Q&A for December 17th
By Chris Dokish
Q: Do the Panthers have a chance with the big center from New Zealand, and do you think we will get a visit?
A: The big center, for the uninitiated, is 6'11" Rob Loe, and he already visited Pitt last weekend. Tom Herrion is the point man on this one and Pitt has a chance, but it may be an uphill battle. He is looking at St. Louis where he sees Rick Majerus as somebody who can get him to the NBA, and where he is friends with a few Aussie players on the team, Colorado, where head coach Jeff Bzdelik has been recruiting him for three years and was also a longtime assistant in the NBA, and Arizona, where his brother goes to school. So obviously it won't be easy.
Q: Chris, you riled some feathers by saying the team doesn't have talent this season. Care to explain why you think that?
A: First of all, I don't know of anybody who had their feathers riled. Nobody emailed me about it and nobody commented on here about it, so I don't know who disagreed. If people are disagreeing in public I would assume that they at least would have the courage and maturity to discuss it with me rather than take shots from afar, but that seems to be the case with a lot of people on the internet. I guess a lot of people talk big when their name doesn't accompany their thoughts. Secondly, I didn't say Pitt didn't have talent. I explicitly said ELITE talent. I even put it in italics so people couldn't misunderstand. Lastly, I already explained and it was there in black and white. Anybody who thinks this team has elite talent is delusional. I know fans automatically assume the best case scenario, but here's the thing. While some of these kids will improve, there is nothing to say, for example, that Travon Woodall will be an excellent point guard, or that Talib Zanna will turn into a low post star. Could they? Of course, but just wanting it to happen doesn't mean it will. The only player in this program right now who I think for sure has a high ceiling is Dante Taylor. The younger guys may get there, too, but then again they may not. Players like Zanna, Woodall, and J.J. Richardson are far from sure things, and the veterans simply don't have a high ceiling. And by high ceiling, I mean All-American potential or the ability to play at the next level. Does anybody really believe that any sophomores, juniors, or seniors on this team are going to be All-Americans or play in the NBA? I can't believe that. There's a fine line between optimism and delusion.
Q: Don't you think you were hard on Jamie Dixon in that Top 50 article?
A: Which part? The part where I wrote that Dixon has done a remarkable job or was it the part where I said he has proven himself to be such a great coach that if he ever had three elite players he could win it all? Sorry to offend anybody who thinks Pitt has gotten elite talent over the years but they haven't. Prior to his season they had mostly good players but great coaching. This season the talent level is lower and the coaching is still great. In the near future, the talent level will be great and the coaching will still be great. I don't see how anybody can find fault with that.
Q: Do you think the youth of Pitt is a major problem?
A: While I wouldn't say that this team is full of grizzled veterans, I don't understand how people think they are unbelievably young either. Jermaine Dixon and Chase Adams are seniors, Gilbert Brown, Gary McGhee, and Brad Wanamaker are juniors, and Ashton Gibbs and Woodall are sophomores. When Brown comes back, Taylor will be the only true freshman in the top nine. Dixon, Brown, Wanamaker, and Gibbs aren't exactly neophytes and Adams is a senior who has played in some very big venues in his career. DeJuan Blair was a sophomore last year and he was pretty good. Kemba Walker is a sophomore and is averaging around 15 ppg. Samardo Samuels is a sophomore and he is averaging over 15 ppg, too. Is Woodall going to be Walker next season? Doubtful. Samuels is already better than McGhee, who is a junior. Now you see what I'm saying. Pitt's problem is more because of a lack of talent than anything. The good news is, those veterans were recruited before Herrion and Brandin Knight. The talent level is about to change drastically with what they have coming in and you will see again that talent rises to the top even when it's young.
Q: Are the recruits coming in as good as advertised, and will J.J. Moore be eligible next season?
A: Yes, they are as good as advertised. Moore, Cameron Wright, Isaiah Epps, and John Johnson should team with Taylor to give the program five players who should range from very good to excellent in college. And if they can find one more big man, then look out. As for Moore's eligibility, it will be under 50% until I hear otherwise. It was always considered a long shot, but he is determined to make it. We won't know for awhile, though.
Q: Why did the Panthers not take Herb Pope as a transfer or take Lance Stephenson?
A: That's just not Dixon's style. Pope never asked. Of course, he knew the answer would be no. Pitt wanted him for a long time but finally gave up on him and Pope knew it. As for Stephenson, he wanted Pitt to recruit him, and the Panthers investigated the situation before deciding to pass. With them, Pitt would be a 25 win team this season but you always have to ask at what cost. Both seem to be doing great now, but hindsight is 20/20. Both were potential disasters and Dixon didn't think it was worth the risk.
Q: I see that Darnell Dodson is out of the doghouse at Kentucky. Do you still think Pitt was better without him? They could use him this season and last season he could have been the missing piece to get into the Final Four.
A: He's a three so he wouldn't even have started this season. And if he did, then you're sitting Wanamaker, your second leading scorer, and that's a wash. As for last year, he wasn't eligible to play for any college last season, including Pitt, so he couldn't have helped. Plus, and here's the kicker, you wouldn't have J.J. Moore and Lamar Patterson. So tell me this. Would you rather have Dodson for this season and for three total, or Patterson and Moore for four seasons? It's no contest. Moore, himself, is better than Dodson, and Patterson is going to be a solid player, too.
Q: Do you see Ashton Gibbs moving to the point and Dante Taylor moving to power forward?
A; No and no. Gibbs shoots a ton because there is no other choice, and if he is busy running the point, the team may not average 60 points. And Jamie Dixon won't move Taylor to the four until he proves he can play the five. That's just the way it is.
Q: Do you still see the team going 20-11 in the regular season?
A: Well, it's going to be tough. It looks like they will need to go 8-10 in the league. The good news is that, compared to last season, I don't see the league being as tough.
Q: Would going to the Big 10 be good for Pitt?
A: I discussed this with Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Bob Smizik the other day. He thinks it will be good for Pitt and I don't. I think the football team could sneak into a National Championship game in the Big East, but you can forget about that in the Big 10. In basketball, Pitt recruits the urban areas in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, and they can kiss that goodbye in the Big 10. Kids from those cities will not want to play for Pitt if they aren't in the Big East and without a local recruiting area, they need those spots desperately. Where are they going to recruit- Iowa?
As for the minor sports, Pitt doesn't even field teams in some of the sports that the Big 10 plays in, and in the ones they do, they usually don't even have a dedicated field to play on.
For the university outside of on the field performance, it would be great, however, and if the alternative is for Syracuse or Rutgers to bolt the Big East, then that changes thing and Pitt needs to be proactive and try to bolt instead. I was all for staying with the Big East and not going to the ACC a few years back, but they can't afford another raid. There are no more good candidates to join. Bottom line, I hope they just take somebody like Missouri and that Pitt stays status quo.