Pitt Basketball Q&A
By Chris Dokish
It seems the more info I report, the more questions come, so let's do this again. If anybody else wants to ask a question, feel free at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, as always, these questions are edited for clarification.
Q: Why did Kyryl Natyazhko say one day that Pitt and Arizona State was his leader, then the next day choose to go to Arizona?
A: Good question. He not only told me, he told two other people I know the same thing on the same day. I really don't want to speculate on why he said one thing, his coach said another, and it went the way the coach wanted, because I don't want to get into that. But it is interesting, to say the least. But IMG Academy is more of a placement program than a school so use your imagination.
Q: What is this about Natyazhko's eligibility problems?
A: I would say "possible" eligibility problems. It's my understanding that Pitt recently discovered some things in Natyazhko's past that may put his eligibility in serious question. And those things were big enough that if they had known earlier, they wouldn't have even pursued him. But before people criticize Pitt for their lack of due diligence, let me say that it is very difficult to know everything about a player's background in a place like the Ukraine. Does Chinese gymnasts ring a bell? But let me make it known that I'm not saying anything fishy happened or that Natyazhko will definitely be ineligible, but I am saying that there are colleges who think the questions were serious enough that they questioned his eligibility. Pitt may have dodged a bullet or they may have missed out on a good player. Time will tell.
Q: I think Pitt should save the last scholarship. Do you agree?
A: It doesn't matter if I agree because Pitt has every intention of using the last one. On who, I don't know yet, and I don't think they even know yet, but Jamie Dixon and Tom Herrion believe in using every scholarship available. If for some reason they don't use one then it was because they tried hard and they really couldn't find one. But, believe me when I tell you, they are doing their best to find somebody to give it to. I know the fans want Pitt to save it for next year so that they can get Adriean Payne and Will Barton, but I got news for you- it's not that easy!! I would be very surprised if they got Payne, and Barton is going to be very difficult, too. Both are BIG TIME and the best of the best will go all out for them.
Q: Why did Pitt want Natyzahko so much? Why not just save it and get a center for next year? And was he even a center?
A: Pitt saw him as a center. Not a true center, but how many of those are there anymore? Blair wasn't a true center either. As for why use it on him instead of waiting for next year, the reason is simple- the center crop in the East for next year is not considered great and the staff is not holding their breath that they can land a big time center. The pickings are too slim. So they felt it was better to get a good center this year, rather than take a big chance on getting one next year. Like I said before, and this is not trashing the fans because this is part of the fun of being a fan, but it's not as simple as "don't take Natyzahko this year, and instead take Payne next year". There is one major flaw in that plan and it's that there are thirty other powerful programs that want him.
Q: Why did Blair get an agent so soon? Was that smart?
A: Doesn't seem smart to me, and I wouldn't have done it, but clearly he was done with college. If he flops in the NBA, he can make a fortune in Europe, so either way he will be fine. I have known him since he was 15 and it only seems like yesterday that he called me on his way home from summer school to say he was now eligible. It's too bad that we couldn't see him in a Pitt uniform for a longer period of time, but the guy was a great representative of the program and the school, and we should all feel honored that we got to watch him play.
Q: Did Pitt drop the ball again in their lack of recruiting a center? They didn't have an ideal replacement for Aaron Gray and now they have no replacement for Blair.
A: First of all, I don't see how you can say they dropped the ball after Gray. I'm the first to admit that I thought Jamie Dixon was crazy for making Blair a center at 6'7" (at most). While I knew the guy was a beast, I'm pleasantly surprised that he was as dominant as much as he was. Being good enough to leave after two years was never in my thoughts. And it was never in Dixon's thoughts either. Blair told Dixon before this season that he would not leave early. And I don't think Dixon thought Blair could ever be good enough to leave that early either. Well, as it turns out, the guy was a freak of nature and now Pitt is left without a center.
Q: Where do you think Pitt will finish in the Big East next year?
A: No idea where they will finish, but I'm guessing in the preseason they will probably be ranked anywhere from sixth to ninth. We're talking eight of eleven players who are freshmen or sophomores here. That's just brutal. And the three upperclassmen who will play- Jermaine Dixon, Brad Wanamaker, and Gilbert Brown- may not be all-star caliber. The staff knows the expectations are low, but they are looking forward to working with a young group. It will definitely be interesting and if Dixon can get this group into the tournament, then people should never doubt his ability ever again.
Q: If Pitt does land another player, wouldn't it make sense to go the junior college route?
A: Perhaps, but they don't think there is much left out there that they would want. The pickings are slim. But they will leave no stone unturned, I'm sure.
Q: Yes or no- Lance Stephenson, Jarrid Famous, DeAndre Kane, Roscoe Davis, Tom Droney, DeShawn Painter?
A: No way on Stephenson or Famous, doubtful on Kane because I don't even know if he is still on his prep team, and as for the rest, anything is possible, I guess. I'm sure everybody will be looked at. They are just waiting for the right player to spring open. You'll know when I know.