Wednesday, June 11, 2008


June 11, 2008

Head Coach: Jamie Dixon
2006-2007 Record: 27-10 (10-8 in Big East), Big East Tournament Champions, NCAA 2nd Round

Returning Players:
Sam Young, Senior (Forward)
Levance Fields, Senior (Point Guard)
Tyrell Biggs, Senior (Forward/Center)
Gilbert Brown, Sophomore (Guard/Forward)
Austin Wallace, Sophomore (Center/Forward)
DeJuan Blair, Sophomore (Power Forward)
Brad Wanamaker, Sophomore (Guard)
Gary McGhee, Sophomore (Center)

Incoming Freshman:
Nasir Robinson, Small Forward
Ashton Gibbs, Shooting Guard
Travon Woodall, Point Guard
Dwight Miller, Power Forward

Eligible Transfers:
Jermaine Dixon, JUCO (Guard)

Graduated Players:
Ronald Ramon, Senior (Guard)
Keith Benjamin, Senior (Guard)
Mike Cook, Senior (Guard/Forward)

Transfers Out of Program:
Cassin Diggs, Junior (Center)

Open Items/Issues:
The Panthers have applied for a 6th season for Mike Cook, who was injured last season in the 11th game of the season. Cook's paperwork was filed by the program and they expect to receive a decision by the end of the month. It is rare that the NCAA would allow a 6th season in this instance, but Pitt is going through with the process on behalf of Cook.

Pittsburgh is also currently looking to fill a spot on their basketball staff after assistant Orlando Antigua left the Panthers for a similar position on John Calipari's staff at Memphis. Coach Jamie Dixon immediately promoted Brandin Knight from the Director of Basketball Operations position to a full-time assistant, opening the administrative position on the staff.

Reserve center Cassin Diggs is no longer with the basketball team, otherwise the spring has been quiet as the Panthers look forward to the 2008-2009 season.

It was more of the same for the Panthers in 2007-2008 season, another 10-win conference season (seven in a row), a spot in the Big East Tournament Championship game (7th time in 8 years) and an earlier than expected exit from the NCAA Tournament (2nd round against Michigan State). However, the 2007-2008 season would hardly be remembered as ho-hum to Panther fans.

When Levance Fields nailed the game winning three-pointer in Madison Square Garden to lead Pitt to a thrilling overtime win over Duke, the Panthers were considered the team to beat in the Big East. However, test revealed the worst of their fears on Mike Cook's knee as he would be lost for the season. Their next time out, they were crushed by the Atlantic 10's Dayton and suffered another injury blow as Levance Fields went down with a broken foot and his return in the regular season was in doubt.

Like they always do, Pitt soldiered on, posting an 8-4 record without Fields (and Cook) and 7-4 in the Big East. Fields returned to the line-up and helped lead the Panthers to a Big East Tournament championship with four wins in four nights.

Now, Pittsburgh returns a healthy Fields, along with Sam Young and DeJuan Blair to give Pitt three players at, or near, the top of the Big East at their respective positions. Adding to a dangerous starting line-up is sophomore G/F Gilbert Brown, who looks to be Pitt's next star. The bench is highlighted by senior Tyrell Biggs and sophomore Gary McGhee up front.

The position creating the biggest question mark for the Panthers is at shooting guard. With Ronald Ramon and Keith Benjamin (and most likely Mike Cook) exhausting their eligibility, Pittsburgh will have to reload at the off-guard position. Holdover Brad Wanamaker struggled at times as a freshman and he will compete with incoming JUCO recruit Jermaine Dixon, younger brother of former Maryland star Juan Dixon, and freshman Ashton Gibbs for playing time. Another possibility is moving the tremendously athletic Gilbert Brown to the guard position and inserting Tyrell Biggs into the starting line-up or freshman Nasir Robinson.

Levance Fields' return to health was a key to Pitt's run in the Big East Tournament and the addition of Travon Woodall from the powerful St. Anthony's team of last season solidifies the point position for another four years for the Panthers.

All in all, it looks like another typical Panther squad. They have a mix of veterans and youngsters waiting for their turn to keep Pitt in the upper echelon of the conference. This team features a little more athletic ability and flair than many of the previous teams, but the Panthers are definitely capable of continuing the impressive streaks of championship game appearances, 10-win conference seasons and a Big East-best seven straight NCAA appearances. In fact, this might be the best of the bunch that has made four trips to the Sweet 16 and won two Big East Tournament titles the last seven years.


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