By Chris Dokish
The basketball fans seem to have a lot more questions so I will once again answer some of their emails here.
Q: Does the Pitt staff think DeJuan Blair could leave for the NBA after this season? He doesn't seem ready to me.
A: Yes, there is a definite possibility that he could leave after this season. As for not being ready, most players entering the NBA draft aren't ready so I don't see why that would stop him. Hopefully he stays, though. He could go down as one of the best ever, not only at Pitt, but in the Big East.
Q: I have heard DeAndre Kane is possibly just as good as Dominic Cheek. Is that what you're hearing?
A: As far as a prospect, Kane is definitely not on the same level as Cheek. That doesn't mean he won't end up being a better college player some day. You never know how well players develop. But even though Kane is not in Cheek's league, he could still be a good college player.
Q: With Dante Taylor possibly leaving after one or two years, don't you think Pitt should be looking for another big time forward to replace him and Blair?
A: Taylor hasn't even played one game yet and people already have him being good enough to leave early for the NBA? He's a top 25 prospect, not top 5. That means he is not a surefire NBA player, let alone an early entry. Many top 25 prospects don't end up in the NBA. The last top 25 prospect Pitt had was Vonteego Cummings, a good college player, who nobody thought was going to leave early for the NBA. Now if Taylor lives up to his potential, then you could see him leave in a few years. But let's see him play first.
Q: Do you see Pitt going after the Ukranian kid from Florida?
A: I assume you mean Kyryl Natyazhko from IMG Academy in Bradenton. As for Pitt pursuing him, they are hovering around him now and could eventually pounce. Tom Herrion knows the person who brought over Natyazhko very well, but even if the Panthers decide to get heavily involved, it will be a longshot. The competition would be fierce.
Q: Where do you think Dominic Cheek, Isiah Epps, and DeAndre Kane end up?
A: Cheek- Kansas or Villanova
Q: Do you think Pitt can be the leader for Cheek after his visit?
A: Could? Of course. Likely? Probably not.
Q: How do you think the team has performed early in the season?
A: Pretty much as expected, though I am impressed with how the big three of Sam Young, DeJuan Blair, and Levance Fields are playing right off the bat. And the staff thinks Sam Young hasn't even found his shot yet. So he's only going to get better.
I didn't think the rest of the team would be anything more than role players this year, especially the young players, and so far that has been the case, but players like Biggs and Dixon could be solid and give about 8 ppg each this year. That's enough if they do other things well and the big three stay at a top level. If Gilbert Brown comes back healthy then that would be a great addition, to say the least, and he could be starting at the two when the games get tougher. If that's the case, that's three excellent players and three solid players. The staff is hoping that Gary McGhee will be able to provide quality minutes when the conference games start. If they can get to seven productive players, then get anything from the freshmen, then they will definitely have a huge year. But my optimism is based mostly on the big three. To get past the Sweet 16, a team needs three excellent players (except for the rare Cinderella team), and if the top three for Pitt stays healthy and continues to play well, then getting past the Sweet 16 may finally be a reality. I think because of the top three, this is their best chance in a few decades.
Q: Is Gilbert Brown's injury worse than Pitt has led on and could he be gone for the year?
A: Last I heard, they were hoping he would be ready for the games in Newark, but they aren't going to rush him. They want him healthy for the end of the year.
Q: Did Pitt ever get close to landing Durand Scott?
A: I reported months ago that Scott was going to Miami, so no. They wrapped him up a long time ago and that's all I can say about that.
Q: How did the staff lose another local guy, in Tom Droney?
A: The staff would have taken Droney had he committed early on, but the more he waited, the more the staff realized they wanted more of a poing guard. Plus, like I said before, his parents feel he is a better fit at Notre Dame and they are probably right. He's a great kid, though, and I wish him luck.
Q: I love the way Nasir Robinson plays. Is there a chance that he can be a starter for the team soon?
A: It's always possible, but his lack of shooting will hurt him as far as playing starter minutes. But he's the type you need on your team and the kid is a winner who will run through a brick wall for you. He's defintiely a great addition. By the way, if you want to see Nasir before he came to Pitt, you can see him being interviewed with his friend, and then teammate, Tyreke Evans, in the documentary "Gunnin' For That No. 1 Spot". You can see the playground where Robinson learned his skills and toughness.
Q: What are your final thoughts on the four players signed early for 2009?
A: I think it's the best class in the Howland/Dixon Era, by far. I always thought of prospects in three categories- difference maker, role player, and questionable. Pitt has had only two questionable signings in recent years, that I can remember, and that was Cassin Diggs and Austin Wallace. I wrote that both were head scratchers at the time and both proved me right. A vast majority of players that Pitt gets are role players in that they all have a role and they do it well. The two players on the current team that are definite difference makers are Young and Blair, and it's no coincidence that both were top 50 prospects when they came out. They are difference makers because either can take over a game. In this class, Taylor is a difference maker and the rest right now are role players. But unlike past classes, they are role players who have a ton of upside, especially Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna, who both could turn out to be difference makers someday. Both are undervalued steals, who by the end of year people will be wondering why they weren't recruited more.
Q: Is Dwight Miller going to be redshirted?
A: That's the plan.