Fields Back On Court

Pitt junior point guard Levance Fields is pain free and has made some progress toward returning to game action, albeit slight progress, but unless his status improves immensely in the next week it's unlikely that he'll be able to play by the Panthers' Big East game Feb. 15 at Marquette.

Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon noted that Levance Fields did some shooting at practice Monday and Tuesday on the side, nothing with movement, with no stress on his broken foot. Fields discarded the crutches last week and the walking boot Monday, but this was his first appearance on the court.

"That's another step in the right direction, but it's still far away from where he needs to be to play,'' Dixon said. "The process is continuing, though, and the rehabbing is continuing. Conditioning is the next step down the road.

"He wants to shoot more and do more, but there has to be limits. Conditioning isn't even a factor now. It's all about rehab, because if he does too much then it could be set back, and the injury could be prolonged. So, everything is done with limitations for his long-term benefit.''

Dixon added that Fields discarded the crutches last week and dumped the walking boot Monday. He will get another X-ray Thursday.

"The last time it was checked was this past (Thursday),'' Dixon said. "It wasn't completely healed, and we didn't anticipate it being so. So, that was pretty much as expected. We could clearly see where the bone wasn't fully healed.''

Dixon was never publicly as confident as Fields about a date for the player's return, and the coach still wasn't about to set a timetable.

"It's his decision,'' Dixon said. "So, I don't want to put dates out there for him to shoot for. He needs to make the decision based on how he feels. We told him that we want what's best for him in the long-term and not to rush, and that's a concern because he wants to play. He wanted to shoot more shots (Monday), but we had to hold him back from doing that.

"He has to understand that it's the rehab process and then the conditioning process, but you can't do both at the same time during this early stage. We have to make sure that it's fully healed, and he has to understand that he's not going to be 100 percent in shape when he starts playing.''

While the good news about Fields was tempered a bit, senior guard Keith Benjamin was more positive about his injured right (shooting) hand.

"The hand, I would say, is at about 90 percent right now,'' Benjamin said. "The stitches have been out for about a week now, and it's closing up. There's nothing more I can ask for.

"It's still sore a a little bit, but I'm not practicing with any tape or anything on it. So, I'm just looking to move forward, and I can use my hand as an excuse any more. ... I think it affected me a little bit, because it's been pretty sore and hurts a little bit when I catch the ball, but not too much.''

Junior center Cassin Diggs is still bothered by his hip injury, even though he practiced live for the first time Tuesday, Dixon said. However, the coach added that he still is out indefinitely and surgery is a possibility as well because the injury is not healing properly on its own.

The Panthers lost another player Tuesday, as junior Maurice Polen suffered a concussion at practice and is out indefinitely, Dixon noted.

Pitt plays host to West Virginia Thursday night at 7 at the Petersen Events Center.

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