Midnight Madness kicks off 2003-2004 season

The University of Pittsburgh kicked off the 2003-2004 basketball season by hosting Midnight Madness Friday night at the Peterson Events Center. The Pitt basketball team is coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearances. They finished with a 28-5 overall record last season and claimed their second straight Big East Conference West Division Title.

The Panthers return two starters in sensational senior guard Julius Page (6-3/191) and senior guard Jaron Brown (6-4/229). Page is an explosive scoring threat and Brown may be the best all-around player on the team when you consider his scoring, passing, and rebounding talents. Pitt also returns two part-time starters from last season in junior forward Chevon Troutman (6-7/236) and senior center Toree Morris (6-10/282). They also have six freshmen that will be counted on to provide depth and push for starting positions.

Key among the freshmen are highly touted forward Chris Taft (6-10/230) and guard Antonio Graves (6-3/180). Graves will be expected to provide backup minutes when starting point guard sophomore Carl Krauser (6-2/200) needs a breather. Krauser will have the task of replacing all-time Pitt great Brandon Knight at point guard. Krauser gained plenty of experience last season and looks to take his game to the next level. Taft will be helping to fill the void left by graduating seniors Ontario Lett and Donatas Zavackas, who provided much of the Panthers inside game last season.

Junior Mark McCarroll (6-11/220) will also look to provide minutes inside. Two redshirt freshmen that figure to push for playing time are forwards Ed Turner (6-6/190) and Levon Kendall (6-9/220). Turner is a quick, slashing type of athlete and Kendall can play more of a post up game.

Two other true freshmen will have the opportunity to earn some playing time early in their college careers. Center Aaron Gray (7-0/280) is a big, physical force and should provide the Panthers with some inside presence. Forward Dante Milligan (6-8/200) is a recruit with lots of potential and will be given a serious look by the coaches also.

Along with the play of Page, Brown, Troutman, Morris, and Krauser, the success of the team this year also depends on how well several of these young players step up and provide quality depth and minutes. Can Krauser be the leader that Brandon Knight was at the point guard position? Can Krauser play under control? Will Taft win a starting position and give the Panthers a deadly combination of inside scoring ability along with Troutman? Can coach Dixon pick up where coach Howland left off and continue to keep the Panthers among the top programs in the nation? Stay tuned, these questions will be answered in the months ahead.

Brian Gold

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