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Friday, September 18, 2009

Q&A for September 18th

By Chris Dokish

Q: Jermaine Dixon was the only really experienced player on the team. How badly will the loss of him hurt?

A: Maybe very little since the staff thinks there is a good chance he won't miss a single game. He is in great shape and heals quickly, according to people I've talked to at Pitt, and they think a quick and full recovery looks good. And even if it takes him some time to get back into shape, he can shake the rust off early in the season before things get too serious.

Q: You seem very high on John Johnson. Why did the Panthers take another point guard when they already have Isaiah Epps coming in?

A: Two reasons. One, he was too good to pass up. Two, while he has point guard skills and can play the point, they think he will combine nicely in the back court with Epps in a few years.

Q: Is is a sure thing that Epps will be a PG and Johnson will be a SG?

A: Not all. There is a long way to go yet and nobody knows what will happen. I can tell you that if some day Epps and Johnson starts in the same back court, they expect Epps to run the point. That doesn't mean they both will start, though. And Johnson is a combo guard who will no doubt get minutes at the point in his career.

Q: With Gilbert Brown and Jermaine Dixon out for awhile, what do you expect the starting lineup to be?

A: I have no idea and the Pitt staff has no idea. They will wait to see who wins the jobs when preseason practices get underway.

I think it's obvious that Chase Adams and Travon Woodall will get first crack at the point and if both fail, then Ashton Gibbs will take over. At SG, that's Dixon's spot. No matter what happens, though, Gibbs will play a lot. The favorite at SF should be Brad Wanamaker with Nasir Robinson and Lamar Patterson getting minutes, too. When Brown comes back, they will have to see where they are there. By that time, he may find it difficult to get minutes from any of the three because all three are hustlers who will not give up minutes easy. Dante Taylor will probably start at the four or five. If he proves he can play at the four, then Gary McGhee will probably start at the five. If Taylor can't learn the tough four position yet, then I suspect Dwight Miller or J.J. Richardson will start there.

Ideally, I guess it would be Adams or Woodall at the one (since they are both pretty even going in it's pointless to pick one), Dixon at the two, Wanamaker at the three, Miller at the four, and Taylor at the five. That would leave Richardson and McGhee as the back up big men, Gibbs with a ton of minutes at guard, either Adams or Woodall at the back up point, and Robinson and Patterson getting minutes on the wing. And Brown will see if he can carve out minutes when he comes back, but I would not assume that he will. But that's only ideally, as in if everybody played up to their potential, that would be the best lineup. That never happens, though, so any starting lineup is possible, and I suspect it will actually change quite a bit this season.

Q: With Gary McGhee doing so well in the summer league this year do you think he could start at center over Dante Taylor?

A: Well, if McGhee starts this year and Taylor doesn't, then Pitt will not be making the NCAA tournament, because that will mean that Taylor either flopped or got injured. I like McGhee as a person and I hope like hell he proves me wrong, but he was a Kyryl Natyazhko signing away from playing somewhere else this year so I don't see how playing in a summer league filled with players from small colleges should suddenly fill people with confidence. Let's be realistic here. And before anybody asks, yes, I will admit I'm wrong if McGhee becomes a quality Big East player this season. And you never know, it could happen. Nobody expected much out of players like Darren Morningstar, Andre Alridge, or Jaime Petersen either.

Q: You mentioned that Pitt wanted a big SG before signing John Johnson but didn't they already get that with Cameron Wright?

A: I was coming home from the airport in the taxi when I wrote that and I didn't explain exactly what I meant. What I meant was that Pitt was looking to get a big shooting guard who can really shoot well from the outside. That's not Wright, because he isn't a great outside shooter, and that's not Johnson, because he's only 6'1". But that's okay because both are very good players, especially Johnson, who I think could be a star. I'm not one for hyperbole, but the thoughts of a possible future back court of Epps and Johnson is very exciting and I can tell you that people at Pitt are ecstatic over getting these two. And Wright is a fine player, too. The future back court is loaded.

Q: There have been some rumblings that Johnson may have trouble academically. Any truth to that?

A: No truth at all. He is a good student and he goes to a tough school. The staff has no worries at all about him academically.

Q: Does the signing of Johnson mean they won't go after Mike Taylor now?

A: They didn't sign Johnson, he's only a verbal commitment, but I can assure you they won't stop talking to Taylor. I don't know if he would be as interested in Pitt now, though. He really likes Pitt and the Panthers had, and maybe still have, a legit shot at him, but Johnson was just too good to pass up. If they left Johnson out there longer, he would be even tougher to get because he is expected to blow up even more. Then if they lost Taylor, they would have been left with neither. They just couldn't risk it. Not that Johnson is inferior. He may prove to be every bit as good.

Q: You wrote that small forward and post player are the two positions Pitt wants to add still. Does this mean J.J. Moore and Maurice Walker? And since both are 2010 kids, does that mean if they sign both that two players will be forced off the team?

A: That's obviously the two they have coveted the most, but both are far from sure things. Walker and his dad keep their thoughts close to the vest, even to the coaches recruiting them. The fact that he is a true center, and a big one with some athletic ability at that, makes him highly coveted. That will be a tough get. Many at Pitt are also thinking that Moore is becoming increasingly difficult to get also. Louisville wants him very much and Florida is entering the picture hard. I'd say both are under 50% at this moment, but that could always go way up very quickly.

As for who would leave, I don't want to get into that, but Moore has a lot of work to do academically and will probably be a 2011 kid.

Q: With Gilbert Brown being out for the first half of the season does that mean Nasir Robinson will stay at SF instead of moving to PF?

A: While things can always change, the staff has never wanted Robinson to have a lot of minutes at the four, and very much want him to stay mostly at the three. If he ends up starting at the four it's only because others failed there. They do expect him to get some minutes there, though.

Q: Where do you expect the team to finish in the Big East this year?

A: I started off having them seventh, but then was slowly moving them up. Now I am slowly moving them back down somewhat. I'd say seventh or eight. That seems very low for a Jamie Dixon team, but on paper, they probably aren't even that high. And by that, I don't mean they don't have talent, because they do. It's just that the Big East is not kind to inexperienced teams and this is a pretty inexperienced team. But the players and coaches are acting very slighted by how little prognosticators are thinking of them so that may give them the drive to do even better.

Q: You seem especially high of Pitt's recruiting classes recently. Does this mean that the program is moving to a higher level?

A: Time will tell, but with potentially elite players like Epps, Johnson, and Taylor to go along with potentially very good players like Gibbs, Patterson, Zanna, and Wright, the future is as bright as it's ever been. All of those players are either underclassmen or not even on the team yet. And there's still probably another wing and another post player on the way. If Pitt can continue their hot streak with those two yet to be named players then it's even more obvious that the train is just going to keep on rolling.

11 Comments:

At 1:14 PM, Blogger Jdubb said...

Here are some John Johnson videos from youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fggNGpkBzgY&feature=related

Only question would be speed/athleticism. Doesn't seem to have the same first step as Epps, but few do. Can definitely see Epps at the point and JJ at the 2, allowing Epps to play off the ball at times w/o losing much if anything.

Seems like a prototypical Villanova player. Nice to get one from them.

 
At 9:36 PM, Blogger Chris Dokish said...

From what I hear, the Pitt coaches think Johnson is every bit as quick and as athletic as Epps so no need to worry about that. Sometimes the Panthers have excellent athletes at guard who maybe aren't so well rounded (ex. Julius Page), and sometimes they have excellent players who maybe aren't great athletes, but knows how to play the game (ex. Ronald Ramon), but this could be the first time in a long time, and maybe ever, that they have two backcourt players who are both highly athletic AND have a well rounded skill set. And if Wright can improve his shooting there may be three of them.

 
At 5:38 PM, Blogger djp42 said...

Chris,

Great blog, really informed. I actually have a few sources from the team myself (If you email me, we could talk more). However, I was at the fan fest today at the Pete, and took notice to something peculiar. All the players were there today, except Gil Brown. I had a feeling he wouldn't be there because of his academic suspension by the school itself, however, I did pick up that he wasn't on the roster sheets they were handing out, or any of the programs, etc. After asking a few people about this, even a couple players, every kind of beat around the bush, but no one said yes, Gil WILL be back next semester. Mostly, "well we are hoping to get Gil back." What is your opinion, in cold hard truth, on if Gil will return. Also, take note Gil recently received the academic award the previous year at Pitt from Coach Dixon...I found this strangely ironic, and my only theory was that they ran out of awards to give him. Thoughts??

 
At 10:10 PM, Blogger Chris Dokish said...

I think if Pitt could somehow get Walker and Moore, and Moore is eligible, then two players will have to go. And I was told that they would take both. It probably won't come to that, but if Moore comes to Pitt, and is eligible, I could definitely see Brown moving on after this season. That's not from a source, that's just my own opinion. Officially, Pitt has told me that he will be back and that's all they will say about the situation.

 
At 8:36 PM, Blogger freeportpanther said...

now that it looks like walker is officially visiting pitt how do you like their chances? have you heard anything on jj moore? thanks chris in advance

 
At 9:43 PM, Blogger Chris Dokish said...

Things are good with Walker. To be honest, Pitt was even surprised because schools like Kansas were getting involved and they thought it would be a tough get. But they have made quite an impression on him.

As for Moore, what I've been told by a few people in the know is that Louisville wants Tobias Harris, but if they don't get him then they will try to get Moore. And Florida wants Moore still. So the chances for Pitt to get him are still not great currently. But things can always change.

 
At 8:15 PM, Blogger Chris Dokish said...

By the way, right after my last comment, Moore decided not to pursue the Florida angle, but most at Pitt still consider Louisville the favorite. Hopefully that will change because Moore would be an excellent fit.

 
At 1:13 AM, Blogger freeportpanther said...

chris i saw that durand johnson plans to visit pitt on the 23rdalong with mo walker do you know if they are having anyone else in that weekend ? thanks again

 
At 8:20 AM, Blogger Hail2Pitt said...

Chris,

Is there anything to Mo Walker only having a 3-star rating on scout.com? It doesn't seem important since he's got several big schools pursuing him. Then again, he doesn't look too impressive in this clip I found on youtube...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quNos6EvHoY

 
At 8:47 PM, Blogger Chris Dokish said...

They are trying to get some younger kids in along with Walker and Johnson.

As for ratings from the national networks, take it with a grain of salt for many reasons. One, they sometimes don't see a kid play a lot and a lot of their rankings are from a very small sampling of how they perform. That's why you see a kid like Lamar Patterson have a great week and go to No. 8 in the country only to follow with a less dominating week a month later and drop out of the top 100. A case like that shows you how unreliable the ratings are from those services.

Two, if they knew anything about talent evaluation then they would be on a coaching staff and not on an internet site. That's why I don't do talent evaluations and instead go right to the people who would know- the coaches. People always ask me how I knew Dejuan Blair was a top 25 player when every recruiting site had him outside of the top 100. It's because I was sitting amongst a bunch of coaches when they they were raving about him. And none of them were Pitt coaches so I knew they weren't just biased. Bottom line, I don't know why anybody would believe a talent evaluation from people who could never get a job on a coaching staff.

 
At 12:55 AM, Blogger Protes said...

Anxiously awaiting the next Dokish report on recruiting. Any word on Walker, Moore and Durand Johnson?

 

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