Pitt basketball Q&A
Obviously with things getting hot with Pitt's recent recruiting efforts, I received more emails with questions.
Q: Does Pitt have a shot with Lance Stephenson?
A: Well, that's the million dollar question, I guess. Pitt has been talking to Stephenson's camp off and on for months. I didn't report it for all that time because right now there's not much to say. Basically, Stephenson has interest in Pitt, and Pitt has a little bit of interest in Stephenson. It's true that Tom Herrion was at Stephenson's game the other night, but he was also there to check out some good young players in the game. So I wouldn't put too much stock into that. Coaches check out games all the time when they are free. They are always recruiting. Now, obviously this kid is a high school superstar, and I'm not using that term lightly. He may be the most talented high school senior in the country, but he also has baggage. For both those reasons Pitt is going to keep a toe in the water. But I wouldn't get too excited yet. There are a ton of variables in the recruitment of Stephenson and for the moment Pitt is just lurking around the periphery. Consider it a long shot for the time being. If they decide to get serious, I'll let you know. But right now they aren't.
Q: What's your thoughts on Isaiah Epps?
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A: The kid is a big time talent. He is a combo guard that Pitt is going to try at the point. That's fine by Epps because he loves having the ball in his hands. He needs to get stronger, but he has the ability to be an elite Big East player because he is an excellent athlete and he can really light it up. And he has the right kind of cockiness to him, too, which is what you need to be a Big East point guard. He's the best point guard prospect Pitt has had since Vonteego Cummings, who was a top 20 prospect coming out of Georgia. Imagine what a talented kid like Cummings could have done with Dixon as his coach. Ralph Willard is great coaching the less talented kids, but he had no idea what to do with somebody like Cummings. But I digress.
Q: How does Epps feel about competing against his cousin, Travon Woodall?
A: Technically, it's his second cousin. And he feels fine about it. They are good friends. And Woodall welcomes the challenge.
Q: What does the commitment of Epps mean for Travon Woodall and Ashton Gibbs?
A: Woodall has been hurt all year so they are hoping to get a redshirt for him at the end of the season. They are hoping he can progress enough to be the starting point guard next season, but that will be a big jump since he hasn't been able to play much this season. If he can't do it, it will be Gibbs, who they feel has really progressed with his point guard skills. And as we know, he can flat out shoot.
Q: With the commitment of Epps, does that mean Pitt will no longer go after Sterling Gibbs?
A: It doesn't mean that at all. You can never have enough talented guards. If Sterling is good enough to wrestle the starting job away, then both Ashton and Epps can easily play the two. But Sterling is still a long way off. I know some Pitt fans have penciled him in already, but that's premature. He's not destined for Pitt. He will be a hot commodity.
Q: Will Pitt still have room for Will Barton now that Epps has committed?
A: I think I'm noticing a trend here. Let me make this easy. Pitt will not turn down an elite player that wants to sign with them- period. And Barton is an elite player who could be a star in the Big East.
Q: Is Pitt still recruiting Tom Droney?
A: They really like Droney as a player and as a person, and in past years they would have definitely taken him. But right now, they are so loaded and there doesn't appear to be room at the inn for him. If they thought that he had point guard skills, it would have been a different story.
Q: What do you think Pitt's chances are with Adreian Payne? And what kind of a player is he?
A: Too early to say what their chances are. Payne is known for being somebody who doesn't really talk much. And I'm talking literally one word answers for the most part. So getting anything out of him is difficult. His coach, on the other hand, was impressed with Brandin Knight and Jamie Dixon. What most got my attention was that the coach made a point to say that Pitt's system was ideal for Payne. And he's right. Pitt is trying hard to get him on campus and that's half the battle. If they can achieve that, then there odds go up.
As for what kind of a player he is, he is 6'9" and VERY long. Think of Blair's long arms on a kid a few inches taller. He's skinny, though, and certainly not a beast like Blair. And his offensive game is not there yet, though that's almost always the last thing for big men to get down. Dante Taylor was similar at this time last year, though he was a little better offensively then. But Payne is also highly athletic and as far as offensive rebounding and shot blocking, he is in the elite class for both.
Q: I guess most of us have heard that we are now after Barton, Stephenson, and Payne, but is there anybody else?
A: Like I wrote previously, Pitt is not "after" Stephenson at this point. Barton and Payne are major targets who they will take under any circumstances. They also liked Eric Atkins and Tyrone Garland at the point, but now that they have Epps, that will no longer be the case. And for the front court, they like 6'10" Massachusetts center Carson Desrosiers, and he could be an option if they fall out of it with Payne. Kyryl Natyazhko is still an option for '09, in case Blair leaves for the NBA, though that could muddy things with Payne if he didn't decide yet.
Q: Is it me or do we have two excellent recruiters as assistants?
A: It's not you. Herrion is a known commodity and is considered one of the very best in the business. Knight, I thought it would take a little longer, but being an assistant for the No.1 team in the country has opened more doors for him. Now, when I talk to kids, its not, "I like Pitt, but Kansas just offered me!" Now its, "Pitt's the No.1 team in the country and they just offered. That's pretty cool". Plus, Knight is really helped by the fact that he's close to the age of these kids, and by the fact that he was a very known college player not that long ago. It has to be pretty cool to have a guy who was the Player of the Year in the Big East just seven years ago walk into your house and tell you that he wants you to play in the same league, and that league just happens to be the best one in the country. It couldn't get better for Pitt right now and that's why the staff is in overdrive to load up while they still have the buzz.
Q: Do you think Pitt will over recruit Gary McGhee?
A: McGhee is an awesome young man and gives it his all constantly. So from a personal standpoint, I hope it doesn't happen, unless he wants it to happen. But he is pretty much at the level I predicted when he signed. I wasn't really high on his abilities as some may remember. At least not as a starting center, which is what Pitt desperately needed at the time with Aaron Gray graduating. And at the time it didn't seem ideal to put a 6'6" freshman at center, even if he was a beast man. But ultimately I think people are down on him now because, as I feared at the time, they saw Gray get turned from a plugger into an All-American, and people expected the same with McGhee. But McGhee was just meant to be a guy that is physical in the paint and gives the big guys a few minutes rest. Anything more than that would be considered a bonus. Contrary to popular belief, no team has, or even tries, to land 13 elite prospects. That's a recipe for disaster. The truth is, you need the Gary McGhees on your team as much as you need the DeJuan Blairs on your team. Now, if he starts all season, then you screwed up. But you screwed up by not replacing your highly talented center with another highly talented center, and not by getting McGhee earlier. Not everybody was destined to be an excellent Big East player. It just seems that way sometimes when you watch Pitt.
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