Antigua Ready To Hit Recruiting Trail

Orlando Antigua has his degree from the University of Pittsburgh proudly displayed on a wall in his office where recruits can see it almost as soon as they step through the door.

A four-year letterwinner and two-year Panthers team captain from 1991-95, Orlando Antigua is set to begin his fifth season on Jamie Dixon's staff. It's his second season as an assistant coach after three as the director of operations for men's basketball.

"We want to show the kids that we bring in here that getting a good education, getting a college degree, is just as important as success on the basketball court,'' Antigua said. "And they can get both here at Pitt.''

As a native of the Dominican Republic and hometown of the Bronx, N.Y., he has become a key recruiter for Pitt.

"Orlando has played a key role in our recruiting since he joined our staff," Dixon said. "He understands what type of players we look for and what type of student-athletes we want to represent the University."

Pitt has Darnell Dodson, Bradley Wanamaker, Gary McGhee and DeJuan Blair already signed as recruits for this fall. The Panthers also have verbals from point guard Travon Woodall and swingman Nasir Robinson for next season, but they still have one scholarship remaining to give. Antigua said they are looking for another frontcourt player, and he's ready to go back on the recruiting trail July 6 to secure him.

"When you're talking about going to the Final Four and winning a national title, like all the 300-plus Division I-A men's basketball programs in the country have as a goal, there's a fine line there for the top programs,'' Antigua said. "But when you've gotten to the Sweet Sixteen as many times as we have, we'll eventually be able to knock that door down and get through it.''

With a self-described "aggressive recruiter'' like Tom Herrion on the staff, the Panthers could even expand their recruiting base.

"With recruiting, we'll continue to pound out the footprint that we've had here,'' Herrion said. "That's along the Northeastern Seaboard, Jersey, Philly and New York, we're already strong in those areas. But I think we've got to continue to get into the D.C. and Maryland area.

"We're fortunate that Darnell is coming in, but that's an area that we can do even more damage in years to come, that D.C. Beltway, Baltimore Beltway area. And when you have such a good product like we have, we can be a little bit more selective in going out of our normal area and spread out more nationally. And maybe my contacts will help.''

With this year's incoming class, as well as the ones returning from last year's squad, Antigua believed the Panthers could finally take that next step.

"I think we've had some athletes here, but I think we definitely brought in a couple guys in that are a little bit more athletic,'' Antigua said. "And we also have some guys on our current team that can play above the rim.

"So, those high-caliber athletes, those are the ones that we're looking for. And thanks to our previous success, we've been able to recruit some different types of kids, and we hope to continue to do that.''

Another draw for recruits coming to Pitt is the intensity of play in the Big East Conference. The Panthers' schedule will be different this season, as they will play every conference foe at least once and three teams on a home-and-home basis. This is different from past years where selected schools did not play at all during a season on a rotating basis.

"The Big East is going to be unbelievable, as always, but now I think it's going to be even more brutal,'' Antigua said. "I think that's great for the Big East. It's great for TV, and I think it's great for the fans as well. That's what we strive for, to play against the best teams and to be the best.

"The true test of the program is being consistent, and ... the recruits can see the consistency in our program, on the court and in the classroom, where we have had success and have graduated our kids as well. We can tell them that they will get an excellent education at Pitt.''

And recruits will find that out as soon as they walk into Antigua's office.

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