A GOOD GROUP
There were multiple times that Dixon referred to this team, in some way shape or form, as having good character. He noted that as a team, the Panthers have a 2.96 team GPA, and Ashton Gibbs will be an academic All-America candidate.
"I think we're excited about this group," Dixon said. "The summer did a lot for us. It was ten practices, so we have to keep it in perspective. Our guys got to play. We're still breaking in some guys, but I really like this group, and what they have to offer. They're very outgoing. They're very fun. They're a good group."
GOALS FOR THE SEASON
An interesting comment came from Dixon when asked about what his goals were for the season; mainly what he wants to see from the team. The first thing that he opened up with was improvement from himself and his coaching staff. Dixon begins his eighth season with a career record of 188-54, which ties him for the NCAA-record for most career wins in the first seven years of a tenure.
"As a staff, we've got to improve," Dixon said. "I have to keep trying to build; get better. I think I've always been trying to improve in everything we do. You can't tell your players to improve if you're not doing the same thing as a coach. That has to be made clear. It's got to be a bond. It's got to be a partnership. We're all trying to do the same thing."
Dixon then came through, and commented on theme he'd like to see the team develop, which he feels will help them beyond the regular season and conference tournament play.
"We have to be a great rebounding team; not a good one, but a great one," Dixon said. "If you lead the Big East in rebounding, you're about the best in the country. That's something we got to shoot for. I think we can be a great rebounding team. It won't be one guy. It will be different from what we've done in the past. we've go thte ability to be a very good rebounding team, both offensively and defensively."
In the past, Dixon has been mum on where guys would start off. Though he didn't talk much about the guard positions, one of the guard positions became more clear, when he talked about who he likes at the three, four and five positions.
"We have Gilbert playing strictly on the wing; two and three," Dixon said. "We had the five big guys; Dante (Taylor), Gary (McGhee), J.J. (Richardson), Talib (Zanna), Nasir (Robinson), really splitting those two spots (down low). That's what we had in the summer. I thought it worked well.
"The main thing is you get your five best players on the floor. That's what we've always done. It doesn't matter how tall they are, how small they are. That's always been our philosophy; put our best players on the floor."
With that said, with Brown at the three, it looks like Brad Wanamaker will start off at the two.
WHAT ABOUT GIBBS
Based on the projected positions that Dixon alluded to, that leaves the question of point guard. There was a lot of praise towards Ashton Gibbs throughout the day, meaning he is likely to start off at the point guard position, with Travon Woodall backing him up. Dixon started off praising Gibbs' leadership, one of the characterstics that has resembled a Dixon-coached point guard.
"I think that's something we emphasize in our program," Dixon said. "Some guys do it better than others. Ashton is one of those guys who does it better than others."
As far as what type of play we can expect from Gibbs?
"Getting by people, as much as he scored, getting by people, people are going to be looking for him," Dixon said. "When he gets by them, it's not always going to be to score. It's to get other guys shots. Penetrate drops and penetrate kickouts. I think if he gets by a guy, or raises a guy up, he's got to be able to get in the lane and make someone else guard him, and find that open man. I saw improvement in that area."
The only injury to report was Dante Taylor straining his neck during a recent workout. Dixon recognized something was wrong, because Taylor had to miss one of the offseason workouts, after sporting a perfect attendance record through his freshman year.
"Dante had a good hour workout the day before, then he comes out and I'm excited for him, and then he started going through a five-man weave, and he couldn't move his neck," Dixon said. "He didn't have a great day yesterday, but he'll be ready to go."
McGHEE MUST GET DEFENSIVE
Gary McGhee was invited to both the Amare Stoudemire and Lebron James Skills Academy this past summer, which gave him a chance to see where he would rank among other players at his position, in hopes of getting selected in next June's NBA Lottery Draft.
"It definitely gave me a better understanding or where I stand for next year," McGhee said. "It gave me a lot of confidence coming back."
Dixon, however, said it's McGhee's job to be Pitt's defensive player this season.
"He's made steady improvement over his career," Dixon said. "I've always touted how great a defensive player he was, especially last year. I think he can be the best defensive player in the Big East. I really think he can be that. That's something that remains to be seen. He does some very good things. It won't be measured in shot blocks. Position, help-defense, paint touches; those kind of things. It remains to be seen. I think he could be."
FRESHMEN IN THE MIX?
Entering this season, Pitt has six total freshmen--four true and two redshirt. Isaiah Epps joined the time right before the start of class. Scholarship players Cameron Wright and J.J. Moore were here for summer school, and worked out with the team over the summer, as was walk-on Aron Nwonkwo. Redshirt freshmen Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna fall in the same class.
Dixon said it remains to be seen how much the true freshmen will be involved, but the redshirt freshmen should be involved right away.
"There was a dramatic difference between the two guys that redshirted; those freshmen, and the two guys who were out in practice with us in the summer," Dixon said. "You can see a whole year. It remains to be seen. I saw Lamar played well in the (summer) practices. Talib, he only played a couple of years of high school ball over here. There is some adjustment time. I think that was important for him in that regard."