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.
Sneak peak of the home white uniforms Pitt will wear on its upcoming Bahamas trip, back & front: pic.twitter.com/SBJ61EHpeU
— Pitt Basketball (@HailToPittHoops) July 31, 2014
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.