Monday, January 12, 2009


by Chris Dokish

With the recent verbal commitment of 6'2" PG Isaiah Epps, a top 50 prospect from Plainfield (NJ) HS, the Pittsburgh basketball program has no current openings for the 2010 class. But, like all programs, the Panthers staff has not stopped recruiting, and they are still looking to add top talent.

Two 2009 recruits, top 25 prospect Dante Taylor, a 6'9" PF from National Christian Academy in Fort Washington, MD, and fast rising 6'9" C/F Talib Zanna of Bishop McNamara HS in Forestville, MD, are a strong start for a future excellent front line, but Jamie Dixon is aiming high again in 2010. This time Dixon is putting the full court pressure on 6'9" C/F Adreian Payne, a top 10 prospect from Jefferson HS in Dayton, OH.

"Dixon came here a few days ago," says Jefferson head coach Art Winston. "It was a good visit. Pitt offered a long time ago and it was nice to see them come to see Adreian."

While the Panthers offered long ago, Dixon's visit marked the beginning of the push to land Payne.
"They wanted us to visit for their game Sunday against St. John's, but we played the night before and we couldn't drive the four hours there the next morning," says Winston. "But we are trying to get there by the end of the month".

"I definitely want to visit Pitt," says Payne, a man of very few words. "I'm going to go for an unofficial soon. It's nice to have them recruiting me."

Payne, who can play both center or forward in college, according to Winston, is an ultra athletic, ridiculously long big man with great rebounding and shot blocking skills. But he hasn't scratched the surface yet, according to Winston.

"Most kids play AAU ball from when they were very young, but Adreian didn't play until he was a freshman," says Winston. "Not only didn't he play much before then, he didn't even watch basketball. But we saw him when he was in 7th Grade and he was already 6'3" or 6"4", and he had a great feel for the game. So we knew then that he had a chance to be special."

As expected for such an elite prospect, Pittsburgh has a lot of competition for his services. Dayton, Ohio State, Cincinnati, and Xavier will do everything they can to keep him in state, and Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisville, Memphis, and West Virginia are just a few of the many who have either offered or have recruited Payne hard. But, according to Winston, Pitt has made a major impression on both himself and his star big man.

"(Pitt assistant coach) Brandin Knight came down to visit not long ago and he was really nice" says Winston.

"And he was a big time player in college, too, so he really made an impression on us. Dixon was very nice, too. They have been great and they showed what kind of a classy program they have there."

While recruiting as the head coach of the current No. 1 team in the country no doubt has its benefits, Winston said Pitt has something much better going for them.
"It's not even about them being No.1," says Winston.

"What we like so much about Pitt, besides how nice they've been, is there system. It's perfect for Adreian".

Winston says they were going to wait until the season was over before making a decision, but now it may come sooner. "We will probably do it before the season ends now," says Winston. "We will take a look at where he fits in best then do it".



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