Gray Preparing For NBA Draft

Aaron Gray isn't the flashiest Pitt basketball player in the team's history, but at 7-feet tall and some 270 pounds he didn't need to be showy.

However, Aaron Gray certainly could be termed the Panthers player who improved the most from his freshman to senior season. And that dedication and strong work ethic could also make Gray the first University of Pittsburgh men's basketball player in the Ben Howland-Jamie Dixon era to be selected in the first round during the annual NBA Draft Thursday night.

Gray, through his agents Justin Zanik and Andy Miller, has declined interview requests this week, but his former head coach who recruited him and guided him since he arrived at Pitt -- Jamie Dixon -- believed that Gray has what it takes to survive for quite a long time in the NBA.

"I told Aaron that all the feedback I'm getting, and what I also believe, is that no matter where he goes in the draft he'll play in the NBA for a long time,'' Dixon said. "And barring injuries, he's going to have a very successful career.

"So, when you consider that he wasn't recruited very highly out of high school and didn't play for us as a freshman and sophomore ... in four years he has improved every year. And he will continue to improve. He works hard and is committed, and he definitely will continue to develop.''

Many experts agree that Gray won't be taken until late in the first round at best or possibly early in the second round. But that doesn't really matter, according to Dixon.

"I think I'm more excited for him to have a long career in the NBA, but we hope that all our players can move on and play professionally after they leave the University of Pittsburgh,'' Dixon said. "It doesn't matter when they're drafted or where they play. It's preferable if it's in the NBA, but we just want them to move on to another level after college.

"I've talked to Aaron about not getting too caught up in where he's going to go or when he's going to go in the draft. It's more important that he works toward having a long career in the NBA. He can't let his ego or feelings get in way of the number that he gets selected, and that's possible whenever and wherever he goes. Sometimes, it's better to go later.''

When asked about Pitt's recruiting prowess and pushed about scholarships available, Dixon basically said that recruiting is a never-ending process, and "it's always been our focus.'' Other than that, his answer was vague. Pitt reportedly has one more scholarship to give for next season and is after power forward Eloy Vargas, a native of the Dominican Republic.

Dixon also commented on Pitt's revolving door for assistant coaches.

"We've always been very fortunate during my time at the University of Pittsburgh,'' Dixon said. "The only bad assistant we've had here has been me. I've been here nine years now, five as a head coach, and we've always had a very good staff. And we're going to have that again.

"Just like when the players leave the program, we're concerned about who will replace them, but we always seem to find a way. But it's great for our program, that we've had three guys in our program take their dream coaching jobs, and no other program in the country can say that.''

The next move for Pitt is to officially name Knight, now the video coordinator, as the director of basketball operations.

Panther Digest Top Stories