Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Q&A for 7/7

By Chris Dokish

Q: Chris, just out of curiosity, what percentage of your answers are from your contacts and what percentage are your own thoughts?

A: At least 95% come straight from contacts and for the 5% that doesn't, I make a point to say that it is my own opinion.

Q: How much does the Pitt staff take from the Greentree Summer League as far as the performances of the players?

A: Absolutely nothing. They don't even know that much about what goes on there, as far as how their players are performing. Especially this year when the Pitt players are the only high major players in the league. The league was simply designed to give the players a single place to get together and play in the off season. It's good to get in shape before the season and for the younger guys to get used to playing in front of more demanding fans. But it's great for the fans and I understand that one Pitt website actually had fans get together and sponsor a team. That's the kind of thing that the program needs as it helps in the grassroots movement to help turn Pittsburgh into a basketball city. It takes time but eventually kids may grow up wanting to play college basketball in the area as much as they want to play college football. And of course it's a great thing for the fans. I've been there a few times each year and I already stopped in already this year when I was in the city. It's a good thing to have. Just don't try to make too much out of the performances.

Q: Is it safe to say that Ashton Gibbs will be the starting PG this year?


A: Not at all. Preseason practices haven't even started this season and the staff makes no judgments until then obviously. There is nobody guaranteed a starting spot at this time of year, this season especially. The staff still prefers that Woodall ends up being the starter and it's pretty important that he is. Simply put, he is the only true PG on the roster this season. Yes, Gibbs is a good player, but he isn't a true PG. From the emails I get I know Pitt fans want to convince themselves that he is, but he isn't. Woodall is much faster, much quicker, a much better penetrator, and much better defensively. His type of skills, if honed, is much better for Pitt. Look what happened at WVU and Cincinnati last year when they lost their PGs. They had SGs playing PG and it hurt them both.

If Gibbs was the starter, it would have the same effect as when Ronald Ramon took over for Levance Fields two years ago. Is Ramon a good player? Yes. Can Ramon start at PG for short periods of time? Yes. But can you win big with Ramon at PG full-time? No. Again, especially this season when things are so up in the air. Just like what will likely happen with Gibbs, Ramon's lack of PG skills were exposed against highly talented teams or highly talented PGs. Not to mention that if Gibbs is the starting PG, then that moves others out of their more ideal position, including Gibbs, who would be ideal as somebody who plays a lot of minutes backing up both guard spots. Bottom line, Gibbs could do well for the majority of the schedule, but if Pitt wants to have a really big season, it would be ideal if Woodall wins the job. And the staff thinks he definitely can. But they won't just hand it to him. If he doesn't win it fair and square, then they will take their chances with Gibbs.

Q: Is there a chance that Jermaine Dixon or Brad Wanamaker will start at PG this year?

A: Not unless there is some kind of serious injury and/or Woodall or Gibbs flops in a big way. I was told Dixon is third in line should something unforeseen happen. Despite the opinions of some fans, Wanamaker is not considered a serious contender at PG and he never was.

Q: How many scholarships does Pitt have for 2010, what position or positions are they looking at, and is there a commitment imminent?

A: They have one opening, but are looking at two different positions- "a true center" and "a big shooting guard". Whether they get both of those or just one, I don't know and I don't want to start that whole "is somebody going to leave?" thing all over again. Let's just say that as a rule the staff will never turn down an excellent player no matter how many openings they have.

Finding a true center will be hard, as it often is. And the staff is discouraged by the lack of talented true centers in the East this year. But if there is a sleeper out there, I'm sure they will find him. As for the big SG, I have had people tell me that I shouldn't be surprised if Will Barton eventually ended up at somewhere other than Memphis, but I doubt Pitt would be his choice if he did change. And Doron Lamb is a long shot, too.

One player they would like is 6'5" Trey Zeigler of Mount Pleasant (MI) HS. Jamie Dixon obviously has an in with Trey's father, Ernie, who coached with Dixon under Ben Howland at Pitt. He's a big-time player and since his father is the head coach at Central Michigan, he may pass on playing for him. But Pitt thinks Zeigler could wait for a long time before committing and if that's the case, they may find somebody else first.

As for how close they are to a commitment, they aren't close and never have been close this recruiting season. However, I would think with the AAU season in high gear, they will make a strong move on somebody sooner rather than later.

Q: Can the coaching staff be blamed for not having a center to replace DeJuan Blair?

A: Not really. They never thought in a million years that Blair would be gone after his sophomore season. Hell, they even thought it was less than a 50% chance up until the season was over this year.

Q: Will Gary McGhee start at center this season?

A: I have no idea, but I would be surprised if he got significant minutes this season. The three players who will play center this season are McGhee, Dante Taylor, and J.J. Richardson. McGhee is the only true center of the bunch, but Taylor is much more talented, and Richardson is a high energy tough guy with good athleticism. And that's not a typo. Richardson will primarily be a center this season. I get a lot of emails saying he will be at PF, and he will play there, but the plan is to have him play a a lot, and perhaps primarily, at center. As with Taylor, Pitt thinks it's easier to start off as a center because the PF position at Pitt is asked to do a ton. But they will try to see if either Taylor or Richardson has the ability to also play the four sometimes. If they can, that would be very beneficial.

Q: Could Nasir Robinson start at PF this year?

A: No, while he may play some four, they want him mostly at the three. And why not? His body, style, positives, and even negatives are exactly the same as Jaron Brown, another pretty good three from the past.

Q: Will Gilbert Brown play at the four and did he play at the four last year?

A: This is a pretty specific question to be asked by three different people, so I assume this was discussed publicly somewhere. So for that reason, I made a special point to ask. I was told he will not play at the four this season and if he was at the four at all last season it was because of a DQ at the end of a game.

Q: What are the five things that Pitt needs to happen this season to win 25 games?

A: Good question.

1. Woodall needs to legitimately win the PG job and perform well.

2. Taylor needs to be a Rookie of the Year contender in the league.

3. Gibbs needs to be an excellent three point shooter, especially in the clutch.

4. Brown needs to live up to his potential.

5. Wanamaker needs to improve even more.

Q: With him not playing well in the summer league, is the staff worried that Taylor will live up to his potential?

A: Of course not. The poor kid hasn't even had one college practice yet and you are already questioning him because of how well he plays in a pickup league? This is something that not only Pitt fans, but all college fans need to understand. And that's that a freshman progresses more in his first year of preseason practices than he did in his entire career up until that point. The Taylor you see in November will not be the Taylor you see now.

Q: Do you think Taylor will be as good of a freshman as DeJuan Blair was?

A: That's highly unlikely for any freshman. I picked Blair to win Rookie of the Year and the reason was not only because of his talent, but also because of the kind of talent he was. In other words, his game was mostly brute strength and that translates right away. That's why I always said that Richardson would make an impact as a freshman, unlike many fans who thought he was destined to redshirt. Now, J.J. is no Blair, but he is a strong kid with a lot of energy, plus he does the little things. In other words, he also is the kind of player that will have an easier time transitioning. Both of their games are not based on skill, but rather aggressiveness. Taylor is a tough kid, but he's not just going to carve out space like Blair did. He's going to have to use his skill set more and with that comes a few bumps in the road early on.

Q: Do you think DeJuan Blair made a mistake by leaving Pitt early?

A: No, I don't. His way to get money in life is to play basketball. He will probably do that in the NBA, but worse case scenario, he can always go to Europe and make millions. Plus, with his knees, you never know how long he can play. One more year at Pitt meant one less year making money before his knees gave out.

Q: I was at the summer league and Lamar Patterson impressed me. You nailed that one. He shot well, too. Do you think he could be a good three point shooter in college?

A: Well, like I've said before, Tom Herrion thinks he can be a "lights out shooter"- his words. With Gibbs, Patterson, and Epps in the future, the Panthers may have three excellent shooters at the one, two, and three. There have been some reports that Epps is not a great shooter, but those are flat out wrong. In fact, Pitt thinks it's his best trait. The kid can fill it up so don't worry about him. But, back to Patterson, like I said before, he will be a better player at Pitt than Darnell Dodson would have been at Pitt. Whether or not he would be better than Dodson at Kentucky, or anywhere else, I don't know, but that doesn't matter because he's at Pitt.

Q: Is Dwight Miller going to start this season?

A: Well, with Taylor and Richardson playing primarily at the five, and Robinson playing primarily at the three, that leaves Miller to grab the spot at the four. But like I said, nothing is written in stone, and in fact, nothing is even written on paper. It's way too early to know who will start. I can only tell you where the staff prefers to have everybody. But Miller has an excellent shot if he plays well in the preseason. If he doesn't, then you could see Richardson there or you could see Taylor there if McGhee surprises and can handle the center position. And there is always Talib Zanna, but he is still raw, so that would take a helluva preseason from him.

Q: Can you run down each position and tell us who the contenders are?

A: I can do that, but remember that nothing is settled until the official practices start. I can only tell you what positions the staff wants the players, but I can't foresee if those players seize those positions.

PG- Woodall earning the job would be ideal, but Gibbs could win it over him. Dixon is the emergency option. Wanamaker is not considered a PG by the staff.

SG- Dixon is obviously the favorite to start here. If Gibbs doesn't start at the point, he will backup here, as well as the point. Wanamaker will also get major minutes here, especially if Woodall doesn't pan out.

SF- Brown is probably the favorite here, though Wanamaker could figure in there, too. Robinson should see his minutes increase. Patterson will have to have an excellent preseason to get significant minutes this year, but he has a bright future.

PF- It's Miller's job to lose, but Taylor and Richardson should see minutes there, too. If they can't handle it, Robinson could see some time there. Zanna will have to have a big preseason to see time.

C- Taylor will probably get most of the minutes unless McGhee makes huge strides. Richardson will also see time here, especially if McGhee doesn't progress.

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At 12:41 AM, Blogger Chris Dokish said...

Sorry, folks. For some reason there was a glitch that made me lose this last Q&A, but it's back now.

At 9:24 PM, Blogger Hanlon7117 said...

Awesome job. I just stumbled on to this blog and I am definitely bookmarking it.

At 1:36 PM, Blogger Will said...

Great QA session. There are some questions I would love to have you weigh in on and give your input for our readers.



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