McDonald's Spotlight: Khem Birch

CHICAGO -- An eye injury has slowed Khem Birch, but the big man is working hard to remain a factor during the McDonald's week.

No player in the McDonald's All-American Game has spent less time as a member of the 2011 class than Khem Birch. The 6-foot-9 power forward headed to Pitt re-classified from 2012 into 2011 at the beginning of the basketball season, and is now a McDonald's All-American.

Most of the players at the McDonald's All-American Game have longstanding bonds and friendships dating back to the AAU circuit or playing in international competitions against each other. However that is not the case for Birch who was also a year behind the other guys in this game.

Now Birch is trying to get to know the members of the 2011 class and is working to fit in.

"It has been kind tough," said Birch. "They don't really know me, and I don't really know them. I am just trying to get to know them better because I haven't been in this class for very long."

So far in practices Birch has looked somewhat tentative. He has a big bump over his left eye that is bothering him, and Birch says it has made an impact on the way he plays.

"I have done okay," said Birch of his performances during practice. "The eye injury has bothered me. With the eye injury I have been going up timid and stuff since I am afraid to get re-injured."

As a McDonald's All-American, he is one of the few impact type of recruits that Jamie Dixon has brought in at Pittsburgh. The Panthers have struggled during the NCAA Tournament without a superstar player, but Birch is hoping his presence can change that.

"If everything goes as planned I think I can definitely make a big impact next season," said Birch. "I am really excited. I want to go out there and play right now, but I know I need to keep on working harder."

Pitt loves to have physical and athletic post guys who play defense and rebound the basketball. Whenever Birch sees the Panthers play, he feels that he really fits that mold.

"I think I fit well with the way I run down the court, and then on defense I can block shots," said Birch of how he will fit in at Pitt.

For now Birch is trying to get back up to speed and not let the eye injury bother him. If he is able to do that, Birch will be able to put on a show during the game.

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