalooza 10.31.13 @ 12:51 pm

Jamie recruited someone who can shoot, but can he actually score? TBD

Comment by Steve h 10.31.13 @ 1:24 pm

Steve h – LOL That’s a good one.

Comment by Upittbaseball 10.31.13 @ 2:04 pm

@ Ward.

Well Kendall hardly ever shot. Like Adams last year.

You can’t score unless you shoot ! haha

Comment by EMel 10.31.13 @ 2:17 pm

For Example if Dirk only took 5 shots a game,

he can’t average 25 ppg, right.

Comment by EMel 10.31.13 @ 2:20 pm

Kendall was a below average shooter. That’s why he didn’t score many points for us. Looking forward to basketball where maybe we may have a team that will overachieve this year. At least I hope so. But I did have a good time in Annapolis. It is a great place to visit but that may have been our last trip there.

Comment by rayhpgh 10.31.13 @ 2:54 pm

When the team has a legit scorer he get’s the ball a lot. Such as Gibbs and Sam Young.

Comment by Wardapalooza 10.31.13 @ 3:09 pm

A few thoughts I’ve had stored up….since we have been focusing on some mediocre football:

*Steven Adams looked like a legit NBA player in the preseason game against Chicago. He showed some nice post moves, finished with both hands, was able to rebound well and had a few nice put backs, he ran the floor and played nice defense, even against Carlos Boozer. He showed (or was allowed to show) non of that a Pitt. He is miles ahead of where he was at the end of last season. You can draw your own conclusion, but I a pissed Pitt didn’t get more out of him, clearly it was there.

*This Pitt team is going to struggle this year. There are no difference makers. Zanna is decent, but out of position at center. Patterson is probably the best offensive player, but he is limited and his defense is atrocious. Robinson doesn’t look to have added anything to his game. He’s a good facilitator, but needs someone to facilitate.

*All this Cam Wright talk is absurd. He looks to be in great shape, but he has the same game as before, limited. He can’t shoot and will have a tough time getting anything in the half court.

*The freshman look to have potential. Young will have a good career at Pitt. Newkirk is the kind of guard, quick, that Pitt needs to be going after. And Artis looks better than I thought coming out of Greentree. But none of them are ready to be difference makers, yet. Keep in mind, having potential means you’re not good yet.

*Jamie started Zanna, Patterson, Johnson, Wright and Robinson. He can’t do that in the ACC. That unit is way too small and un-athletic. He has to play two bigs for Pitt to have any chance of grabbing enough rebounds. Young and Zanna together gives them the best chance.

*Uchebo and Randall are both WIDE. Pitt could sure use their bulk inside.

*Granted it was pre-season exhibition, but Pitt’s offense looked purposeless. They had no one who could create any offense. There is no one who could get their own shot or get into the lane.

*”If you want to be a good coach, recruit good players. If you want to be a great coach, recruit great players.” – John Calipari. Jamie has recruited a bunch of good players and potential over-achievers. He’s a good coach. Nowhere near great.

*I am pessimistic about Pitt’s chances this year, I am normally a glass half full person. I just don’t see the necessary talent. The players with talent just aren’t ready or available this year.

*Jamie’s hair IS BAD.

Comment by boubacar aw 10.31.13 @ 6:33 pm

i will not say any thing bad abought dixon untill we start to lose ACC basketball games.

Comment by FRANKCAN 10.31.13 @ 7:18 pm

Really liked what I saw out of Mike Young during the UCSD game. Can’t wait till Newkirk feels comfortable with the system so he acts without hesitation. Still waiting for Lamar to blossom. Thought I saw something in him as a sophomore, basketball smarts that facilitated plays for others like a Wannamaker or Jaron Brown. Guess it was wishful thinking. Who doesn’t like Zanna and his story but the kid plays soft as a marshmallow! H2P!!!!! UPone

Comment by UPone 10.31.13 @ 9:24 pm

@FRANKCAN, I will keep an eye on you in case you can’t endure the self imposed restraint. Lol

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.01.13 @ 7:53 am

boubacar, Our offense always looks “purposeless” because that is Dixon’s style. Don’t be surprised when it is good enough to get us to the NCAA tourney and about a 25 win season because that is his style too. The hair isn’t great- so what. Unlike our football coach I have never been embarrassed by Jamie’s appearance.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.01.13 @ 8:02 am

@Upone, I’ve seen where some think that the switch to the ACC could be a break for Zanna. I am hoping that the senior year realization has some positive impact as well. I think he is the key to this season. I can’t imagine us accomplishing much without him having a step up year. Can you ?

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.01.13 @ 8:16 am

Dixon loves the rebounding stat *because* of the impact it has on these efficiency numbers. Because an O-rebound does not count as a new possession, even if they miss four shots but keep rebounding and finally get the fifth to fall, it still counts as one possession for those numbers. That’s as much a reason as any that Pitt’s been so highly ranked in the KenPom the past many years, which allows Jamie to brag when people criticize the offense.

Comment by JW 11.01.13 @ 10:41 am

JW, Been watching Dixon for a decade and never can remember seeing him brag. He has some faults but that surely isn’t one. The guy is about as solid character wise as any program could dream of in fact. I can understand the rap on his post season record and even those who question his strategies and player development, but I think he is a good sport, represents us well and wins way more games than anybody this school administration is likely to ever come up with.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.01.13 @ 11:23 am

@spirit I didn’t mean it in a critical/negative way. Trust me, I’m a big Dixon supporter. It’s in more of a “sticking up for his guys” way.

Comment by JW 11.02.13 @ 11:07 am

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