Wednesday, August 31, 2005


August 31, 2005

The University of Pittsburgh released the following statement concerning their basketball program yesterday:
PITTSBURGH –University of Pittsburgh Head Basketball Coach Jamie Dixon announced Tuesday that junior transfer Mike Cook has enrolled in fall classes while freshman Trevor Ferguson did not enroll in fall classes. The University of Pittsburgh began its fall semester on Monday.

A six-foot-four-inch guard/forward Mike Cook (Philadelphia, Pa./East Carolina/Friends Central H.S.) transfers to Pitt from East Carolina where he averaged 12.8 points per game in two seasons with the Pirates. As a sophomore in 2004-05, Cook led East Carolina in scoring (15.0 ppg.) and averaged 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists. As a freshman in 2003-04, Cook earned All-Conference USA Freshman Team honors after averaging 10.4 points per game. Cook will be eligible to compete for Pitt in the 2006-07 season.

“We excited about the addition of Mike Cook to our program,” Dixon said. “He is a proven player who has performed at a high level. We look forward to his continued development during his redshirt season and his contributions in 2006-07.”

A six-foot-five-inch freshman guard from Odessa, Fla., Ferguson signed with Pitt in April. Ferguson was one of five 2005 signees including freshman forward Tyrell Biggs (Nanuet, N.Y./Don Bosco Prep, N.J.), junior college transfer Doyle Hudson (Eleutheray, Bahamas/Roane State J.C.), freshman guard Levance Fields (Brooklyn, N.Y./Xaverian H.S.) and freshman forward Sam Young (Clinton, Md./Hargrave Military Academy). Biggs, Hudson, Fields and Young began classes on Monday.

“Trevor will not enroll at Pitt because of personal matters,” Dixon said. “We are currently working with Trevor to determine his future. We wish Trevor success in his ongoing pursuits.”

The announcement of Cook was just a formality, since the University could not comment until classes began and it has been widely reported that he would be enrolling at Pittsburgh as a transfer student. He is expected to make an immediate impact for Pittsburgh when eligible to play next season.

The news on Trevor Ferguson is a little more newsworthy. It was widely speculated that Ferguson could be asked to redshirt by the Pitt staff this season. Several things have happened at Pittsburgh since coach Jamie Dixon aggressively pursued the 6'5 Ferguson last spring. One, Carl Krauser decided to return. Two, Mike Cook transferred into Pittsburgh. Three, Gilbert Brown, another 6'5 perimeter player, verbally committed to the Panthers. It might have been a while before Ferguson was going to see the court and early playing time was one of the factors in his decision, but at this time, that does not look like it was going to happen.

The Pittsburgh Sports Report's Keystone Recruiting Newsletter also has the story: Panthers Lose Swing man. If you are a Pittsburgh football or basketball fan, or a recruiting follower of the Keystone State, you should definitely sign up for their 100% FREE Newsletter!

So, what does this mean for Pitt recruiting? Well, since Ferguson was not in line to play much this year or in the near future, it opens up one scholarship in their 2006 class, which now gives them two to give out, which will give them some added flexibility on the recruiting trail. They have Gilbert Brown committed and they have been concentrating on big men like Mike Davis, Taj Gibson, Jonathan Mandeldove, Hamady N'Diaye, Jason Love, Jamal McLean and Epke Udoh. Pitt could now add two of these big men, or, see if they can get back in the mix, or closer to the top with players such as Eugene Harvey, Lazar Hayward, Kelvin Lewis, etc. This will be something to follow as we move into the Sepetember evaluation period and official visit season!

Also, the transfer news of Pitt 2007 recruit Herb Pope seems to have died down and Pope talked to Keystone Recruiting yesterday, who origianlly reported first (props to them!) that Pope was not intending to transfer a Florida prep school. Here is their report on Pope returning to Aliquippa: Pope Back at Aliquippa. It seems he is very committed to Pittsburgh, but one of the oddest quotes I have seen in a long time comes from Pope: “Cincinnati just lost their coach so you never know if the Big East will fall apart. So I just want to make sure.” Pope also recently said he was told by another college coach that the Pitt staff would not be there by the time he gets to Pitt, so, Pope is definitely the target of some interesting recruiting tactics. LOI signing day probably can't get here soon enough in the next 15 months for Pitt fans on this one!!

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette also has articles on both stories: PPG: Pope at Aliquippa and PPG: Ferguson back in Florida. The ferguson article does shed a little more light that he had become homesick while at Pitt for summer school.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005


August 24, 2005

Levon Kendall has been named to the Canadian National Team that begins play today in the FIBA Americas world championship qualifying tournament. Former Hawaii standout Carl English and former Niagara star Juan Mendez will lead Leo Rautin's squad, which will also include Connecticut's Denham Brown. Canada opens against Venezuela on Thursday, then meets the United States on Friday, Panama on Saturday, and Brazil on Sunday. The tournament will be completed Sept. 4 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, as the top 10 teams in the Americas zone compete for four spots in the 2006 FIBA world championships in Tokyo. Here is an article on the team from Canada.Com: Brown, Kendall Compete for Canada.

Keystone Recruiting of the Pittsburgh Sports Report has an artilce on Pitt early commit Herb Pope. Currently, Pope is in Jacksonville, FL checking out Arlington Country Day, one of the top prep schools in the country. There was an internet report (Team Breakdown Says Pope to Fl Prep)that claims he has transferred to the Florida prep power, but Pope tells the Pittsburgh Sports Report that is not the case yet. He says he is checking it out on the advice of one of his AAU coaches. However, he talks very highly of his expectations with Aliquippa this winter. Pope also drops a little of a bombshell on Pittsburgh fans, claiming to be open in his recruiting. He then qualifies the statement, saying only if Jamie Dixon and his staff are not there. He says another coach has told Pope that the Pitt staff would not be there when it is time for him to play at Pitt. I guess, time will tell. Here is the Keystone Recruiting Article on Herp Pope: Pope Addresses Transfer Rules.

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TRANSFER ALERT: Mike Cook (G/F) from East Carolina

Projected 2006-2007 Roster:
Seniors: Antonio Graves (G), Levon Kendall (F/C), Doyle Hudson (F/C), Aaron Gray (C)
Juniors: Keith Benjamin (G), Ronald Ramon (G), Mike Cook (G/F)
Sophomores: Levance Fields (PG), Sam Young (F) Trevor Ferguson (G) Tyrell Biggs (F)
Freshmen: Gilbert Brown (SF/G)

Additional Note: Pittsburgh received an early verbal from Herb Pope for 2007.

Our previous Pitt Recruiting Reports: July 1st and July 25 Recruiting Round-Up.


Story from Pittsburgh Post Gazette's Sports Briefs on Cook transferring to Pitt: Cook to Pitt.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who cites television reports out of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh has added East Carlolina transfer Mike Cook to the roster. In Cook, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon adds a versatile guard/forward that brings excellent size and strength to the Big East. Cook is a powerful wing that has a knack for getitng to the hoop to score and has the size to grab rebounds in traffic. He is also an excellent ballhandler and passer. He can play all three perimeter positions. Cook attended Friends Central in Philadelphia where he was a teammate of Hakim Warrick. Cook was a 4-yr starter at Friends and left as the school's all-time leading scorer. Cook spent a 5th year prep season at New Hampton Prep in New Hampshire.

At East Carolina, Cook was a member of the Conference USA all-freshmen team in his first year with the club. He averaged 10.4 PPG, but it was over the last 12 games of the season in which he took over the PG duties and averaged 13.7 PPG in that time. His play as a freshmen led Coach Bill Herrion to name Cook one of the 2 team captains prior to his sophomore season. As a sophomore, Cook averaged 15 PPG for the Pirates in a disappointing season. Cook is a fiery and intense competitor that sometimes has trouble controlling those emotions and the bad season at ECU seemed to get to him and at times he seemed to be playing for himself, which led to poor shooting percentages and increased turnovers as a sophomore. When it came time to transfer, LaSalle and UNC-Charlotte where seriously mentioned with Cook as well as Pitt and Georgia Tech. Reports are, that he has decided on Pittsburgh.

Pitt now has 2 commitments, Cook and SF Gilbert Brown, and one scholarship open. Pittsburgh definitely needs to land a big man and they have been following Mike Davis nearly every step of the way in the month of July and Davis has responded with solid play and made the ABCD senior all-star game. Davis had originally verballed to Pittsburgh while a student at Xaverian HS (where he was a classmate of Pitt incoming frosh Levance Fields), but was dismissed from school and played the past year at Bannaker HS in NYC. Davis will prep this season at Notre Dame Prep and will try to get some of the off the court issues set aside that has detoured his trip to college. Pitt has also been heavily involved with Taj Gibson, who has visited Pitt with Davis this summer and Hamady N'Diaye as other big men possibilities. Players that are also mentioned in connection with Pitt include Marcus Johnson from Ohio, Lazar Hayward of Buffalo (and Notre Dame Prep) and Eugene Harvey of NJ, but with the Cook commitment, it seems like they would no longer be in the picture.

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2005-2006 Team Roster from Official Team Site: ROSTER.

The Pittsburgh Coaching Staff: PITT STAFF.

Home Court: Petersen Events Center: The Pete.

OVERVIEW: Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon enters his third season as a head coach with a new-look Panther program. After two seasons as the head man, Dixon has accumulated an impressive 23-9 mark in the Big East conference and 51-14 overall mark. Much of that record has been accumulated with the parts he inherited from previous head coach Ben Howland, whom Dixon served as his top assistant.


Last season has been labeled as a disappointment for Pitt, not too many teams in the past have had 10-6 conference records dubbed as such, but with Pitt going 6-1 against Connecticut, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Boston College, to finish 10-6 in the conference is a tad mind-boggling. Pittsburgh seemed to really miss the strong presence of Jaron Brown and Julius Page on the wings and the revolving door at the wing positions last year really hampered the Panther's consistency.

The Panthers lose much of their frontcourt as they embark on Dixon’s third season, but they are helped greatly with the return of Carl Krauser as a 5th year senior and the rest of his backcourt mates are a year older. Adding to the mix is the highest rated freshmen class in the Howland/Dixon era, an era that has been to 3 sweet 16’s and 4 straight NCAA tournament appearances and a 49-15 conference record over four seasons. It is going to take some more work this year, but Pitt fully expects to be in the NCAA mix again this season.

OUT OF THE SHADOWS: For the last two seasons, when most people thought of Pittsburgh they thought of Chris Taft and Chevon Troutman beating up teams down low. Troutman earned 1st team all-conference honors last season and Taft, although never fulfilling his vast potential while at Pitt, was a force to be reckoned with as a conference freshmen of the year. This year, both those players are no longer there and Coach Dixon will have to turn to some new faces upfront to get the job done in the traditionally physical Big East.

Aaron Gray, the 7’0 275 lb C, is a player we have previously profiled as one that is expected to take a major step forward this season. Gray is more than just a big body, he has solid hands and a good touch inside. He showed his dedication to the Pitt program and bettering himself by losing over 30 lbs last season and has continually gotten the praise of the Pitt staff and those that has seen his work on a more extended basis. He flashed that potential with a 15 point performance at Villanova and other solid outings against Notre Dame, Connecticut and Boston College. Gray must continue to improve his conditioning and stay out of foul trouble to be on the floor as much as possible. With more consistent touches and extended playing time, Gray is a player that could really develop into one of the better Big East big men this season.

The other front court position is likely to be manned by redshirt junior Levon Kendall. Kendall is coming off an impressive run for the bronze medalist Canadian U-21 team in the World Championships, where he was named to the all-tournament team. Kendall exploded for a 40 point night against team USA, that even had Jamie Dixon surprised. Kendall is a skilled big man, that measures in at 6’10 and has the ability to put the ball on the floor and step out and hit shots beyond the arc. Last season he was used primarily as a wing player, which was a role he never seemed to fully find comfort in, this season, with the graduation of Chevy Troutman, his return to his natural position could help him find his niche in the Pitt program he has so patiently waited for.

RETURNEES: As mentioned earlier, the Panthers will be helped greatly with the return of all-league performer Carl Krauser. Krauser led Pittsburgh last season with 16 PPG. The 24 yr old Krauser also added 6 assists and 5 rebounds a game. However, he will need to do a better job taking care of the basketball and cut down on the 4+ turnovers a game he averaged, many coming on offensive fouls. His experience testing the NBA draft process could come in handy to help him mature as a floor general for the young Panthers. Another starter, Antonio Graves also returns to the backcourt mix next to Krauser. Graves shot 46% from 3-pt land last season, but battled ankle injuries throughout the season, which seemed to interrupt his season. Another 3-pt specialist is sophomore Ron Ramon. Even though Ramon shot just 34% from beyond the arc, it was a late season slump that took away from a solid rookie season. An injured shoulder might have been the culprit. Keith Benjamin also comes back from an assortment of injuries that limited his time early on. The sophomore guard is a superb athlete that has the potential to play a major role in the Panther plans. In the frontcourt, Aaron Gray and Levon Kendall will be counted on to lead an inexperienced group of players. JUCO transfer John DeGroat should also be in the mix this season at the wing position. Much was expected from DeGroat last season but he never was able to get his season going and saw limited action for most of the season.

INCOMING: Pittsburgh fans are probably breathing a sigh of relief today as the official roster has been released and the names of all 5 expected newcomers are listed. The big prize of the recruiting class is Sam Young, the prep school standout who attended Hargrave Military Academy last season. Young, a Washington DC native, is expected to vie for time immediately at the forward positions and contend for freshmen of the year honors in the Big East. Young blends tremendous athletic ability with a tenacious and aggressive style of play that should fit in very well in the Big East from day one. Also in the mix at the forward spots is NJ native Tyrell Biggs, another of the top recruits in the Big East. Biggs is a 6’8 250 lb forward that is surprisingly skilled and nimble for a player his size. JUCO transfer Doyle Hudson also adds depth upfront and insurance to Kendall and Gray. The decision to return by Carl Krauser came right down to the end and Pitt had covered themselves by adding NYC PG Levance Fields to their class in the spring period. Fields led his Xaverian HS team to the NYS Federation state finals and also displayed his skills in the Jordan Classic this past spring, in time, he has a chance to be an excellent Big East point guard and will learn the ropes this year from Krauser. Pitt also added 6’5 G Trevor Ferguson from Florida in the spring period as well. A guard with good size and shooting skills, Ferguson is a player not much is known about, but could fill a role at Pitt if he can hit the long range shot.

LOSSES: Pittsburgh loses Chevon Troutman and Mark McCarroll to graduation and Chris Taft was an early entry to the NBA draft. All three players were frontcourt stalwarts the last two seasons for Jamie Dixon and will not be replaced very easily. This change could move Pittsburgh from an inside-dominant team to more of a perimeter-orientated attack. Troutman and McCarroll were both with the program for 5 years, so it has been a long time for Big East foes to not have to worry about facing Chevy Troutman in the paint, I am sure more than a few are breathing a sigh of relief.

SCHEDULE: After a couple seasons as a marquee Big East team, the Panthers are taking at least a season away from the limelight when it comes to the schedule. The past few seasons, Pittsburgh seemingly lead the nation in national TV appearances, but with some new challengers to the throne this season, Pitt has been downgraded a bit when selection of the match-ups were made. Pitt’s schedule definitely grades out in the fair category, not extensively hard or easy this year. They do have to face rival West Virginia this season two times, but also get teams that might be in more of a rebuilding stage in Providence and Marquette twice. The also do not face in-state rival Villanova at all and miss out on the opportunity to play South Florida. If Pittsburgh can take advantage of a very reasonable home slate, they could continue their winning ways in the Big East conference.

OUTLOOK: Every year we have questions about the Pittsburgh Panthers and each year they seem to get the job done of late. This year is no different as Pitt will look much different from the teams of the last couple years with a more athletic make-up to the roster. However, they still have some muscle and beef down low and could become one of the more versatile teams in the conference. However, much of the talent is unproven at the Big East level in terms of consistent roles, aside from Krauser, and how quickly, or even if, the key players around him step up to consistent Big East level performers will tell the tale of the Pittsburgh season. My initial feeling on the 2005-2006 Panther team is they are a middle of the pack group that will be fighting on the NCAA bubble all season. One hot streak or cold streak could determine their fate. As of know, too many other teams have less questions potentially ahead of them to move them up any higher, but, some of their questions could be answered early on. Pittsburgh is a very interesting team to keep an eye on this season.

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