Monday, August 10, 2009

Basketball Notes

By Chris Dokish

Pitt's goal during this recruiting class was to add a big SG and a true center. Despite having no more scholarships currently, the staff will still try to add the big center. Few true centers were available this season, but the staff is concentrating mostly on Toronto native Maurice Walker, who will play at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire this season. Walker, who incidentally was first recruited by former Panthers assistant Orlando Antigua a few years ago, is 6'10" and 270 pounds. According to sources, the Pitt staff thinks Walker has a chance to be a good player down the road with his great hands and quick feet. But, they also say that despite Walker recently losing weight, he still has to get in much better shape. Who would leave if Walker, or another center, is signed, is unknown even to the staff, but like all programs they have a policy that you recruit first and ask questions later.

Speaking of Brewster Academy, Walker will be teammates with SG Will Barton, a former teammate of Dante Taylor, and Pitt's first choice at the position. But Barton chose to commit to Memphis. The Panthers were also heavily monitoring Doron Lamb, who Pitt assistant coach Tom Herrion has followed all summer, and Trey Zeigler, son of former Pitt coach Ernie Zeigler, now the head coach at Central Michigan. But insiders see Lamb headed to Kansas or Kentucky, and Zeigler was expected to wait until much later to make a decision, mostly because he wanted to see if his father keeps his job at CMU. Also, Pitt saw him more as a SF than SG. That left the Panthers with 6'4" Cameron Wright of Benedictine HS in Cleveland. Wright is currently not considered to be at the same talent level of Barton, Lamb, or Zeigler, but the Panthers staff will not be crying about that. Word is, Herrion, who was the assistant who landed Wright, was absolutely in love with his new addition. Not only does Wright have the excellent size, he is also a big time athlete. The biggest difference between Wright and the three higher ranked players is that Wright is not in their league as a shooter. But with Ashton Gibbs and Isaiah Epps in the future backcourt, and with Lamar Patterson at SF, it isn't as essential for the program that Wright be an excellent outside shooter. His size, defense, athleticism and driving ability should still make him an effective guard at the Big East level.

Speaking of Epps, do not believe any reports downgrading him. When DeJuan Blair was ranked outside of the Top 100 on some national recruiting sites, I told you that big time NCAA coaches and assistant coaches laughed at that, and told me he was a Top 50 player. Well, the same can be said for Epps. An excellent athlete on both offense and defense, an excellent passer, and a big time shooter makes him a possible NBA player in the future. A lot of recruiting services did not see him light it up this summer, but that's only because he was refining his true point skills, rather than shooting a lot. But make no mistake about it, the kid can fill it up when he wants to, and his combination of shooting, passing, athleticism, and defense makes him a future star. If everybody plays up to their abilities, I will be very surprised if he wasn't the starting PG next season. If Travon Woodall beats him out next season then he will have turned into a damn good player.

Speaking of PG, do not underestimate possible late transfer Chase Adams. The 5'10" Baltimore native, who played the last three seasons at Centenary, can play, and was only brought in because the staff thought he could start. Woodall could hold him off, but the redshirt freshman is very inexperienced due to injuries, and no program wants to play in the Big East with an inexperienced starting PG, unless he is a big time talent (ex. Epps). Another scenario is that Gibbs starts at the point, but that's the last option. Yes, he started in the U19 World Championships, but his shooting ability was wasted there, just as it would be at least lessened this season as a full-time PG. In Pitt's system the PG passes first and shoots second. You want Gibbs taking passes, not passing to others. Also, Gibbs, while a good athlete, is not the elite athlete that other Big East PGs are, and that's something that will be exposed in the brutal Big East. If Gibbs has to use all of his energy to keep the ball away from a Kemba Walker or a Scottie Reynolds, when exactly is he going to be shooting? As one national college basketball insider told me yesterday, "Ashton does give off that vibe- the perfect third guard". Also with Adams, don't worry about chemistry because the Pitt staff doesn't. The reason they did not pursue Lance Stephenson was not because they were afraid of him messing up team chemistry. As one member of the Pitt staff told me recently, "we never worry about a player coming in and hurting what we have". Bottom line, Herrion would not go all the way to Shreveport, LA in the middle of very important summer evaluations just to bring in fodder for practice. If Adams commits, and the chances are that will happen, then he has a very legitimate chance of winning the starting job.


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