Pitt men's basketball begins practice at the beginning of October and, less than a month away, the program received some good news. Odd, considering the negativity that's pervaded Pitt basketball-related goings-on recently with injuries and players leaving the school.
4-star point guard Damon Wilson, out of Our Savior New American in Centereach, N.Y., was ruled academically eligible Tuesday, news Jamie Dixon officially shared Wednesday.
"We had great confidence Damon was going to be fine academically," Dixon said. "We got the word yesterday so Damon Wilson is fine. It’s always hard when you have a guy that’s a good student being questioned about his academic eligibility but he’s, as we thought, no problems and he’s done a good job everywhere he’s been academically."
Concerns related to Wilson's eligibility were based not so much on his academic ability, but the issues surrounding fellow alumnus and Kansas commit Cheick Diallo as a result of the class offerings at OSNA.
While Wilson is now eligible he, like many other Panthers, is now dealing with an injury entering the season. Dixon said Wilson separated his shoulder playing pickup in Atlanta, his hometown, and returned to school with his arm in a sling.
Wilson and the rest of his teammates on the mend are expected to be ready to practice when Pitt begins Oct. 2 or 3.
James Robinson underwent surgery on his right foot in June and is beginning to ramp up activity before practice begins.
"James is going to step it up a little bit here today and do a little bit more," Dixon said. "We’re getting there."
Dixon added Chris Jones is coming along after he had toe surgery over the summer, and has been able to do some stationary shooting.
Sterling Smith also had surgery in June on his right ankle. Dixon expects the Coppin State transfer in particular to contribute this season.
"I really think he’s a good player," Dixon said. "We looked at the stats, watched the film, very efficient and obviously it’s a step up in our league. But I think he’s going to be a very good player for us. He picks things up, he’s tough, takes care of business, can shoot the ball, he’s got good size, he’s aggressive and we’ll see some more today with workouts with what we do."
Brown transfer Rafael Maia is recovering from surgery on his right thumb, but has been able to do conditioning work which Dixon noted was an area of concern after he was unable to when he had a hamstring issue over the summer. Maia is also expected to be ready for the start of practice.
"Rafael is getting plenty of running," Dixon said. "With the hand, at least you feel like you’re getting something done, and Rafael’s getting a lot of running. Working on his left hand since the right hand’s the broken thumb and conditioning is what he needed to do."
Another transfer forward, Alonzo Nelson-Ododa from Richmond, is also expected to be ready to go after he dealt with an infection in his eye over the summer. Nelson-Ododa had surgery to repair a broken cheekbone at Richmond last year and had another operation during the summer after he dealt with infections in the eye.
He missed most all of the summer activiity but Dixon said Nelson-Ododa's "been going pretty strong since he's been here."
Finally, on the personnel front, Dixon said the team added 6-foot-3 guard Zach Smith. Smith transfers from Pitt's Bradford campus after two years before he transferred and walked on at main campus.