Tuesday, April 28, 2009


by Jeff Borzello

Despite the high school basketball season ending last month, Kevin Parrom is still very busy.

The 6-foot-6 swingman from South Kent (CT) was released from his letter of intent to Xavier earlier this month after Musketeers’ head coach Sean Miller accepted the job at Arizona.

Parrom visited Pittsburgh this past weekend, and is set to visit Arizona next weekend.

“It was great,” Parrom said of his visit to Pittsburgh. “I had a chance to meet some guys and the coaches. The coaching staff was great. It was a good visit."

“There was a sense of family, everybody was together. Also, they win every year, so that’s a plus," said the polite and well-spoken Parrom.

Parrom will take a visit out to Miller’s new school, Arizona, this upcoming weekend.

“I’m going to check out the atmosphere,” he said when asked what he is looking for when he visits Tucson. “I want to meet the coaching staff and see how it is out there.”

Reports earlier in the week indicated that he was going to potentially visit Rhode Island, Providence and Virginia Tech, but Parrom is unsure.

“I was supposed to visit Rhode Island and Providence on Thursday,” he said. “But I don’t know if I’m going to do it."

“I was planning on visiting Virginia Tech, but the chances are slim of me actually visiting.”

Parrom’s former school, Xavier, is still in the picture but he said he wants to see other schools.

When asked what he is looking for in his college of choice, he said he wants to play immediately and also wants to feel a bond to the players and coaches.

“I’m looking for playing time and the chance to make an instant impact as a freshman,” Parrom said. “Also, I’m looking at the relationships.”

Indicative of his decision to originally sign with a school from a non-power conference, the Atlantic-10, Parrom said that conference affiliation will not a play a role in his decision.

“Conference is not a factor,” he said. “I’m not picking a conference, I’m picking a school. I could care less about the conference.”

As of now, Parrom said he is focused on Pittsburgh and Arizona, his top two schools.

“I plan on making a decision within the next two weeks, probably by the end of next week. I want to try to get it over with; I don’t want it to be a long process.”

Due to technical difficulties at the NBE Basketball Report, this article is posted on this blog. We hope to have NBE back up this evening. We are sorry for the inconvenience.


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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Weekend visits

By Chris Dokish

Midland (TX) CC forward Kavon Lytch visited Pittsburgh this weekend as the Panthers continue to try to use their final scholarship for the 2009-10 season. The 6'6" 240 pound Lytch is a Brooklyn native who has played at three different schools over the last three seasons. On Sunday, 6'6" 200 pound combo forward Kevin Parrom is scheduled to visit. Parrom, who originally signed with Xavier before being released from his scholarship following the departure of head coach coach Sean Miller, is a New York City native that played this past season at South Kent Prep in Connecticut.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Panthers still pursuing forwards

By Chris Dokish

As previously reported, the Panthers coaching staff are doing their best to use their last scholarship available for this recruiting season, a scholarship that opened when All-American DeJuan Blair left early for the NBA. As the NBA playoffs approach, one can see why a player like Blair would be valuable to help the NBA Odds of winning a championship as there will be few pure rebounders like the Panthers' 'Big Fella'.

One player the staff is looking at is 6'6" 200 combo forward Kevin Parrom of South Kent Prep in Connecticut. Parrom originally played for St. Raymond's HS in the Bronx, but was forced to leave after he punched head coach Oliver Antigua. Parrom was arrested for the incident. Eventually Parrom signed with Xavier, but after former Xavier head coach Sean Miller left to take the head coaching job at Arizona, Parrom asked for, and received, his release.

Now that Parrom is free, he is down to four schools- Pittsburgh, Arizona, Virginia Tech, and Xavier. Parrom has a scheduled visit for Sunday to Pittsburgh and next weekend for Arizona.

The Panthers are also looking at junior college prospects and head coach Jamie Dixon recently appeared at Midland Community College in Midland, TX to check out 6'6" 240 pound Kavon Lytch. Midland is one of the premier juco programs in the country and lost in the national championship game this season.

Lytch, a Brooklyn native, is a bit of a vagabond as he spent his freshman season at Redlands Community College in El Reno, OK. He is well known as a ferocious rebounder despite his height (6'6" may be generous), and he also has excellent passing skills, two attributes that Dixon looks for in his low post players. I have seen tape of him and he reminds me of former Panther Ontario Lett, who ironically was another undersized junior college sleeper that Dixon found late in the recruiting season. Cincinnati, Seton Hall, UAB, Iowa State, Texas Tech, and St. John's are among the other schools who have been pursuing him.

One forward the Panthers will probably pass on is 6'8" 230 pound Florida transfer Allan Chaney. Dixon has inquired about Chaney, but sources indicate that he is too similar to the young forwards the Panthers already have.


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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Q & A for April 21

By Chris Dokish

Q: Is the staff still looking to use the last scholarship, and if so, are they close to getting someone?

A: They are still looking and aren't close as of yesterday. If they can't find anybody, they will just not use it, but they are still looking everywhere. Personally I would just save it if they can't find a real gem late, but they didn't ask me.

Q: Why didn't Jamie Dixon offer Jarrid Famous earlier? Clearly by waiting too long he had little chance.

A: His chances were actually none because they never offered him, despite an internet report that stated otherwise. Tom Herrion checked him out a few months ago and they didn't think he was good enough, but thought a 6'11" junior college center could be a good addition so they kept him in mind for later. Well, later came and Herrion took Dixon to see Famous. Like Herrion before him, Dixon didn't think Famous was worth an offer so they passed.

Q: Is there still a chance that Pitt can get Will Coleman?

A: No, as expected, he is staying with Memphis.

Q: Is Pitt pursuing Kevin Parrom and where would he fit in?

A: They are looking at him, and they are not alone. He is a pretty good player and any program that still has an opening will come after him, thus making him more recruited than he normally would be. Where he will fit, I don't know. He's a small forward that Pitt thinks can play some power forward. They have Gilbert Brown, Brad Wanamaker, Nasir Robinson, and Lamar Patterson as possible threes and Dante Taylor, Dwight Miller, J.J. Richardson, and Talib Zanna in the low post. Even though Parrom is a good player, I personally don't see the need, but like I said before, they don't ask me my opinion.

Q: A lot of people are complaining about J.J. Richardson and think his lack of stats in his senior year means he is a reach. Do you agree?

A: Not at all. The kid is a solidly built 6'7" and 240 pounds, he is an aggressive and physical player with a die hard attitude, he is a good athlete, has long arms, can pass, can shoot a little, and does all the little things like a champ. Trust me, he is not a worry. All coaches look for is the raw material, not stats. Besides, Yuri Demtris averaged 31 ppg as a high school senior. How did that work out?

Q: How good is the New York City sophomore Mike Taylor and does Pitt have a chance?

A: He's excellent and will be highly coveted from a lot of the biggies. Too early to tell where Pitt stands right now. Herrion fell in love with him a few months ago and wanted Dixon to see him so they went together. Dixon fell in love with him, too, so Pitt is going to try hard for him.

Q: What was the final story with DeAndre Kane?

A: The final story is that Pitt thinks he is going to have a very good college career, but they realized that he would never be able to meet Pitt's academic standards currently. He won't have that problem at Marshall.

Q: I have been hearing many people say Nasir Robinson will be a power forward from now on? Is that true?

A: I was actually talking to somebody on the Pitt staff yesterday about this and they want, and hope, that he will be a three for them, so I'm not sure how that rumor got started. He's 6'4" and isn't one of those 6'4" big butted power forwards. He's going to be a three and hopefully he can score without being able to shoot.

Q: I heard Jamie Dixon say that Gary McGhee was going to see more minutes next year. I didn't even think he was going to be on the team anymore. What's the scoop?

A: What did you expect Dixon to say? I think McGhee wants to stay because he sees himself as the only true center on the team and probably thinks he will get more minutes. Personally, I would be shocked if he saw more minutes, but hey, it's his life. If he wants to stay then I hope he turns into a productive player because like I have said many times before, he is a great person. But the truth is, if Pitt liked Famous, and they ended up signing him, I doubt that McGhee would be back.

From McGhee's perspective, the lack of anybody else on the roster over 6'9" may be what's keeping him around, and from Pitt's perspective, they have nobody to currently take his spot so there's no point in helping him find someplace else that would be more suitable for his talent level. But, hopefully if Pitt does find somebody that they feel better suits their program, that they and McGhee agree amiably to find someplace else for him. I know that a lot of fans find such a thing distasteful, but a coach owes it to the school, the fans, and the players to make the team the best it can be. If that means adding somebody that pushes McGhee out, then that's what will have to happen. These guys don't get four year deals. Scholarships are for one year at a time so you can look at it as having to try out for the team every season. If you aren't one of the top thirteen that season then you have to go. I'm not saying that will happen to McGhee. Like I said, the kid is awesome so I hope he stays and shocks us all with his progress. But we all have to come to the conclusion that it may not end that way and that's just the way it goes.

Q: This may be a question that makes people angry, but I hope you answer it honestly. Is Jamie Dixon a great recruiter?

A: I always answer honestly. No, I don't think anybody in the college basketball world would consider Dixon a great recruiter. At least not as far as getting elite prospects. He's not in the same league as guys like Jim Calhoun, Rick Pitino, Jay Wright, Jeff Capel, John Calipari, and a few others. He's not as aggressive and he isn't a great closer like those guys. But, he is a great recruiter as far as finding the right players and that's a great skill, too.

Q: Is Tom Droney ever coming to Pitt?

A: Doesn't look like it. They really like him, but he doesn't seem to fit in with the current roster. But he hasn't signed anywhere yet and Pitt still has an opening, so you never know.

Q: Was the Pitt coaches worried to hear that Isaiah Epps wanted to be one and done?

A: No, because coaches hear that all the time. Plus they know it's not going to happen. Very, very few point guards are good enough to leave after one season.

Q: Lamar Patterson is not rated highly on either of the two recruiting networks and even dropped in both. Should we be worried?

A: No, Patterson is a better prospect now than he was at this time last year. Always take rankings with a grain of salt when a player transfers to a much better high school program, is their best player, and then drops from No. 8 to No. 124.

Q: Pitt is in the final ten for Kyrie Irving. Do they have a chance?

A: Doubtful. He and Epps are both point guards so why would Irving go somewhere where there is already an elite player at his position? I know fans will think that maybe either Irving or Epps can play the two, but why would they want to? They both have the potential to be a point guard in the NBA and college is their audition. It will help them much more to actually play the point in college. And the same can be said about Trae Golden.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

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 doke88@yahoo.com. 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.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Natyazhko to Arizona

In an interesting development, 6'10" 250 pound Kyryl Natyazhko of IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL has decided to attend Arizona, one day after telling me in an interview that Pittsburgh and Arizona State were tops on his list and that he has not even visited Arizona yet. But this is one situation where there may be more than meets the eye. As I have found out this evening, the unusual recruitment of Natyazhko may have something to do with the fact that some schools have recently found out that the Ukrainian may have trouble qualifying. As a person close to the situation tells me, "Kyryl faces major eligibility issues to play. His age, plus the fact he may have enrolled in college in the Ukraine will make it difficult for him to be eligible". In other words, Pitt, and maybe even Arizona State, may have found this out, clearing the way for Natyazhko to go to a school that he didn't even visit. That may explain the rush to commit when Natyazhko still had a visit in hand and was expected to visit Arizona next week. Of course, when the dust settles, Natyazhko may prove to be eligible. But the question marks suddenly got voluminous.

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Friday, April 10, 2009


April 10, 2009

DeJuan Blair is moving on to the NBA and left in his massive wake is a gaping hole at center. To help fill that hole, Jamie Dixon and his staff are looking to IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. where 6'10" 250 pound center Kyryl Natyazhko (pronounced KAH-rill NUH-tosh-ko) is located. The Ukrainian import, reached by phone this afternoon, disputes a recent national article in which his coach at IMG, Vince Walden, stated that his decision will come down to Arizona or Arizona State, and that his decision will likely come this weekend.

"I don't know why he said that," chuckled Natyazhko. "It's three schools I'm looking at. Pittsburgh, Arizona State, and Arizona. And I wouldn't say they are even. In fact, I would say Pittsburgh and Arizona State are on top now. I haven't been to Arizona yet. Coach (Sean) Miller just got the job out there and they want me to come out and visit as soon as possible, but the only time I can visit is next weekend. So I'm going to try to do that and use that as my last official visit."

Natyazhko had already visited Arizona State and Pittsburgh, along with Xavier and Ohio. At Arizona State, Natyazhko was particularly impressed with the high contingent of European players on the roster. At Pitt, it was the atmosphere. "I was there when they played UConn," stated Natyazhko. "It was pretty unbelievable".

One thing Natyazhko won't have to worry about is playing time. Arizona State graduated big man Jeff Pendergraph, Arizona is in the midst of a roster overhaul, and the Panthers have lost Blair. The fact that the last two centers for Pittsburgh, Blair and Aaron Gray, have moved on as NBA draft picks is not lost on Natyazhko, and he says that could factor in his decision. "I'm just looking for a coach that will help me get to the next level. I just have to decide who that is".


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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Adreian Payne

I talked to Payne's coach, Art Winston, to see how things are going in the recruitment of his star big man, and I took two things away from the conversation. One, it may be awhile before Payne gets his voluminous list down, and, two, there are so many elite programs involved that Pitt's chances are not great at this time.

The first thing Winston asked is if Jamie Dixon was still going to be there at Pitt, because he has heard about him mentioned with many openings. Then Winston again reiterated that he and Payne like Pitt's system and thinks he would be a good fit. He said they have a dish and tape as many games as they can so that they can see how each team plays. And they like how Pitt plays in their half court offense and how they play well in transition. He feels Pitt's style and Payne's style mesh nicely. But, of course, Pitt isn't the only school that matches that criteria.

Also, they are looking to see how many highly ranked players each program have at the same position. "We don't want a team with a lot of 6'9" or 6'10" kids coming in every year so that he consistently has to fight for minutes," said Winston. As for Blair leaving for the NBA, Winston said it makes no difference because even if Blair stayed all four years, Payne would only have played with him one year.

Winston also said that Payne, at 6'9", is more of a power forward than a center, but we agreed that there are few true centers in the college game anyway, so it didn't really matter. Winston sees no problem with Payne and Dante Taylor playing together. He also said that Payne handles the ball a lot and could even see him playing small forward in the NBA.

Back to Pitt, Winston said they would like to visit Pitt unofficially "when his AAU schedule settles down". He said that with Pitt about four and a half hours away, they will just go unofficially so that they can see the campus, and talk to the players and coaches. There will be many unofficial visits if they are close and Kentucky and Florida was also mentioned as probable visits.

We then talked about internet chatter that mentioned Payne as probably staying in Ohio for college. Winston vehemently downplayed that and said that Payne only went to Dayton and Xavier so often because they were local and have been recruiting him for the longest time. Winston emphasized that Payne will play wherever he feels like he fits in best, and that could be in Ohio or not.

Bottom line, Pitt has a chance, but there's an awful long way to go and a lot of elite programs to beat. Time will tell if Pitt hangs in there.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Pitt Basketball Notes

By Chris Dokish

DeJuan Blair is expected to announce tomorrow that he is declaring for the NBA draft. Before Pitt fans jump off a bridge, this is just normal protocol. He can not go through the next steps without first declaring. It is common sense that he will go through the process of determining his options. It does not mean he will definitely leave for the NBA.

You can scratch Sean Miller off the list of possible future Pitt basketball coaches, at least for the foreseeable future. If the reports are true, Miller could be getting as much as a million dollars a year more than Jamie Dixon is getting at Pitt. The rumored salary is so high that Pitt, never a school that paid huge money for a coach, would likely never be able to approach what it would take to get Miller away from Arizona. Sometimes that wouldn't matter to a coach. But it apparently mattered to Miller, who many basketball insiders feel is making a huge mistake by leaving an excellent Xavier job for an Arizona job that could initially have very bad teams. It's that factor that kept most of Arizona's more desirous candidates from taking the job.

As for Dixon, it is impossible to know just how much he thought about listening to the Arizona people about their opening, but this much is sure- he has now said no to at least nine different openings in the last three seasons, all of which would have offered him more money then he was getting at Pitt. The bad news, of course, is that eventually Dixon may get sick of getting less than the Sean Millers and Anthony Grants of the world. The new going rate for an elite coach is 2 million a season or more. Dixon is making about 1.5 or 1.6 million a season. There may be a time when Pitt will have to decide just how high they will want to go to keep Dixon. He is already the most paid coach in Pitt history, but like I previously stated, he is still underpaid, relatively speaking.

At Arizona, either Miller will succeed and be worth an even bigger fortune, or he will fail and Pitt would have to wonder if they would really want damaged goods. They have hired Dave Wannstedt, however, who was considered the poster child for damaged goods when he was hired so clearly being a "Pitt guy" goes a long way.

One candidate in the future could be Tom Herrion. Herrion was a successful coach already at the College of Charleston, he is an excellent recruiter with a great reputation in college and high school circles, he will coast half as much as the coach du jour, and like Dixon before him, he would carry on the same style of play. But that would only be if Dixon left soon, which is looking more and more unlikely, because Herrion will get a head coaching job soon. Note- For those who think Herrion is a source of mine, let me say that I have talked to the guy exactly three times in my life and I have had scoops on Pitt basketball four years before he even arrived at Pitt.

Apparently there was a KDKA-TV report stating that Will Coleman was heading to Pitt. That is obviously jumping the gun. Memphis has to hire a new coach, then Coleman has to decide whether or not he wants to stay, then, if he doesn't want to stay, he will have to get out of his scholarship, then Pitt will have to recruit him again. So Pitt is far from even talking to him and, in fact, are not allowed to talk to him until he is released from his scholarship. According to his coach at Miami-Dade, Coleman can get out of his scholarship without penalty, so if he does do that, then Pitt will probably come after him. But with Darnell Dodson being Coleman's friend, and Dodson not allowed to go to Pitt, Coleman may just decide to stay at Memphis.

Another rumor I was approached with was that DeJuan Blair has not been attending classes, and I guess it was then hinted at that this may mean Blair has already made his mind to leave Pitt. It is true that Blair has not been physically in his classes lately but according to Pitt it's because, like other elite players at this time of the year, it is because he is on the awards circuit. I was assured that Blair's classroom participation is not something out of the ordinary and it is nothing that would keep him from Pitt next season, should he decide to stay.

Speaking of Blair, I think intellectually it makes sense to go. He's not going to get taller, he's not going to play above the rim next season either, and he's not going to develop a jump shot. Does anybody seriously think Dixon is going to let Blair shoot a slew of 15 footers next season so that he can audition for the NBA? No way. These coaches, even those with great success like Dixon, think they are always a year away from getting fired. He will not let Blair leave the paint next year, and that's guaranteed. Also, if Blair stays, he could get hurt or he could show scouts that he is not progressing. Either occurence would hurt him. And even if he's not ready for the NBA, he is a First Team All-American and an unusual talent who would make a large fortune in Europe. It's not like he's going to be a ditch digger if he doesn't become a lottery pick. But there is always the emotional issue. Blair will never be BMOC again once he leaves Pitt. He will never again be as big of a star as he is at this level, and he will never again be able to play in front of all of his friends and family.

Looking at next season, the ideal situation would be for Blair to stay and Pitt still land Coleman. That is always a possibility and if it happened, Pitt's roster, 1-13, may be the most physically talented they ever had. The team would also be inexperienced at PG so they may still not be as good as they were this year, but Top 10 would be a very good possibility.

If Blair does leave, Coleman would be expected to take his spot, if he somehow does end up at Pitt. He and Dante Taylor would be intriguing in the low post, if inexperienced. The worst case scenario would be if Blair leaves and the Panthers don't land Coleman. In that case, look for the Panthers to have a small starting lineup of Travon Woodall, Jermaine Dixon, Gilbert Brown, Brad Wanamaker, and Taylor. There will be no true center in this lineup, as Taylor is not a center. But he would be forced to defend on defense from the center position and he will not be allowed to flourish offensively with opponents in the Big East taking him out of the game. Talib Zanna is also not a center and will probably not be ready to get a lot of quality minutes early next season, and maybe even all season. Don't forget that most freshmen big men do not excel right away unless they are top 30 or 40 prospects, at least. Likewise, Kyryl Natyazhko, who Pitt is far from landing at this time, would not start as a freshman for Pitt. Dixon will not start two freshmen in the frontcourt and three overall. Bottom line, the Panthers better have Blair and/or Coleman to pair with Taylor or he will not be able to properly flourish as a freshman.

Another thing I have been hearing from fans is that Pitt should "save" a scholarship for next year. That sounds great in theory but coaches don't think like that. They see every season as an audition to keep their job and they max out their team the best they can every season. That means all scholarships filled if you can do it. Plus, it's not so easy to save a scholarship next year to just get a Doron Lamb or Will Barton. Those kinds of players are hard to get and coaches never just assume they will get them. They will just try to land either the best they can and if they end up over 13 then so be it. They will worry about that then.

Lamar Patterson is making fans realize why Pitt was so high on him. He is in much better shape now, both leaner and quicker, and he has the makings of a very effective Big East small forward. His shot is only going to get better (the Pitt staff thinks he has the ability to be a "lights out shooter"), and now that he's in better shape he is even showing his athleticism more, as evidenced by his dunk over Tiny Gallon this weekend.

As the article under this one states, Isaiah Epps is looking more and more like a coup for the Pitt staff. He's a decent 6'2", he has long arms, runs like a roadrunner, and can really fill it up offensively. As a prospect, he has the most talent for a Pitt point guard since at least Vonteego Cummings, who really was a shooting guard that was forced to play the point at Pitt. If you don't count Cummings, there may not be a more promising point guard to ever enter the program.

For some reason, I still get people trying to tell me that Wanamaker or Dixon will be the point guard next season. I don't know how many times I can say this, but here it goes again- Wanamaker or Dixon will not be a point guard next season!!! Ideally, the staff wants Woodall to be the man. If he fails, then it would be Ashton Gibbs. Or Gibbs could just flat beat out Woodall. The staff does not consider Dixon or Wanamaker point guards and if they do end up playing the position next year, that means Woodall and Gibbs bombed unbelievably, and in that case, the season will be disastrous. And that's not going to happen.

While Woodall is obviously a huge question next season, two others are Gilbert Brown and Wanamaker. Neither has star ability, but both are better than they have shown so far. Wanamaker made progress this year, especially with his shooting, but he still too often plays like a bull in a china shop, complete with one on three fast breaks. If he can get that under control, he could be very good. Brown has the opposite problem in that he is not very aggressive and appears to lack topnotch basketball instincts. If he progressed from his freshman season, I didn't see it. It's naive to think Brown will automatically raise his level to match Sam Young, who has always been a much better prospect, and player, than Brown. Young used his athleticism as a weapon whereas Brown acts like he doesn't know what to do with his athleticism. He better learn quickly because Pitt needs him next season.

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April 6, 2009

The AAU season tipped off this past weekend in New Jersey with the annual Playaz Spring Fling, bringing in many of the top programs and players along the East Coast to the RAC on the Rutgers campus.

One very impressive performer in Friday night's action was Pittsburgh 2010 verbal commitment Isaiah Epps.

Playing for the NJ Playaz, the Plainfield HS star excelled showing off his blazing speed in the open floor and the diversity in his individual game as he possessed the sweetest looking shot on the floor.

Epps will give Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon a new element in his future backcourt, and explosive guard play that Epps will likely provide is certain to increase the Panthers' March Madness chances in the future.

While Epps used his elite-level speed to dance around defenders and prove that full court pressure was unable to slow him down, the 6-foot-2 combo guard will use a year of prep school to add weight and strength to his slight frame to be ready for the rigors of the physical Big East come the 2010-2011 season.

Pittsburgh got themselves a good one...


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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Pitt recruiting guards for 2009?

By Chris Dokish

There was a newspaper article today stating that junior college guard Darius Johnson-Odom was offered a scholarship by Pittsburgh before recently committing to Marquette. However, the Panthers never offered Johnson-Odom a scholarship and have not actively recruited 2009-10 guards for months.

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Will Dixon be interested in USC?

By Chris Dokish

If Tim Floyd accepts the job at Arizona, the USC job suddenly becomes available. It's no secret that Jamie Dixon's name has already been mentioned predominantly. For years Dixon has been reportedly been trying to get back to the west coast, even though he has never said that himself. In fact, his only public comments about the west coast is that his ties to that area are exaggerated, even though his parents do live there. But more on that in a second.

First let's look at the programs. There is little doubt that Pitt is more successful as a basketball program over the last decade. But that doesn't necessarily mean Pitt has more potential. In fact, despite USC treating their basketball program almost as an afterthought, it has been successful on the court. Many consider it a sleeping giant that will only be awoken by the right coach. Dixon has that ability. But that's only if USC suddenly sees the value in their basketball program. Floyd was reportedly making a relatively paltry $850,000. Six months ago, Dixon received an extension that, by all accounts, moved his salary in the range of 1.5 million. Included in that, according to a source close to the situation, is a sizable buyout clause.

This means that, even if Dixon was interested, USC would have to offer him more than twice as much as they had given Floyd. That may be a tall order for a school that already pays Pat Carroll more than 4 million a season.

Even knowing that USC is a sleeping giant, and assuming for the sake of argument that USC would pay Dixon a large salary, plus a substantial buyout, Dixon would still have to leave behind a program that routinely wins 25+ games a year in the marquee conference in the country, all to be the second best program in Los Angeles. Plus, Dixon has admitted, without prodding, that his relationship with University of Pittsburgh chancellor Mark Nordenberg is extraordinary. Adding all of this up, it begins to look more and more like moving to USC would not be a smart move professionally.

But there is one thing that could make him change his mind, and that's what he feels emotionally. The loss of his sister Maggie was devastating not only to Dixon, but to his parents, who still reside in the Los Angeles area. In 2006, Dixon told the The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

"I do worry about my parents more. Everyone tells me that there's nothing worse than a parent losing a child. As much as we talked before -- I don't know how we could talk more than before, but we do -- our conversations are different. No question. There are pauses and deep breaths. I can't get back [to Los Angeles] as much as I would like. Different things come up, birthdays, holidays. I have to get them back here as much as possible. Those are things we have to figure out."

It's that emotional factor that may have the single biggest influence on Dixon if he has to make the decision. It's something that fans on message boards and reporters can not gauge. Only Dixon can know what is in his heart and whether or not he feels like he wants to be physically closer to his family. It's no doubt a decision that he will not take lightly. But one thing is for sure. If he is offered the USC job, and turns it down, then he has said no to every major Pac-10 team, outside of UCLA, in California and Arizona, and his supposed desire to return west will have to finally be considered, once and for all, a myth.

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