Monday, May 18, 2009


By Anthony Jaskulski

Bucket off the beautiful assist…

It’s a line you may hear often as a Pittsburgh Panther/Big East fan in the near future, and it won’t be replays from the Levance Fields era either.

Instead, you’ll be seeing one of the more prolific passers in the country follow the footsteps of the pass-happy Fields, and that assist man waiting in the wings is Isaiah Epps.

At a slight 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, Epps may not strike you as the most impressive shooter on the floor, and he certainly isn’t a rebounding monger. But with a string on the ball, a quick, agile style and a passing game that would make a quarterback envious, Epps, has emerged on the scene as one of the top recruits in the country thanks to his smooth facet of the game.


“When you work on your game as much as I have and put a lot of time into it, it starts to get a little easier,” said Epps. “There is always more room to improve though, and that’s what keeps me hungry everyday.”

A 2010 verbal commitment for the Pittsburgh Panthers, Epps, who was recruited by former Panther star and now assistant coach Brandin Knight, also a native of New Jersey, will more than likely be operating from the same position Knight dominated from 1999-2003, the point guard spot.

“Coach Knight definitely brought me towards the Pitt program, and my cousin (Travon) Woodall also made me feel more at home,” Epps said. “(Pitt) is a place where some of the best guards in the country go, and it’s a big honor to be a guard on a team like that.”

Woodall, a redshirt freshman next year for the Panthers, also operates from the point guard position.

But Epps, who is currently ranked 35th on the Rivals Top150 for the class of 2010 list, and part of the ESPNU Super-60 list, makes much more of an uncanny resemblance to a more current Panthers point guard, Levance Fields.

“I relate to Levance a lot more then any other Pitt player, because he’s more of a passer then a scorer like me,” Epps said. “He also was the guy the team could depend on to hit the game-winning shot, and I will definitely do that. I have a lot of confidence in me being that guy.”

From his high school in Plainfield, New Jersey to his AAU team: The New Jersey Playaz, Epps has wooed many scouts and crowds alike with his unique passing ability, solid ball-handling skills and spot-up shooting in clutch situations.

Recently, at the Pittsburgh Jam Fest, a weekend tournament held on April 17-19 at the Petersen Events Center, the talented Epps showed many what his game was all about, leading his AAU squad to the 17-U Gold championship game, in which they lost in the final seconds, but not before Epps showed off an impressive nine point, eight assist performance, including a hair-raising, half court, ally-oop pass that threaded through two defenders.

But for Epps, making plays like that is just secondary, when the passing category is your primacy.

“I like getting my own team involved first, no matter if it’s a pickup game or a championship game.” said Epps. “I’ll score when I need to score, but it’s not the top priority.”

With his Fields-esque style in full swing and his leadership-first, veteran attitude, you can expect Epps to make an immediate impact at Pittsburgh, and follow in the footsteps of one of the best point guards—Fields—to ever wear a Panther uniform.


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Monday, May 04, 2009



Fresh off his visit to Arizona, Kevin Parrom made it official: he will play for the Wildcats next season.

“I committed today,” Parrom said in a text message Sunday evening.

Parrom, a 6-6 swingman from New York who played at South Kent Prep (Conn.) this past year, was released from his letter of intent to Xavier in April after Musketeers’ head coach Sean Miller accepted the job at Arizona.

However, he decided to follow Miller across the country to Tucson and suit up in the Pac-10. He chose Arizona over Pittsburgh.

“The people there,” Parrom said when asked why he signed with the Wildcats. “The surroundings. The coaching staff. Great academic support. And the campus is wonderful.”


After his visit to Pittsburgh last week, Parrom said he would go see Arizona and then likely choose by the end of the upcoming week. However, he was so impressed by his trip to UA that he committed on the spot.

“My trip was great,” Parrom said. “Just getting out there in Arizona and being myself at all times with the people and the players on campus.”

Over the summer, I had a chance to watch Parrom at the Reebok All-American camp in Philadelphis. He was one of the best all-around players at the camp, and showed the ability to do nearly everything on the court. Parrom has good shooting form, which enables him to knock down outside shots, meaning defenders can’t leave him open for jumpshots. As a result, Parrom also drives to the basket well and finishes creatively at the rim.

He also has an effective back-to-the-basket game and posted up smaller defenders on several occasions. He is an extremely difficult match-up for most defenders. Parrom is also a very good passer with good vision who looks for his teammates as soon as he touches the ball. He can shoot the ball either in transition or in the half-court, and also runs the floor well. Parrom rebounds well at both ends of the court due to his athleticism, and is a very good defender, both on-and-off the ball.

Parrom transferred to South Kent after an off-the-court problem at St. Raymond’s (N.Y.), in which he allegedly hit a coach. He originally chose Xavier in September, picking the Musketeers over St. John’s, where high school teammate and close friend Omari Lawrence will attend next season.

However, once Miller left Xavier to replace interim head coach Russ Pennell at Arizona, Parrom wanted to re-evaluate his recruitment. Miller brought two of his assistants with him to Arizona, including Emmanuel “Book” Richardson, who was the former head of the New York Gauchos AAU program and with whom Parrom has a close relationship.

Parrom is the third recruit of Miller’s tenure at Arizona, following Kyryl Natyazhko and Solomon Hill.


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Sunday, May 03, 2009

May 3rd Q&A

By Chris Dokish

Q: You wrote in the last Q&A that Dixon is not a great closer and he isn't as aggressive as some other top coaches. In your opinion, what does it take to be a great closer? I’m sure a lot of kids/families are different and want to hear different things, so how do these other guys close the deal? I read message board fodder about AAU and coaching connections, promises made, skirting the rules, etc.... How much do these things play into closing? And one last thing, will Jamie ever be a great closer? If so, what does he need to work on?

A: It's like any sales job. The great ones can sell ice to an Eskimo. Is it just one thing that all the best real estate agents or the best car dealers have? It's just that some people are born closers. It's a great skill. Do the great ones probably skirt the rules a little? No doubt. I'm not saying Dixon should do that, but some of the great closers know every trick in the book, and some of those tricks are a little shadier than others. Dixon has chosen to stay away from that stuff. Some may say he's taking a moral stand and some say he is making a mistake by not using the same tactics as everybody else. I guess it's just a matter of opinion.

But, also Dixon just isn't aggressive enough. Tom Herrion wanted Dante Taylor and Dixon helped close, but it was mostly Herrion who was responsible. Brandin Knight went hard after Isaiah Epps and Dixon helped close, but this time it was Knight who deserves the kudos. When a Rick Pitino, a Jim Calhoun, or a John Calipari closes on a kid you know it because the kid can't stop talking about. When was the last time a kid was gaga over Dixon? They like him, and they respect him, but there isn't fireworks. In Herrion and Knight, Pitt has two guys who can go toe to toe with some big time recruiters, but at the end of the day, they need Dixon to come in and put the hammer down. That's what the head coach does. The assistants set them up for the kill, but the head coach comes in and seals the deal. Bottom line, kids like Dixon, but then a Pitino or a Calipari walks into his house and the kid sees rainbows and puppies.

If you look at the low numbers of elite prospects that Pitt gets compared to other top programs, it's quite startling. Pitt lags behind quite a bit. But thankfully for Pitt fans, what Dixon gets out of his players is pretty remarkable when you realize how the talent level of his team often can't approach programs that are equally as successful on the court.

Q: What does is say that Dixon couldn't close out on Kyryl Natyazhko and Kevin Parrom, and that Pitt will now probably end up with an obscure undersized junior college player?

A: Well, first of all, the undersized junior college player is pretty good. But Pitt may not end up with him either because his academics are highly questionable. If they weren't, he would have signed somewhere already.

As for Natyazkho and Parrom, Sean Miller was all over those kids long before Pitt was. For the Panthers, they were back up plans that they suddenly wanted after DeJuan Blair left. Miller has been courting them heavily for a year. That's a big difference. Both are good players in the 75-100 range, and they would have helped this year, but I don't think the loss will go beyond this upcoming season. Pitt is the masters of getting players in the 75-100 range.

Q: Why isn't Pitt going after Lance Stephenson? It seems so obvious that they could use him and he seems desperate at this point to join a great program.

A: You're right. He is desperate. And there's a reason why. As one college coach told me when discussing Stephenson, "He's going to get some coach fired". Enough said.

Q: Did Darnell Dodson officially sign with Kentucky?

A: Yes. Thankfully. Now maybe the Pitt fans can move on. He's a good player that has taken on mythical proportions. But not everybody at Pitt thought highly of his skills, and that's a fact. And I was told that the new regime at Memphis had no desire to keep him. The only reason Kentucky wanted him was because they need players for this season. But one assistant coach told me last week that Dodson will hardly see the floor at Kentucky because he will quickly get recruited over. Bottom line, he is a good, solid prospect, but he isn't a future star.

Q: With Natyazhko and Parrom out of play, is it Kavon Lytch or nobody?

A: Lytch has academic problems, so from what I hear, Pitt is going to keep looking into the summer. If they still can't find somebody then they will carry it over to next year.

Q: You say you want a center and shooting guard for next year. Any names?

A: Well, they don't feel the center crop in the East is strong for 2010, so I'm not holding my breath on that one. You never know who they may unearth, though. As for guards, there are a lot of excellent ones out there and none have Pitt in their sights as of yet.

Q: For 2010, what do you think Pitt's chances are for these players- Adreian Payne, Will Barton, Doron Lamb, Kyrie Irving, Trae Golden, Victor Oladipo, Shane Southwell?

A: Payne- very slim
Barton- very slim
Lamb- very slim
Irving- very slim
Golden- very slim
Oladipo- too early
Southwell- too early

Q: One of the national networks just reshuffled their top 75 and Epps was not in it. What does that mean?

A: I can only assume that it means they are clueless. That kid will be a star at Pitt and he will be in the NBA.

Q: Mike DeCourcy ranked Pitt No. 11 in his preseason rankings and Andy Katz ranked them No.24. Are you just being pessimistic?

A: Pitt could very well end up No. 24 at the end of the year, and I would not bet against a Jamie Dixon team, but no way are they No. 24 in the preseason. As for DeCourcy, he wrote his preseason Top 25 when he thought Blair was returning, and then it was released and edited by editors after Blair left. So it looked like he had them No. 11 without Blair, but he actually had them No.11 with Blair, which I would have agreed with.

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