Wednesday, February 11, 2009


By Chris Dokish

It's been awhile so may as well answer the questions I've been getting.

Q: How much does it help that Dante Taylor is a McDonald's All-American?

A: If it's true, it certainly couldn't hurt. But neither he, nor his coach at NCA, nor the Pitt staff has heard that he was in, so as of this moment, it's unconfirmed. Not saying it won't happen, it just hasn't been confirmed by any of the parties involved yet. And, yes, even though he is considered a 5th year senior, he is eligible to be selected. Don't ask me why because I didn't get into it, but that's what I was told.

Q: Any visits planned?

A: Will Barton and Adreian Payne are in talks to come in and visit soon, along with some younger guys. Kyryl Natyazhko should be at the end of the season, as of now.

Q: Any chance that they could add another player for 2009, even though they are at their limit?

A: Yes, Natyazhko. Tom Herrion went to Mississippi last week to watch him play and they like him.

Q: What's going on with Tom Droney? Is Pitt still involved?


A: In a way. They would love to have him, and he would love to have them. From what I'm hearing, Notre Dame didn't really appeal to him and he wants to be a Panther. But there's no room right now and it doesn't look like anybody is leaving. But Pitt obviously doesn't want to say no because you never know if somebody does leave and they really do want him. They really like him as both a player and a person. I don't see any backcourt players leaving. If one frontcourt player leaves, and they can get Natyazkho, then that's who they will likely get because they have to replace that player. But if for some reason two of them leave, then there will be a spot for him. And if one player leaves and Natyazkho goes elsewhere, then there will be a spot for him.

Q: Is this the last we see of DeJuan Blair in a Pitt uniform?

A: He hasn't talked about it yet with the staff, but they know he will think about it, and they think he should think about it. But they will also tell him that there aren't many 6'6" centers in the NBA and right now that's what he is. My guess is that he will be back next year. Staying all four years, however, would surprise me a little. And I would not be shocked if he decided to not come back this year, but I would be surprised. You never know what's in a player's head, but there are enough questions about him that he should at least stay and get some of them answered. He's not going to get any taller, but he could expand his game more next season, and that will help his draft status even more.

Q: What is the biggest surprise this season for Pitt and the biggest disappointment?

A: The biggest disappointment has to be Gilbert Brown. The talk of some fans about him going pro early before he was even a starter last year was obviously ridiculous because he was never that kind of talent. On the other hand, he is better than he's showing right now. He seems out of sorts and doubting himself. He will be needed a lot next year so hopefully the light bulb goes on before then.

As for surprise, it has to be the outside shooting of Jermaine Dixon and Brad Wanamaker. The Pitt staff always considered them to be "inconsistent shooters", which is coachspeak for they didn't think they were very good at it. At best, I don't think they thought both could shoot as well as they have recently, and certainly not this early. To say that they are surprised that they are this good, and that they did it so quickly, is probably an understatement.

Q: I know a college assistant coach who says a lot of assistants give offers and even get commitments from players before the head coach even sees the kid play. Have you ever heard of such a thing?

A: It happens more than you know. That's why you need great assistants. The head coach gets the glory in recruiting, but it's the assistants who are making a lot of it happen. I know for a fact that over the years it has happened at Pitt and I'm sure it has happened everywhere else, too. But, hey, the head coach gets credit for hiring an assistant he can trust that much, too, right?

Q: Do you think Blair could be named Player of the Year in the Big East and be an All-American this year?

A: He definitely has a shot at Player of the Year. I'd say right now it's between Blair, Hasheem Thabeet, Luke Harangody, and Jerel McNeal. But there are plenty of games left to shake things up or to move ahead. If Pitt wins the league and he is getting double-doubles the rest of the way then he will be hard to look past.

As for All-American, he has an outside chance at 2nd Team, but I doubt it, unfortunately. You know that, right or wrong, Thabeet, Harangody, Blake Griffin, Tyler Hansbrough, Stephen Curry, Jeff Teague, and James Harden will be ahead of him at that's seven right there. Throw in Evan Meeks, McNeal, Terrance Williams, Ty Lawson, Darren Collison, and everybody who puts on a Duke jersey, and the competition gets tough. But he deserves it. And who knows? He just may get it if he finishes strong.

Q: I've got to see Lamar Patterson play some this year. I can't quite tell what kind of player he is and if I like him or not. Can you help?

A: He's a typical Pitt player- all heart, muscle, and brains. He is not an above the rim athlete, but he's slightly better than average. Very good passer, great instincts, tough as nails, all out hustler, plays in your face defense, and "has the ability to be a lights out shooter" (Tom Herrion's words). It's that last thing that could turn him from a solid college player to a very good college player. Time will tell.

Q: Can this team win it all?

A: Yes, as long as Blair stays out of foul trouble. He is the one player in the Howland/Dixon Era that is good enough to take a team on his back and go all the way. The same can't be said of Sam Young, who is 8-33 in the two losses when Blair got in foul trouble. A wonderful player, don't get me wrong, but few can really take a team on his shoulders and Blair is that kind of player.

Q: What do you see the starting lineup as next year?

A: Tough to say since this season isn't even over yet, but if you made me guess:

PG- Travon Woodall- Only true PG on the team and must come through.
SG- Jermaine Dixon- Much better than anybody thought he would be.
C- DeJuan Blair- God willing.
PF- Dante Taylor- No brainer.
SF- Gilbert Brown/Brad Wanamaker- May the best man win.

Bench: Ashton Gibbs may be slightly too limited athletically and with his skill set to ever be an ideal starter at the point in the Big East. Yes, Levance Fields isn't a great athlete either, but he makes up for it with extreme amounts of savviness. Gibbs was always looked on to at least be a designated shooter. But those types often don't pan out. This one did. He can flat out shoot. And in a pinch, he can play the point, much like Ronald Ramon did. You preferred Ramon didn't start at the point, but if he had to, he could be passable for the most part. Same with Gibbs. And if Woodall doesn't grab the position next season, Gibbs will have to. It might be tough for Nasir Robinson and Lamar Patterson to see time next year because, unless they beat them out, they will have Brown and Wanamaker ahead of them. Gary McGhee is just over matched so unless he turns it around dramatically, he may see even less time next year. He's a great kid and a hard worker, though. Dwight Miller or Talib Zanna will back up Taylor, and my guess would be Miller, who is a hard nosed rebounder. I don't think JJ Richardson will see much, if any, time next season. So that's your top eight if I had to guess- Woodall, Dixon, Blair, Taylor, Brown, Wanamaker, Gibbs, and Miller. But I couldn't guarantee that Robinson, Patterson, or Zanna couldn't sneak in there, too. And if Blair leaves for the NBA, things could change dramatically because they will need to find a way to replace some of his toughness in the paint. And nobody on next year's roster is even in the same league as him.

Q: The team seems to have so many players that play different positions. It's tough to know how the team will project into the future because I don't know who is playing where.

A: I don't know if that was a question or a cry for help, so let me say that I ran it by one of the coaches and asked him for a breakdown, so you won't have one. Since he hasn't signed yet, the staff can't talk about Isaiah Epps, but I talked to him and his coach and Pitt told him what position they wanted him for. This breakdown could always change, of course, depending on who is added or subtracted from the roster. The first number is what the primary position is and the second number is a position where the player could also see time.

Travon Woodall 1
Isaiah Epps 1-2
Jermaine Dixon 2-1
Ashton Gibbs 2-1
Brad Wanamaker 3-2
Lamar Patterson 3-2
Gilbert Brown 3
Nasir Robinson 3
Dante Taylor 4
Dwight Miller 4
Talib Zanna 4
JJ Richardon 4-5
Gary McGhee 5
DeJuan Blair 5



At 9:27 PM, Blogger Steve said...

Thanks, Chris. Appreciate the good info.

At 10:25 PM, Blogger Kristi said...

Thanks Chris,

Always providing solid information.

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Raj said...

keep up the good work.


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