Panthers kick off basketball season

The 2002-03 men's basketball team debuted Friday night at Midnight Madness. The team returns all five starters from last season and should once again be a top competitor.

Pitt kicked off the 2002-03 basketball season Friday night at Midnight Madness. Bill Raftery from CBS sports was on hand and came away impressed with the Panthers' new arena. He commented that it must be the finest building in the East. He went on to say for its size, he was amazed at how intimate it is. Plus, he went on to say what a fantastic place it will be for the Panthers to play. Raftery calls over 100 games each season, so he has seen practically every arena in the country.

Julius Page won the slam-dunk competition on an amazing dunk and Panther fans got the chance to see three new recruits in action. Plus, two highly touted recruits (Taft/Milligan) were on hand to take part in the festivities also. Pitt returns all 5 starters from last year's NCAA Sweet 16 finalist and Big East regular season championship team.

Returning starters include 3rd team All-American senior point guard Brandin Knight, junior shooting guard Julius Page, junior guard Jaron Brown, senior forward Donatas Zavackas and senior center Ontario Lett. They also return top reserves in sophomore Chevon Troutman, senior center Toree Morris and sophomore forward Mark McCarroll.

A newcomer that everyone will have their eyes on is freshman guard Carl Krauser. He was one of the top rated point guard recruits in the country coming out of Prep School. Carl will be able to provide Brandin Knight with some much needed backup minutes, something Brandin hasn't had the luxury of having since he has been at Pitt. Pitt will also go with a 3-guard attacking offense of Knight, Page and Krauser at times this year. Those three plus Lett and Brown will give Pitt an incredibly athletic lineup to go to at times.

Two other freshman newcomers include 6-9, 210 lb forward Levon Kendall and 6-6, 175 lb forward Ed Turner. The Panthers will be led by the consensus National Coach of the Year Ben Howland. Pitt has been ranked as high as the No. 4 team in the country during preseason rankings and everyone will be gunning for them.

The Panthers should be up to the task though as they had three players play for the first time in their college careers last season (Lett, Troutman, McCarroll) and they should be much improved this season. Throw in a highly ranked freshman point guard and this team should be much better talent wise than they were last season.

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