Jamie Dixon has a good philosophy on the target areas that he likes to recruit from. Typically, his recruiting classes have a lot of flavor from Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York and New Jersey. This year, it was all Pennsylvania and Maryland, including three players from the Philadelphia area. Dixon said it's not so much that it was a big year for recruiting in the eastern part of the state, as much as it was finding players he feels would simply fit in to the daily rigors of his program.
"I thought it was a good year (in eastern Pennsylvania)," Dixon said. "I think if you looked at the region, in different areas, one thing we've done and we decided early on was that we didn't want to be focused on one city, one area. If it's not a good year, you don't want to be focused on that one area. We had a good feeling about these guys awhile back.
"Guys were targeted, and I think that's one of our strengths. We don't rely on (one) area for players. We go where the players we want (are), players that are good kids and are willing and striving to get better. I think we hit the right area, and we did a good job of recognizing good players at an early age and sticking with them."
One thing that's unique about this class, is that it has more variety then other classes of the past. For example, even though the 2010 class had three guards in Cameron Wright, Isaiah Epps and J.J. Moore, they were all different type of guards. This year has a couple of combo guard/forward type players in Jaylen Bond and Durand Johnson, with a combo guard in the form of John Johnson and a center in the form of Malcolm Gilbert.
Because of their athleticism, there are at least two or three positions that Bond and Durand Johnson could end up at. Bond can play the post as a four, defend the four and move out and defend a wing as well. His scoring abilities match that of a three or a four type player. Durand Johnson--with his 6-6 frame--creates a matchup problem at the two when defending. He is also the most dangerous threat as a three-point shooter in this class. His height and his long arms--something college coaches love--give him an advantage when defending the two or three.
John Johnson brings something interesting because he can play the point or the two. He's not a traditional point guard, because he can score and isn't afraid to go to the basket.
What Dixon has found is an athletic class with players that have multiple abilities in addition to having a strong work ethic required of the college basketball player.
"Good size, good athleticism," Dixon said. "Obviously, we're focusing on size this year. They're good kids, and they're going to get better. These kids will definitely improve. I'm very excited about them; quality kids, quality people, and we've very excited about them. They've got some work to do, and they understand that. That's the important thing. That's a positive when they understand they have work to do on and off the court."
Center Malcolm Gilbert has the typical size, and the defensive mentality that Pitt has seen from players such as Aaron Gray and Gary McGhee. With McGhee graduating after this season, Gilbert has a chance to be in the mix as a freshman next year.
"He's a quality kid," Dixon said of Gilbert. "He's going to improve and get better. Everybody talks about big kids and where they're at and where they're going to be. That's one thing we really look at, in where they're going to be, what their path was to where they're at. I like everything about him and where he's going to be. I like everything he's done in his career. Most importantly, I like where he's going to be in a couple years. I have a lot of faith in his growth and his development."
Though he didn't talk much outside of Malcolm Gilbert on an individual basis, Dixon already seems to like the work ethic that is instilled within these incoming recruits. He didn't say that any of them would come in and start next year or if one was going to be the next DeJuan Blair or Sam Young. If there was one consistent thing he did say about his 2011 recruiting class, it was their work ethic.
"I think it's a good class," Dixon said. "I'm not one who goes and raves about (recruiting) classes, and does all that. That's just not our style. We have quality kids and quality players that continue to improve and will be very good players because they want to be better players. They want to work."
6-7, 220 Forward
Norristown, Pennsylvania/Plymouth Whitemarsh
- No. 23 power forward in the country
- No. 134 player in the country
- combo forward who can play at the three or four
- ability to score from anymore and can defend a multitude of positions
- led Plymouth Whitemarsh to a 30-2 record as a junior, including a Quad-A state championship
- has already surpassed the 1,000-point plateau for his career
6-11, 230 Center
Smyrna, Delaware/The Academy of the New Church
- No. 19 center in the country
- averaged 4.6 points and 5.4 rebounds as a junior at The Academy of the New Church (Bryn Athyn, Pa.)
- averaged 10 rebounds and 12 blocked shots per game as a sophomore
- strong inside post presence with a defense-first mentality
- sister Milana Gilbert plays basketball at Hartford
6-6, 190 Guard/Forward
Baltimore, Maryland/Brewster Academy (N.H.)/Lake Clifton
- combo guard who can play either at shooting guard or on the wing
- dangerous three-point shooter; threat to score every time
- interesting matchup in defending because of his size
- moves to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, after playing at Lake Clifton High in Baltimore
- brother Derrell Johnson starts at defensive end as a freshman for East Carolina
6-1, 175 Guard
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania/Life Center Academy (N.J.)
- No. 42 shooting guard in the country
- No. 127 player in the country
- combo guard at either the point or as a shooting guard
- is playing his senior season at Life Center Academy in New Jersey, after earning all-state honors three years in a row at Girard College High in Philadelphia
- 22.2 points, 4.4 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 3 steals a game as a junior
- 35% (52-of-150) from three-point range and 76% (124-of-164) free throw percentage as a junior
- 21.3 points, 5.5 assists, 3.4 steals a game as a sophomore
- guided Girard to state championships as a freshman and sophomore