masthead.jpg

August 1, 2014

NCAA rules allow D-1 basketball programs to go on an international tournament once every four years. The competition is rarely much, but the attraction for coaches — and why they push hard for it despite the obvious expense — is that it gives them extra team practices. It’s a huge incentive. The fact that it is permitted once every four years, though, does make it a commodity that can’t be wasted. A team can’t wait an extra year and then get to take a trip only three years apart.

For Pitt players on the 2014-15 team, this means they get a trip to the Bahamas and a trip to Hawaii this year.

Don’t worry, the players are taking it seriously. This summer trip is all about basketball.

Sophomore transfer Sheldon Jeter smiled when discussing the anticipation for the trip.

“It’s exciting. We get to go to the Bahamas,” he said. “It’s not an everyday experience. It’s definitely something I’ve been looking forward to all summer.”

Jeter said it isn’t the basketball aspect he is looking forward to the most.

“Probably just relaxing, getting the chance to enjoy the beaches, the women down there and all that. It’s nice that we get to play basketball down there, but I’m looking forward to a vacation probably a little bit more than I am the basketball,” he said.

Goddammit Jeter. Get on the same page, here.

Okay, let’s try again. This week long trip to the Bahamas is as much about team building. Camaraderie.

The seven-day trip will allow the team a chance to become closer in an off-campus setting — not that they need that opportunity.

“We bond every day,” [Cameron] Wright said. “We’re always at each other’s houses anyway. On this campus [there are] 35,000 people, and 15 of us. We’re always together. I guess we’re like a fraternity.”

Said [Mike] Young: “We’re pretty close right now. We’re a pretty close-knit teams as is. I don’t think a team could get any closer than we are right now. Everybody is cool with everybody.”

Oh, for chrissakes… Doesn’t anyone review their talking points any more?

Fine, let’s go to the guy who never strays from his talking points.

Pitt departs Friday for a four-game tour in Nassau, Bahamas, the first of 13 Division I programs scheduled to play a series of games against local teams. Other college programs making the Bahamas trip include Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio State and Cincinnati.

Dixon appreciates the teaching opportunity for his younger players. Normally, Dixon wouldn’t be granted this much official practice time with his players until the fall.

“Those (local) teams in the Bahamas have a lot of guys that played college, a lot of good athletes, but they don’t play a lot together,” Dixon said. “The main thing is we see our guys in situations a little bit earlier and you can make adjustments when practice begins in the fall.”

Dixon said sophomores Jamel Artis, Sheldon Jeter, Chris Jones, Josh Newkirk and Mike Young, along with freshmen Cameron Johnson and Ryan Luther, will benefit from the extra work.

Better. See, is that so hard?

Dixon also talked about guys playing at different positions. Something that had to be expected with the situation at center and the glut of forwards.

“We’re playing some guys at positions they (didn’t) play before. Sheldon’s playing more three (small forward), Michael played some five (center) last year — those two really stand out.

“You start establishing your team and who can do what and who does something better than someone else. New guys come out and their confidence builds.”

Dixon will use Derrick Randall and hopefully Joseph Uchebo at center, but he is not counting on them to be the be anchors there. I like using Young at the five, since that means being able to use Jamel Artis at the four at the same time. Playing Sheldon Jeter and Durand Johnson out on the perimeter more is attractive as it gives Pitt a lot more length on the defensive perimeter.

The games in the Bahamas will give a chance to experiment. Versatility can lead to a lot of players at different spots. Not just the forwards playing the three and four. Guys like Cam Wright and Chris Jones will likely play at both the two and three at times. Josh Newkirk will play both one and two depending on whether James Robinson is out there.

And because this is modern college sports, a chance to sell more stuff. Look for these jerseys in a Pitt shop soon.


Pitt is providing a place to check on how the games go. No live feeds naturally, but some of the details. Oh, hey, a whole minute of practice is available for viewing — sort of.

Other thing to note, this piece on Cameron Johnson after his enticing debut playing in the summer league.

Johnson averaged 19.6 points per game while making 53.8 percent of his shots in seven games at the pro-am this summer, the kind of numbers that earned him the league’s newcomer of the year honor.

“I’d say the summer as a whole has gone pretty well,” he said. “I expected it to go well and it’s lived up to those expectations. I expected to get used to the system a little bit at Pitt, playing against some older guys and getting experience.”

This summer success has represented the most recent step in what has been a whirlwind year for Johnson.

After playing point guard for much of his career, he grew 5 inches from the end of his junior season to the beginning of his senior season to reach his current 6-foot-7 stature. That growth spurt forced Johnson — whose father, Gil, played at Pitt from 1988-90 — to develop a post game to complement his guard skills.

I still think Johnson is heading for a redshirt. Even if he’s added 15 pounds since May or June. He’s got a lot of strength to build to be ready for a full season grind.





Good thing Chas is not doing a Brigham Young blog.

It’s difficult to keep the Summer Pro-Am League in perspective with all of the big numbers that came out of it, but (1) Young is healthy, (2) Uchebo is mostly healthy, (3) DJ is on schedule, (4) Jeter appears to be the real thing, (5) Nuke continues to step up, and (6) even Jones appears ready to contribute. All seems well except for Haughton … who may turn out to be this year’s Mostella.

Overall, a pretty positive picture

Comment by wbb 08.01.14 @ 10:41 am

I wonder what this quote of Dixon means:

“We’re playing some guys at positions they (didn’t) play before. Sheldon’s playing more three (small forward)… ”

Either:

1. Dixon hasn’t decided where he’s going to play Jeter.

2. Jeter is going to be taught two different positions (probably the “3″ and the “4″) so that he can slide between them as the need arises.

3. Dixon has decided to play Jeter at the “3″.

Comment by Howard 08.01.14 @ 1:47 pm

I go with 2 because DJ should be ready for the 3 when the reguar season begins (according to reports)

Comment by wbb 08.01.14 @ 2:02 pm

Concur Chas, Slim should be redshirted. First off he’s still very slight.

Secondly we are pretty stacked at the 2. As you can play Wright, Newkirk, and Durand Durand there.

Probably Robinson as well, if they wanted Newkirk with the ball more at PG.

@ Howard, I think a lot of that depends on where Young is playing the majority of the time.

If he’s at the 4, no room for Jeter there and that is all dependent if Haughton shows anything when he comes to earn substantial PT.

I take it Haughton will not be on the Bahamas trip.

Also if you want to play faster I guess Young would be the much better option at the 5. If they’re forced to play halfcourt, Haughton, Randall & Uchebo (if able) will see more time.

Comment by Emel 08.01.14 @ 4:09 pm

Also did Randall practice with the team, Tuesday a week ago, July 22nd ?

And is Randall going on the Bahamas Trip ?

Comment by Emel 08.01.14 @ 4:11 pm

I guess he did and is going to.

As he’s on the 2014-2015 roster on the Official Pitt website.

Comment by Emel 08.01.14 @ 5:01 pm

@wbb, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if your speculation turns out to be correct that Haughton may be this year’s Mostella.

Comment by Howard 08.01.14 @ 5:37 pm

Emel,

Randall participated in the practice! I see him (#11 jersey, orange shoes) with his back to the camera at the 22 second mark:

link to pittsburghpanthers.com

Comment by Howard 08.01.14 @ 5:46 pm

Hope you guys are wrong about Haughton.

As that combined with losing another bigman, Doorson makes this year’s incoming class a lot less than stellar, since JD knew going in, Jeter was coming.

I mean that leaves only Slim and Ryan Luther.
Two kids who are most probably headed to a redshirt. That ain’t (emphasis) going to cut it.

Big men don’t grow on trees.

Thx for the link Howard, btw. :-)

Comment by Emel 08.01.14 @ 6:35 pm

Emel,

I’m pretty happy with this class. I’m expecting Jeter to start this year and Slim to start eventually. And we are a young team that is bound to improve if we don’t lose promising players to transfers or NBA exits.

Comment by Howard 08.01.14 @ 8:29 pm

Curious JDix interview with Seth Davis on SI.com. Jamie Dixon link to si.com

Comment by CNorwoodAZ 08.02.14 @ 1:37 pm

This nonsense from the curious SI.com interview:

“The Panthers’ strength will begin with their veteran backcourt of 6-6 junior Durand Johnson and 6-5 senior Cameron Wright.”

First DJ is not a guard!

Second, Wright and DJ are not Pitt’s stars!

Sounds like lazy boilerplate writing. SI picks two athletes X and Y for Team Z and writes: “Z’s strength begins with X and Y.”

Comment by Howard 08.02.14 @ 10:36 pm

Howard:

I have no respect for Seth Davis (in a different forum, I would use harsher language).

During the run-up to the NCAA Tourney, all he could talk about was Pitt’s non-con schedule. I think that he hoped Pitt would be left out (and if they did not win two games in the ACC Tourney, he may have gotten his wish). And he still has not let it go.
It’s a new season. Time to move on.

Comment by xfmrman 08.03.14 @ 1:38 am

There’s a box score from the first Bahamas game. Biggest surprise of the night: Cameron Wright was 4-5 at the three point line and led the team with 29 points.

The starters were:

5. Randall
4. Young
3. Jones
2. Wright
1. Robinson

But Artis and Jeter came off the bench and played more minutes than Randall. Young slid up to the “5″ to make room for them.

link to grfx.cstv.com

Comment by Howard 08.03.14 @ 10:54 am

Actually, the box score is clearly messed up. For example, it shows Slim scoring 13 points and Uchebo grabbing 12 rebounds with each playing zero minutes.

Comment by Howard 08.03.14 @ 11:01 am

Here’s the game report:

link to pittsburghpanthers.com

Comment by Howard 08.03.14 @ 11:11 am

My conclusion that Young played some at the “5″ was based on a faulty box score. It could be that only Uchebo and Randall played at the “5″.

Comment by Howard 08.03.14 @ 1:35 pm

I misread the boxscore when I wrote that Wright scored 29 points. He actually scored 21 points, but he was genuinely 4 for 5 from three-point land.

Where did Wright’s accurate outside shooting come from? Did he develop a reliable three-point shot during the offseason?

Maybe Seth Davis will turn out to be correct –Wright and DJ could be the top scorers on this year’s team!

Comment by Howard 08.03.14 @ 2:05 pm

Everybody is getting playing time. According to the twitter feed, Today’s starting line-up will be completely different (exception Wright at the 2):

5: Uchebo
4. Artis
3. Jeter
2. Wright
1. Newkirk

I can’t tell from the twitter feed which (Artis or Jeter) is playing the “4″ and which the “3″.

link to twitter.com

Comment by Howard 08.03.14 @ 2:08 pm

We could be seeing Uchebo emerging as the starting center. The “live stats” feature on the pittsburghpanthers.com website has the playing time during Saturday and Sunday’s games.

Randall started on Saturday, Uchabo today. Both days, Uchebo played more minutes. Today he played 21:30 to Randall’s 6:23.

Comment by Howard 08.03.14 @ 8:35 pm

I was wrong about the reason why Randall only got 6:23 playing time Sunday — Zaratougda noticed, and reported, in a comment at Cardiac Hill that he fouled out!

Comment by Howard 08.04.14 @ 7:28 am

For all of you, “Pitt gets no respect” guys…..here is some more evidence:

Pitt plays Chaminade in first round go EA Muaii Invitational. The winner will play the winner of SDSU v BYU. Thar winner will play in the championship game.

Comment by Boubacar Aw 08.06.14 @ 11:04 am

Boubacar:

From link to pittsburghpanthers.com

“Pitt has never faced NCAA Division II Chaminade University. The Panthers have the luxury of playing an NCAA Division II program because Pitt will gain an extra game by playing a road contest at Hawaii. Due to NCAA rules, programs that schedule a road contest against a team in Hawaii are granted an additional game.”

I don’t know if that was Coach Dixon’s plan, but he was an assistant at Hawaii.

And using the word “luxury” just adds fuel to that fire.

Comment by xfmrman 08.06.14 @ 12:20 pm

Last year’s recruits, perhaps thanks to Rohrson, may turn out to be one of the best groups ever:

1. Young — an immediate starter.
2. Newkirk — an immediate contributor.
3. Artis — just needs to learn defense.
4. Uchebo — took a year to heal, but likely to start this year.
5. Jeter — took a year to get here, but likely to start this year

Based upon the Bahamas trip, I now project the following starting lineup:

1. Robinson
2. Wright
3. Jeter
4. Young
5. Uchebo

Newkirk subbing at least 20 minutes per game at 1 and 2.

Young sliding to the 5 for about 15 minutes per game.

Comment by Howard 08.06.14 @ 6:53 pm

Powered by WordPress © PittBlather.com