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July 17, 2014

Regardless of the ability to help Pitt, can we at least agree that the best thing in the long-term for Joseph Uchebo was coming to Pitt and getting better medical help for rehabbing his knee.

In moments like these, it’s easy to forget Uchebo is still recovering from a devastating knee injury that put his basketball career on hold for almost two years.

But then he runs up the court with a noticeable hitch in his step, a clear reminder that his battle to get back to full health is not over.

“It still hurts,” said Uchebo, a native of Nigeria. “Sometimes when I’m running I feel the pain, but not like it used to be.”

The pain was so bad in the weeks after Uchebo collided knees with an opponent while playing for Chipola Community College in Marianna, Fla., that he could barely sleep at night.

But Uchebo said he continued to play for about two more weeks on the recommendation of team doctors.

“They told me it wasn’t that bad and I was happy to hear it wasn’t that bad,” he said. “But it was that bad; they just wanted me to play.

“As time goes, the truth starts coming out. You know, I was so [angry]. Like, is my basketball career going to end just like that? I was thinking about that every day, every night.”

Uchebo had to go through two microfracture knee surgeries. As fast as players come back from ACL tears, microfracture surgery is a far different animal. It is a much slower process, and a lot more time is involved. And there is no doubt that misdagnosing it back at the community college made it that much harder now to heal.

There seems to be some real gratitude by Uchebo to Pitt and Coach Jamie Dixon for not only taking the chance on him, but giving him the time to get better.

“We knew the injury was going to be something he’s going to have to overcome and we knew it was something that wasn’t going to happen overnight,” Dixon said. “We were willing to work with him and if we felt that he wasn’t able to play, we had told him we would take care of him otherwise.”

For Uchebo, the commitment from Pitt to see him through his injury has been the most gratifying experience with the program. He is ready to pay the Panthers back.

“They believe in me, better than I believed in them,” Uchebo said. “You know, if I am not getting better, I’m not giving them what they want. But if I get better, they know I’m going to give them what they want, 100 percent.”

Playing and dominating on the boards the way he has in the summer league is one thing. There’s a lot more space and less real battling inside. It’s encouraging and surely helps his confidence. But the real test comes when practices and games come. Can he handle physically and mentally the banging inside. Feeling a leg or even another knee against his knee. That has to be a scary sensation. To feel sudden and sharp contact against that knee.

It isn’t that Pitt’s season hinges on how far Uchebo comes along from his injury, there is no doubt he is part of the biggest question mark on the team. After Mike Young at power forward it is Derrick Randall, JUCO transfer Tyrone Haughton and Uchebo. Questions. Lots of questions abound.

Then there is incoming freshman Ryan Luther. He’s been playing in the summer league as well. He’s done well, but he is almost certainly heading for a redshirt. Both because of the position he plays and the need to get stronger. And just, in general, the change from high school to high major college ball.

“Getting acclimated to college and playing with D-I college athletes is a lot different from high school, so that’s really my main focus right now,” he said. “High school practices, no offense, they’re not even comparable to college practices. So that’s what I’m really trying to get down and get in shape for.”

A four-year starter at Hampton, Luther won’t be able to rely quite as heavily on his size against Atlantic Coast Conference competition.

“Just playing low and obviously getting stronger in the weight room are my main priorities,” Luther said. “And learning the system and how to play against guys who are all just as big or just as athletic as you, even moreso.”

Of team practices, Luther noticed the level of intensity in relation to what he is used to. The Pro-Am League and team practices are teaching him valuable lessons about the competitiveness of the college game.

“There are no breaks. If you take a rest, then your guy scores. If you do anything, you’re going to get exploited,” he said. “You can do that in high school and get away with it, but not in college.”

A four-year starter at Hampton, Luther won’t be able to rely quite as heavily on his size against Atlantic Coast Conference competition.

“Just playing low and obviously getting stronger in the weight room are my main priorities,” Luther said. “And learning the system and how to play against guys who are all just as big or just as athletic as you, even moreso.”

Of team practices, Luther noticed the level of intensity in relation to what he is used to. The Pro-Am League and team practices are teaching him valuable lessons about the competitiveness of the college game.

“There are no breaks. If you take a rest, then your guy scores. If you do anything, you’re going to get exploited,” he said. “You can do that in high school and get away with it, but not in college.”

That’s just in the summer league where the intensity was higher. That will be nothing compared to practices and the games. He doesn’t come out and say he is looking at a redshirt but it does seem like a tacit admission that he is aware he needs some more time.

At 6-8/6-9 he is still classified by some sites as a small forward. A very, very crowded spot. With his size he will likely get some opportunity to play at power forward, but will definitely need a year in the weight room to get stronger and work on his footwork to play inside more (not to mention work on rebounding).  I think in a year or so he will be an important cog on the team.





What’s encouraging to me is that while JD has to figure out the puzzle as to where his players best fit, the good news is that he has plenty of puzzle pieces to work with! I think this may be his most challenging year in figuring out his best 5 and where to put them on the floor.

Comment by pittman4ever 07.17.14 @ 11:30 am

FWIW, I just talked to a friend of mine who was the Pro-Am last night and he raved about Cam Wright and Shelden Jeter, who he thinks will be a prized reserve this year and will get plenty of PT.

His thoughts about Luther is that he is not near ready for the ACC as yet. Needs to bulk up a bit and hopefully get quicker.

Comment by wbb 07.17.14 @ 11:41 am

Pitt picks up a verbal commitment from 2015 OL Tony Pilato from Hempfield High School (WPIAL).

247: ***
Rivals: ***

Offers: Akron, Maryland, Minnesota, Syracuse, Virginia. Ped State also had interest.

Comment by Mailman 07.17.14 @ 2:27 pm

Welcome Tony. Join the big boys up front.

H2P

Comment by pmdH2P 07.17.14 @ 2:46 pm

Here’s the story on Tony from Trib ==>

WELCOME!

link to triblive.com

Comment by The TRUTH 07.17.14 @ 3:24 pm

This kid can play hoops as well. Two time Terrific 10 selection of the Trib.

6’7″ 300 lbs, now that would be some muscle underneath.

Comment by Emel 07.17.14 @ 3:46 pm

Word of caution wbb, Wright scored most of his pts slashing to the hoop. 1-8 from 3 pt land. Not too good from the foul line.

Comment by alcofan 07.17.14 @ 3:49 pm

It was once again the Mike Young Show, as he helped System One to an impressive 122-92 win over GNC. Young led all scorers on Wednesday night with 42 points. James Robinson assisted on seven of Young’s 16 field goals.

Young has had an impressive Pro-Am

It should make for an interesting matchup in Monday’s other semifinal game, as Josh Newkirk and Derrick Randall of PGT, will match up with System One’s James Robinson and Mike Young.

Newkirk led PGT with 38 points, while Randall had a double-double of 17 points and 15 rebounds.

Pitt’s Joseph Uchebo had another impressive outing, closing out a very solid summer. He finished with a double-double of 24 points and 15 rebounds in the loss.

MONDAY SEMIFINALS
7 pm: South Hills Audi vs. Shale Attorney
8:15 pm: System One vs. PGT

Comment by Emel 07.17.14 @ 3:59 pm

Pilato story from Pantherlair …. a PC recruit if I ever saw one …. 6’7 290 lb OL 3.5 GPA

link to pittsburgh.rivals.com

Comment by wbb 07.17.14 @ 6:26 pm

Love today’s video to season ticket holders of the team running the stairs of Heinz Field at 6 am this summer. “This is our house. We OWN this field. ” It’s stuff like that that builds champions! #can’t wait till kickoff.

Comment by Panther Fan in Hoopieland 07.17.14 @ 7:02 pm

Let’s start owning it, instead of being ‘owned’ all too often since we moved into the Ketchup Kastle.

We have all very winnable home games this year.

7-0 baby !

Comment by Emel 07.17.14 @ 9:43 pm

Here’s the link to the video that Panther Fan in Hoopieland noted:

link to youtu.be

Good stuff.

Comment by Joe Lawrence 07.17.14 @ 10:45 pm

Scout.com now has a post about Wednesday’s pro-am games. Of the 4 teams that will be in semi-finals, three feature duos of Pitt players:

1. South Hills Audi with Jeter and Slim.

2. System One with Young and Robinson.

3. PGT with Newkirk and Randall

link to pittsburgh.scout.com

Comment by Howard 07.18.14 @ 6:29 am

Not much separation among the top 7 players.

Newkirk
Young
Artis
Wright
Jeter
Robinson
D. Johnson

All of those guys are “starter capable” and all of the can play multiple positions. Hard to pick 5 of those guys as starters. All should get starter minutes. Even harder to see who is going to be the lead dog.

Randall looks to be a capable backup.

Haughton is the wild card. I imagine him to be similar to Khem Birch as a freshman, a long shoot blocker, defender, rebounder with limited offensive skills. And if my imagination is close to reality, he will be a valuable role player.

Barring a miraculous recovery, I don’t expect much from Uchebo, he’s still way too hobbled. Don’t get too excited about the numbers he’s putting up in the summer league. He’s no where near being ready to compete in the ACC.

So if Dixon uses a 10 man rotation, that leaves one spot, likely for Jones. He’s an ACC caliber athlete, but his skill level is not on the same level as the top 7.

Luther is a redshirt. But don’t be shocked if Slim Johnson finds a way to get on the court. A 6’7″ sniper off the bench would be a huge luxury to have. He’s probably not ready to defend ACC wings yet. So, he likely will be a luxury that we’ll have to defer for a year.

I have seen on twitter that many (most notably Dokish) are bullish about this Pitt team and the future. I’m not quite there yet. I agree the offense will be good with the smaller line up, with no center. It remains to be seen if they’ll be able to rebound and defend well enough. And more importantly will they get any easy buckets near the hoop?

Comment by Boubacar Aw 07.18.14 @ 10:18 am

@Boubacar, I agree that the seven players you mentioned *should* get starter minutes — assuming that Artis and Jeter play good defense and that DJ’s knee is healed.

It should be a fun team to watch. It will be quick. It will pass. It will trap. It will run. It will hit free throws.

One of the biggest wild cards is three-point shooting. This team will have four very tall three-point shooters — Young, Jeter, Artis and Slim. When their shooting is on, they will be a very tough team to beat.

Comment by Howard 07.18.14 @ 11:57 am

I hope they do more pick n roll and pick n pop. They have the horses to do it this year. Have Young/Jeter/Artis set a high ball screen for Newkirk. From there Newkirk can drive and dish or kick it out to an open shooter. Or The screener can roll for a layup or pop out for an open three over a small defender.

Comment by Boubacar Aw 07.18.14 @ 12:22 pm

@ Boubacar

I think you posted earlier that you attended some of the Pro-Am games.

Since Uchebo was putting up huge Double/Double numbers every game it seemed. Led the league in rebounding. Were these contested rebounds ?

Since he put up better numbers than Randall, why do you think he won’t contribute more than Randall.

Since the style of play was the same for both players at the Pro-Am.

Thanks in advance !

Comment by Emel 07.18.14 @ 12:29 pm

I posted this in a previous tread:

Got to see Robinson for the 1st time last night. He has lost a lot of weight too.
In general:
Young looks active, quick and much more confident.
Jeter finishes above the rim, has great size for a SF and rebounds well. He plays a great two man game with Lance.
Jones moves well without the ball, can hit shots, looks to rebound and shows good athleticism (hops).
Believe it or not, Wright shows a much better stroke. His form is improved with better ball rotation (unlike the knuckle balls he shot last year).
Newkirk is going to be hard to keep off of the floor. He is showing that he wants to get to the rim.
Uchebo was up against Darius Lewis (6’11?, 255#) for most of his game last night. He played all but a few minutes, did not shy away from contact, and was very active on the boards. He can change directions and jump much more fluidly, but he does not finish well, yet.
Randall (who I think will start a center) was finishing above the rim, showing a nice touch with his right (off) hand and fighting for rebounds. He also stepped out for jumpers, with mixed results. His stroke is much improved and looks like he is having fun.

It seems to me there is depth at every position. And several players have real versatility and can create match-up problems.
Comment by xfmrman 07.17.14 @ 10:22 am

Don’t get me wrong, Uchebo still shows a limp. He looks better in short bursts and quick moves than when running end to end.

Comment by xfmrman 07.17.14 @ 11:08 am

Comment by xfmrman 07.18.14 @ 12:40 pm

EMel – I meant to ask you about St. Bonaventure, you called them as one of pitt’s non con games, did you have inside info?

I have been to Montour a couple times. Not sure I have a great answer for you on the statistical differences between Uchebo and Randall. But from the eye ball test, Randall is much, much more physically impressive. He runs much better, jumps quicker, higher and is stronger. Uchebo can’t get off the floor at all. In the summer league, if you’re 6’10, with good hands and you park yourself under the hoop, you’re going to grab a ton of boards.

True, Aaron Gray was a great rebounder and never got one above the rim. But he had a really strong base, you couldn’t move him.

I just don’t see how Uchebo, given his physical limitations, could compete with ACC level athletes. I hope I’m wrong.

It’s too bad, because you can tell, that with two good, strong legs, he would be a hell of a player.

Comment by Boubacar Aw 07.18.14 @ 12:57 pm

Thanks for that info xfmrman !

Glad to hear that Big Joe is playing against some other big bodies and that there is some contact.

Yes depth sounds like it could be 2 deep at every position and 3-4 deep at SF.

Let’s hope the reigns continue to be loosened !

And with all this apparent depth, play a more aggressive ball-hawking defense.

Comment by Emel 07.18.14 @ 1:02 pm

haha Boubacar….yea me and Bob Lanier are buds.

:-)

Maybe Big Joe’s wheels will be in a little better shape come November-December.

Comment by Emel 07.18.14 @ 1:05 pm

Got to talk with one of the players, the indication was if they can play as a team, they (the team) think that they can be pretty good.

With Coach Dixon saying, “they are lifting and running more than they have in their entire lives” in response to a question about (the team’s) weight loss, EMel, you may get your wish.

Comment by xfmrman 07.18.14 @ 1:11 pm

But in at uptempo game, there is no way that Uchebo will be able to keep up, yet.

Comment by xfmrman 07.18.14 @ 1:15 pm

That is where Haughton may be welcome.

Comment by xfmrman 07.18.14 @ 1:15 pm

The dust is far from settling, but is the lineup shaping up like this?:

PG – Robinson, Newkirk
SG – Wright, Newkirk, Johnson
SF – Jeter, Johnson, Jones
PF – Young, Artis
C – Haughton, Randall, Young, Uchebo

Any guesses? Seems like too many bodies for me to make sense of it. Also, I personally hate when we’re stuck with JR & CW in the game at the same time, good teams have too easy of a time defending us without at least 2 3 pt shooters in the game at the same time.

Comment by 1618mt 07.18.14 @ 2:27 pm

Here’s a WAG at the rotation:

PG Newkirk, Robinson
SG Wright, D Johnson, Newkirk
SF D. Johnson, Jeter, Wright
PF Jeter, Artis, Young
PF Young, Haughton, Randall

redshirts: Luther, Slim
limited: Uchebo, Jones

This keeps your best players on the court for the most minutes and balances the floor with shooters, drivers, rebounders and defenders.

Dixon will probably start Robinson over Newkirk, I won’t quibble with that as long as Newkirk gets 25+ minutes. Also, starting DJ assumes he’s healthy.

Comment by Boubacar Aw 07.18.14 @ 4:09 pm

@boubacar, you wrote:

“I hope they do more pick n roll and pick n pop. … Newkirk can drive and dish or kick it out to an open shooter….”

Could be wishful thinking, but I’m hoping that Cam Wright does some of that driving and dishing. We’ve seen Patterson and Wanamaker turn into excellent playmakers.

Comment by Howard 07.18.14 @ 5:50 pm

If Artis, Jones, Jeter, Newkirk and Young are all on this team in two years, I will be surprised.
I am thinking that there may not be room for Artis.
And unless Jones can steal some minutes at SG, he may be gone too.
And Young may test the draft waters.

Comment by xfmrman 07.18.14 @ 10:06 pm

One way you can keep all these players happy, to an extent, is: play uptempo offense and a very aggressive type, trapping ball-hawking defense at an extremely high energy level which of course would require basically two sets of 5 man teams.

This would produce lots of turnovers, breakouts, 2 on 1′s, 3 on 2′s etc, which gets the players lots of easy baskets and what they really like to do, dunks.

As far as Big Joe, he could be used more in situations where the game might require more half-court sets(or when JD has lapses). Just really depends on his legs are and whether we’re getting enough out of Haughton and Randall.

Comment by Emel 07.19.14 @ 10:19 am

EMel – I agree with you on Pitt needing to go more uptempo, especially with Newkirk.

But I disagree that keeping everyone happy should even be a consideration. Dixon is going to turn every practice into a competition and the winners get more playing time. If you, as a player, aren’t happy, play better!!!

I do think that having 13 legitimate players and 3 good walk-ons will be tremendous for practices and will really help the team. It would be better to have a couple stars, but having this kind of depth is the next best thing.

Comment by Boubacar Aw 07.19.14 @ 11:09 am

In a perfect world I would certainly agree with you Boubacar, regarding your input on ‘happiness’.

But in these times, with these kids and the amount of transfers that occur every year and how much havoc the transfer effect can have on your team, I would think there has to be some consideration of trying to keep as many players as possible happy.

Much better for team chemistry as well. The time’s have changed and you have to change along with them. This isn’t the movie Hoosiers.

Comment by Emel 07.19.14 @ 11:34 am

@xfmrman, I expect Young to stay. He recruited Jeter with the promise of a national championship, as implied by this Cardiac Hill interview:

link to cardiachill.com

Comment by Howard 07.19.14 @ 6:33 pm

Whoops, wrong link! I found out about Young recruiting Jeter for a national championship run in the Post-Gazette:

link to post-gazette.com

Here are some quotes:

At Vanderbilt, Jeter quickly realized he and his teammates had different goals. “Key players,” he said, didn’t share his aspirations.

“Our ideologies as far as where the team should’ve been headed and where we should’ve been striving for were polar opposites. … I just wanted to win a national championship,” he said.

[Two years ago], he went through the recruiting process again … he needed a team that could contend for a national title.

“That’s all I worried about,” Jeter said. “I didn’t care about the type of exposure we got, I didn’t care about the type of publicity we got. All I cared about was winning a championship.”

He considered Cincinnati and Georgetown before deciding on Pitt. Panthers forward and Duquesne native Michael Young, who bonded with Jeter when they were AAU teammates, urged him to choose Pitt.

Jeter said: “When he heard I was transferring, [Young] was calling me [and saying], ‘When you coming up to Pitt? When you coming up to Pitt?’ “

Comment by Howard 07.19.14 @ 6:44 pm

@Emel,

I like your idea of squads running the opposition ragged. How about playing all four of the tall three point shooters at the same time:

Young at the 5
Jeter at the 4
Artis at the 3
Slim at the 2

This could be a fun year!

Comment by Howard 07.19.14 @ 7:02 pm

Howard:

I was just trying to say that this year’s sophomore class may have too many overlapping pieces.

And I meant it as a compliment to Young. He may leave for the NBA before his senior season (He would be foolish not to test the waters).
Like with Adams, if a player can get a big paycheck, he cannot be blamed for leaving early.

Comment by xfmrman 07.19.14 @ 8:31 pm

@xfmrman,

I’m just glad that Young and Jeter share the goal of winning the national championship together. I think they will have a real shot in a year or two.

Comment by Howard 07.19.14 @ 10:57 pm

@ Howard,

I like it the idea of getting as many shooters on the floor as possible to stretch the defense, both from top of key to baseline and from side line to side line.

For that to work, you need one really strong rebounder for o-bounds. Also would help if the PG can also shoot from 3 to stretch the defense from top of key to baseline.

I do think, they will more than likely redshirt Slim though. And the kid from Hampton.

Could be a very fun year indeed with all the new moving parts and Durand Durand’s return.

Comment by Emel 07.20.14 @ 1:21 pm

I hope JN is learning how to attack the rim with his left hand. He won’t be a complete threat until he does. A starting backcout of JR & CW has almost no shooting touch, hard to believe considering what a hot shooting backcourt can do in the tournament. We need to see them pushed. I’m cautiously optimistic. Dixon preaches team, I think this young talent buys in. I view this as an ideal setting for Dixon’s strength as a coach. I don’t expect much from JO on the court, I do think because of his Pitt experience he adds to team unity.

Comment by Old School Panther 07.20.14 @ 2:39 pm

I don’t think Dixon will start Derrick Randall. Just does not seem to be Dixon’s type of player.

On the other hand, Mike Young has lost 10-15 pounds (and grown a half an inch), and his ball-handling has been really good at the pro-am. Being he hits the 3ball, he can go to the perimeter and he should be able to go by almost any C that tries to cover him out there. Otherwise, he’ll just put up the 3ball.

IMO Mike has gotta realize this opportunity, but remember Patterson had a GLF his senior year, this after he lost a lot of weight.

I don’t think Dixon will pass on the potential of Mike Young at C. Yeah, he could do pretty much the same thing at PF but… would be up against players that are typically quicker than Cs.

If Mike is at C, I would not be surprised if Derrick Randall is not with the team come November. Remember that he is currently suspended and IMO does not fit in and would want to start and as a bench player would take time away from Uchebo and Haughton… both of whom will be with the team in 15/16.

I would not underestimate Uchebo. Yeah, not the same at the pro-am as in the ACC but, 20 rebounds per game is a LOT. He can’t get off the ground but rebounding is more a matter of positioning than anything else. Also, he has the potential to take another step forward with his rehab between now and November.

Haughton, IMO is way behind Uchebo in knowing what he has to do in team play and the like. IMO, both are gonna get PT but my guess is Uchebo beats out Haughton for the bench minutes. But, time will tell.

Given that Artis is a defensive liability, that leaves Jeter as the starter at PF… and IMO this will not be a bad choice.

I think Dixon should give Artis a real chance at SF in the hopes that Artis will defend better from that position, but I don’t think Dixon will do that. Yeah, IMO would be a nice starting front court of Artis, Jeter and Young.

IMO, what Dixon WILL do… is move Wright to the starter at SF and start Newkirk. I like the idea of Newkirk starting but am not sure how well Wright will do at SF.

Although Wright will still play a lot of minutes at SG (if he starts at SF), this scheme will open some time for Slim Johnson… who was our best 3ball shooter at the pro-am, by a significant margin.

Comment by Zaratoughda 07.20.14 @ 8:03 pm

Going to be “counter-cultural.”
5–Haughton, Uchebo, Randall
4–Young, Artis, Randall
3–Jeter, DJ,
2–DJ, Newkirk, Wright
1–Robinson, Wright, Newkirk

Comment by pitt1972 07.20.14 @ 9:10 pm

My guess is:

1. Robinson, Newkirk, Wright
2. Wright, Newkirk, DJ, Jones, Robinson
3. Jeter, DJ, Artis, Jones, Wright
4. Young, Artis, Jeter, Randall, Haughton
5. Randall, Young, Uchebo, Haughton

I think that by the end of the year Newkirk will have starters minutes at point.

I reserve the right to change my mind without notice.

Comment by xfmrman 07.20.14 @ 9:41 pm

I agree with Zaratougda’s predictions for the regular season starting lineup, but I ditto xfrmrman’s caveat: “I reserve the right to change my mind without notice.”

We’ll get our first indication of the starting lineup during the early August exhibition games in Bahamas. It’s easier to figure out that lineup because because Randall (suspension), Haughton (college classes) and DJ (knee) will probably not be there.

I’m expecting:

5. Young starts with Uchebo off the bench.
4. Artis and Jeter will share the time about 50-50.
3. Wright will start with Jones and Luther coming off the bench
2. Newkirk will start with Slim coming off the bench and Wright sometimes sliding down to this position.
1. Robinson will start with Newkirk sometimes sliding down to this position.

Comment by Howard 07.21.14 @ 9:23 am

Ok here’s my guess:

5. Haughton, Uchebo
4. Young, Artis
3. Jeter, Durand Durand, Jones/Wright
2. Wright, Newkirk, Durand Durand/Jones
1. Robinson, Newkirk.

Slim & Hampton kid redshirt

We’re still 1 scholie over the limit I believe.

Randall will be a goner. Unless something happens.

Comment by Emel 07.21.14 @ 11:23 am

Dixon will never have Young slingin up 3′s playing the 5.

Heck Z wasn’t ever allowed to take any 15 footers last year at the 5 as he did the previous year at PF.

Every Pitt center in the Dixon era has played with his back to the basket, in the low post.

Comment by Emel 07.21.14 @ 11:26 am

Emel–Not over the limit. Right at the limit with 13 players on ship (includes Randall).

(1) Artis, (2)Haughton, (3)Jeter, (4) Cameron Johnson, (5) Durand Johnson, (6) Chris Jones, (7) Luther, (8) Newkirk, (9) Randall, (10) Robinson, (11) Uchebo, (12) Wright, (13) Young.

Ko, Lecak and Nwankwo are walk-ons for a total roster of 16.

Comment by pitt1972 07.21.14 @ 12:16 pm

Right since Doorson de-committed.

Btw we have another MIA. Haven’t seen SOS22 post the last couple weeks.

Somebody point out an APB on him and FRANKCAN.

Comment by Emel 07.21.14 @ 12:51 pm

Did anyone see the AAU Game on Espn U yesterday? It was the NJ Playaz v. NY Club Scan. Chieck Diallo played for Club Scan. He is a 6’9″ 5 star. Long, Good athlete, high motor, quick leeper, very high ceiling. Pitt has been on his list for a while. He is a little hobbled with a bad back, but it’s easy to see why teams are drooling over him. Probably not a 1 and done, but maybe if he develops, very skinny still. He would start for Pitt this season and make a huge difference. Better than Birch, for sure. Kentucky is interested, since Slice got there. Kansas and Iowa St are said to be the front runners, but Jamie is all over the kid.

Also in that game, on the NJ side was Temple Gibbs, you know who’s brother. He looks just like him on the court, seems to be a little bit bigger and a little better athlete. Is Pitt looking at him?

As far as the rotation goes for next year, I think it all depends on Haughton. If he is as advertised, very good defender and rebounder, AND he can quickly pick up all of Jamie’s systems both on offense and defense, then he’ll probably start and get a lot of PT.

While I think that’s the best case scenario, I don’t think it’s very likely. It is hard to come in and make an impact immediately, look at Adams and Birch, both were more highly touted, both struggled early.

I don’t think Randall (not good enough) and Uchebo (health) are starters.

So if Young is the 5, then Jamie HAS TO adjust the offense. He has to let him take jumpers, and yes, even threes. Young can’t play the traditional Pitt 5. Too much of a finesse guy, more than Zanna. Even Jamie can’t force that square peg into that round hole. Can he?

Comment by Boubacar Aw 07.21.14 @ 2:16 pm

Sorry, Cheick Diallo. I thought it was I before E, except after C. And apparently, CH, too.

Comment by Boubacar Aw 07.21.14 @ 2:21 pm

Our only hope with Diallo imo is that he’s friends and teammates of Damon Wilson, a 2015 PITT commit.

There are several other players on that team as well that would be good gets.

Comment by Emel 07.21.14 @ 2:53 pm

Apparently it doesn’t work that way in Nigeria, with the i before C.

Must be that British schooling ! haha

Comment by Emel 07.21.14 @ 4:11 pm

@Emel, You wrote correctly: “So if Young is the 5, then Jamie HAS TO adjust the offense…”

That’s exactly what Young has been promised. Zaratougda heard or read an interview with Young and posted:

“In an interview with Young he stated that Dixon has totally changed up the offense so that the C and PF positions are essentially interchangeable.”

link to cardiachill.com

Comment by Howard 07.21.14 @ 9:23 pm

As I here it now… Derrick Randall… got reinstated some time ago.

So, with that, we can look at a depth chart of:

C: Randall, Uchebo, Haughton
PF: Young, Artis
SF: Jeter, Durand, Jones
SG: Wright, Newkirk, Jones
PG: Robinson, Newkirk

With this, Jones plays the same role he played last year… probably not seeing the floor in tough games… unless someone can’t go or gets into foul trouble.

If Uchebo or Haughton excels significantly over the other, then the other will probably be along the lines of Jones.

Slim… may or may not get RSed… if he does not, then he would be a 3ball man off the bench, something which we will surely be in need of at Maui.

The thing about this lineup, is there is a question if we have enough scoring in the starting lineup, though we may see significant improvement from Robinson, Wright and Young.

Also, IMO Dixon would prefer to play Young at C and Jeter at PF, and he may just do that. But, if he does it will really screw up the depth chart.

Time will tell.

Comment by Zaratoughda 07.22.14 @ 9:56 pm

@Zaratoughda,

Thanks for the info that Randall will likely play in the Bahamas. I learn a lot from your comments and I enjoy reading your fan postings at Cardiac Hill.

As far as the starting lineup goes, I’m looking forward to the Bahamas trip. It should tell us whether Jeter will play the “4″ or the “3″. I’m guessing “4.”

Comment by Howard 07.23.14 @ 7:03 am

Makes sense, don’t think Randall came back to the Burg if he wasn’t reinstated.

Scoring has been my main concern with this team since if you have JR & CW in the backcourt, that can be problematic. Got away with it last year since Lamar had the ball in his hands so much and was the catalyst for the offense. This year no Lamar.

I don’t expect any one player to take his role, but if Young, Newkirk & Durand Durand take the next step and Jeter is what I think he might be, we might get enough offense from that quartet along with scoring potential of Artis.

That’s why I think it’s critical for this group to play a more aggressive type defense to create more turnovers that lead to easier transition points.

Comment by Emel 07.23.14 @ 11:43 am

Oh and CW will get his 8-12 points a game, maybe more on nites when he’s “on” and feeling it.

Comment by Emel 07.23.14 @ 11:46 am

All of those guys could have beak out seasons, but all have some pretty big obstacles to over come.

Young – position, he could be hampered by playing out of position at the five. Jamie could adjust the offense, but guarding 5′s and rebounding could be a challenge.

Newkirk – James Robinson, Newkirk is a point guard. JR is the incumbent and Dixon loves him. Josh needs minutes and having to take a bac up role could limit his breakout.

Durand – health, even if his knee is 100%, he still will have to kick off a whole bunch of rust just to get back to where he was when he got hurt. So to think he’s going to make a big leap forward might be a bit unreasonable.

Jeter – new, rarely has anyone come in and been outstanding immediately. It takes time to figure out Pitt’s systems.

Sorry for glass half empty view, I am usually pretty optimistic this time of year. But I think we need to pump the breaks on our expectations, at least to start.

Comment by Boubacar Aw 07.23.14 @ 1:32 pm

Oh I agree Boubacar,

there are certainly more ‘if’s’ than certainties with this current group.

Could be JD’s most challenging season, but we do appear to have more than a few pieces to the jigsaw puzzle.

Question is, how long will it take, for those pieces for be put in their proper places.

Comment by Emel 07.23.14 @ 2:47 pm

A kid who has been overlooked to an extent is the subject of a nice piece by the Trib. Swingman Chris Jones.

link to triblive.com

Comment by Emel 07.23.14 @ 3:58 pm

Thanks for the good words Howard!

I try to post things that are at least worth thinking about.

The big question right now on the team, is whether Dixon starts Young at C, or if he starts Randall there.

If he starts Young at C, then he will most likely start Jeter at PF.

The problem I have with this, is we will be really light inside and would tend to get pushed around.

I would have LESS of a problem with this, is if he started.. Jamel Artis… at SF.

Jamel, would have good size for a SF and tends to take it to the hoop at times with some authority.. and some beef… and that would take a lot of pressure off of Young and Jeter.

The hope on this one though, is that Artis would defend a lot better at SF that he did last year at PF… where he tended to seem lost more often than not.

But, a front line of Young, Jeter and Artis, IMO would be pretty imposing.

With this, you could have Randall and Uchebo spell Young, Haughton and sometimes Artis would spell Jeter, and Jones and Durand, once he is up to speed, would spell Artis at SF.

But, I don’t think Dixon will give Artis a shot at SF… he didn’t play him there at all last year.

So, guess we will just have to see what he does decide on this.

Comment by Zaratoughda 07.24.14 @ 12:13 am

Robinson and Young’s team won the pro-am championship last night. It was a high scoring game: 115 to 109:

link to pittsburgh.scout.com

If Young is at the “5″, Pitt will have a center who can run, shoot and hit free throws.

Comment by Howard 07.24.14 @ 5:36 am

@Zaratougda. Your facts are correct, but I disagree with your conclusion when you wrote, “I don’t think Dixon will give Artis a shot at SF… he didn’t play him there at all last year.”

In my opinion, Dixon wasn’t about to teach Artis how to defend at the “3″ last year when he was still teaching him how to defend at the “4.”

Dixon might even play Artis at the “3″ during the Bahamas trip.

Comment by Howard 07.24.14 @ 5:49 am

If Young, Artis and Jeter play together, my guess is that Jeter would guard the 3, Young would guard the better of the other teams bigs and Artis would get the easier matchup. Jeter is quicker laterally and should be able to defend better on the perimeter than the other two.

Offensively, those three are pretty interchangeable. They all can shoot from the perimeter. They all have some dribble drive game. All can pass. Artis May have the best mid range scoring game. None are great in the post. All can pick n roll, pick and pop.

And just like we can’t pencil in Haughton just yet, we can’t count him out either. We just don’t know much about him yet. If he can come in and do what Birch did as a freshman, defend, block shots and rebound, he’ll be a good option at the 5. How likely is that? No clue.

Comment by Boubacar Aw 07.24.14 @ 10:27 am

Well, if Dixon was teaching Artis how to defend at the 4 last year, he didn’t do a very good job.

In the Florida game, we were hanging with them in the first half, but then Florida found a hole in our D and started exploiting it every time down the court… and I believe the hole… was Jamel Artis.

But, I think it is just a matter of Jamel feeling overmatched when playing PF. IMO, he sees himself as a SF… so IMO Dixon should give Jamel a real shot at playing the position and seeing how well he does… particularly if he is much better on the D side… he’s got the O.

I was thinking Artis at PF, because that is where he played last year, and Jeter at SF, because that is where he mostly played at Vandy. But, looking at the official roster, Sheldon is 1 inch taller than Jamel and 5 pounds heavier. They have Jamel listed at 220, which means he is another player that has shed some pounds… was listed at 230 last year.

I hope you are right and Dixon gives Jamel a real shot at SF in the Bahamas trip. Time will tell.

Comment by Zaratoughda 07.24.14 @ 10:30 am

Boubacar….

I remember one game last year, where we needed points down the stretch, and Artis was bringing more O than Young but Young was defending better, and Dixon decided to double the low post and with that, he figured Artis could handle that and so he put him in there for his O and, the other team got the ball down to the low post and Artis came over for the double and…. Artis’ D was so loose that the opposing big just split him and Zanna and laid the ball in.

Artis… just seems lost on the D side. Doesn’t seem to know what he should be doing… and playing real loose… this is as opposed to Young who made some freshman mistakes out there but… otherwise held his own.

I have no idea if Artis could defend better at SF. But, I would like to see him get a shot there as his D was really bad at PF last year.

Assuming Dixon starts Young at C… and even Randall is more PF sized than C sized… then the doubling of the low post will be an important part of our D and, I haven’t seen Jeter play yet but, my guess is he would be much better at doing that than Artis.. and maybe even better at that than Young.

As far as Haughton is concerned… he played PF in JUCO but Dixon says he is a C (at least in Dixon’s system). But, Dixon does still have the option of playing Haughton at PF… as he is familiar with the position and, like Birch, should be able to do his shot blocking and rebounding from there.

Yeah, we will just have to see what Dixon does.

Comment by Zaratoughda 07.24.14 @ 10:44 am

Our inside players were totally manhandled in the Florida game. Artis was pushed around like he was a featherweight. Stuffed a few times where he almost fell down.

Now I read in the Mike Young interview that both of them lost much much weight. Young had lost a bunch of weight before his freshman year previous to that and I thought he looked kinda of frail last year. Think I read he lost another 22 pounds which would put him lower than 220 now. Young said Artis lost 33 pounds which would put him at around 200. 6’7″ 200 lbs is a stick, so how do you a stick at PF.

I’m guessing JD must have told them to lose weight, with the idea we’re going to run more this year, with is fine by me.

As I don’t think we have the type of players to play halfcourt basketball and be successful, the way we want to be successful.

With the dropped weight these guys should be able to play more aggressive defense if that type of defense is drawn up for them. I see in the game last, Young and Robinson were doing some 2 man traps to cause turnovers and easy transition points. Let’s do it !

Comment by Emel 07.24.14 @ 11:17 am

On the official site, Young is listed at 235, which is 10 pounds less than last year, and Artis is listed at 220, which is also 10 pounds less than last year.

Uchebo, was 265 last year and now he is listed at 245. That is a 20 pound drop.

But yeah, going with light players has an advantage of being quicker but then again you tend to get pushed around by bigger teams. You want to strike the right balance, and have the flexibility to go either way.

Comment by Zaratoughda 07.24.14 @ 12:55 pm

Right, but one thing we know, they always fudge their heights & weights on the official press guide and the official website.

DeJuan Blair’s height being a good example and more recently Steve Adams.

Comment by Emel 07.24.14 @ 4:37 pm

@emel,

Thanks for reporting the traps that Young and Robinson did in the pro-am championship game. I expect that Young and Jeter will play that trapping game together inside this year. The fact that they are already friends won’t hurt their ability to work together.

Comment by Howard 07.24.14 @ 7:58 pm

By the way, I’m just elaborating on something that Zaratougda wrote in his comment on the interview with Young at Cardiac Hill:

“Also, towards the end [of last season] Dixon was really going to doubling the low post a lot to get away with the fact that he was going with an undersized C in Zanna, and that was working real good as we were getting turnovers when they tried to pass out of it. So, I would not be surprised if Dixon went big time with the doubling of the low post.”

Comment by Howard 07.24.14 @ 8:04 pm

Will Dixon eventually get credit as the inventor of the “hedge-trap” defense?

Comment by Howard 07.24.14 @ 8:12 pm

Right Howard.

The low post doubling certainly worked against Colorado in a big way. With quicker big men you would think that could become a staple in Pitt’s defensive schemes.

As far as Dixon getting the credit, perhaps if the hedge-trap and JD gets us to the Final 4 and that is a main component to it.

Comment by Emel 07.25.14 @ 11:59 am

The doubling of the low post was working real good in the Florida game as well. They kept trying to get the ball into their C, Patrick Young or something like that, and it was getting doubled and we were getting turnovers out of it.

Our problem was that our offense wasn’t getting anywhere. They were schooled to stop Patterson and he wasn’t getting anywhere, Zanna was overmatched against P Young, and Robinson, Wright and Mike Young did not get anywhere. I think Wright was like 2 for 10 from the field.

Comment by Zaratoughda 07.26.14 @ 7:31 pm

First words on video as Dixon gives instructions for the open practice, “Be aggressive on the trap”:

link to pittsburghpanthers.com

Comment by Howard 07.26.14 @ 10:41 pm

You’ve gotta give Dixon credit for adapting to the strengths of his players. This team will run and trap — two things that Pitt rarely did just two years ago.

Comment by Howard 07.26.14 @ 10:51 pm

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