Pitt held its annual basketball media day to tip off the 2012-13 season, on Thursday. The team will hold its first practice Friday night as part of Midnight Madness. The team will scrimmage on an outdoor basketball court on Bigelow Boulevard, between the Cathedral of Learning and William Pitt Union.
At the media day, prior to all of tonight's stivities, head coach Jamie Dixon addressed many topics surrounding the team, including many hints about where this team's depth lies.
Before he got into that, however, he praised one of the new NCAA rules which allowed him to require more, or at least have a more firm hold on the team during the summer. Included in those rule changes; the ability for Dixon to be at every summer league game. In previous years, he was only allowed at one game. An administrative assistant--director of basketball operations Brian Regan--could be there for all games. This part of the rule change, among other parts, Dixon sounded pretty pleased with.
"We can require them to be certain places," Dixon said. "Before, we couldn't require the guys to be anywhere in the summer. They could do what they wanted to do. If they wanted to work out, or go to class. We really couldn't do anything, regarding the consequences."
Another issue facing the team is injuries. Travon Woodall and J.J. Moore were not part of those summer exercises, mainly due to rehabbing; Woodall recovering from the abdominal/groin injury he suffered seven games in.
"Tray has been good, and J.J. has been good," Dixon said. "We were obviously very conservative with those guys. It's been going very well."
Dixon even commented on Woodall's work ethic through the summer, and how his injury rehab combined with his regular workouts. Now, it sounds that all preventive measures that Woodall takes are all part of his daily routine. Dixon called Woodall out as one of the hardest workers on the team.
"We anticipate that," Dixon said. "He's been doing a lot of things; in there early, a couple hours before practice and getting the treatment. It's been good."
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And on the heels of that, Dixon chimed in on the point guard situation. While he's got a trusted veteran in Woodall, and also someone who follows the 'pass-first' mentality that Dixon preaches, he also feels he has two or maybe even three more in that same mold. Trey Zeigler and Woodall appear on track to be the starting guards; interchangeable at the one and two spots. Dixon also sounds optimistic about James Robinson seeing the floor, as well as sophomore John Johnson.
"We think that James is good for us, and we think John Johnson is going to play some point guard for us, too," Dixon said. "We have three guys that we are working with, and that we are counting on. Tray is obviously a fifth-year guy who had a great start to his year last year. James has been doing some really good things, and has developed physically and mentally. John gives us good quickness, and he played a lot of minutes last year."
A year ago, it was looking like a battle between Lamar Patterson and J.J. Moore for the starting spot at the three. As the season started, both players went opposite directions. Patterson started the season, and continued to start after the opener. Moore struggled, before finally hitting a stretch of games in February, where he scored in double-figures in 7 of 10 games.
The end result, was Patterson sharing Team Co-MVP honors with Woodall. Moore earned Most Improved Player. Now Dixon wants them both on the floor. In fact, he refers to it as a necessity.
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"I think it's something you're going to see a lot more, for obvious reasons," Dixon said. "We've had some guys move on, and those guys are juniors. We need them on the floor at all times; often times together."
It doesn't mean Patterson at the two, and Moore at the three. Slide both players down one slot; Patterson at the three and Moore at the four.
"Yeah, I guess you can put it that way," Dixon added. "Call it what you will, but that's the way we'll do it. You have to get your best players on the floor. I think that's always the reason for our success over the years."
Of any player who improved themselves, or in this case got bigger in the offseason, Moore was the one who literally gained the most. Particularly in his upper body. Another benefit of that? Moore getting moved to the four.
"He couldn't do any shooting or running," Dixon added. "He was in the weight room working hard. He's a hard worker. He's always been a hard-worker. I think he did about much as you could in that situation."
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Now it adds to the depth of the four, and possibly the five. If Moore holds on to that starting spot, he'll likely get some help from Talib Zanna providing some minutes there. Zanna said he's a four this year, with possibly some minutes at the five.
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That leaves some quality depth, and a position battle for the start at the five. It's up to senior Dante Taylor to hold off competition from incoming freshman Steven Adams. There's also sophomore Malcolm Gilbert, who played in a handful of games last season. Dixon says he does not intend to redshirt Gilbert, to make up from forcing him in earlier than he would have liked. He also said that he expects a lot out of Taylor this year.
"He's been out there every day, hasn't missed any conditioning," Dixon says of Taylor. "We want to get the ball inside. He's a big part of that."
It also sounds like he has given thought to Steven Adams starting, as well. The most intriguing thing Dixon says, is how physically developed Adams is compared to two other freshmen that have started over the years--Chris Taft and DeJuan Blair. If his comparison is any indication, we will see Adams in the lineup.
"He's got good size, good strength," Dixon said. "Physically, he's more ready than any big kid we've brought in. We've had some great freshmen that have started, in Chris Taft and DeJuan Blair. Physically, conditioing-wise and strength-wise, he's probably a lot further ahead."
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