Wanamaker Making Strides

When he was recruited to play basketball at Pitt, Bradley Wanamaker probably thought he would be able to pick up where he left off in high school -- scoring any time he wanted and dominating at the defensive end as well -- but that hasn't been the case through 23 games with the Panthers.

Bradley Wanamaker has only played in 20 games, and his performance in the last one -- a stunning 55-54 win against West Virginia -- was the freshman guard's best. Wanamaker scored seven points in a season-best 23 minutes on 3-of-4 shooting with one 3-pointer, two assists, two turnovers and two rebounds.

"Bradley had a good day on the defensive end,'' Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. "He did some much better things. We watched film on him, and ... I think he's really seeing it. He's understanding how precise it has to be and how players at this level can take advantage of mistakes.

"The better teams, the more often they take advantage of mistakes. What guys can get away with in junior high and high school is obviously different from what they can do in college. So, he just needs to go through it and learn from that. He played good defense and made good passes. It was a good step.''

Wanamaker's overall numbers aren't anything to crow about. In 20 games, he's averaged just 12.4 minutes, 1.4 rebounds and 2.6 points per game. There certainly not comparable to Pitt's top freshman, DeJuan Blair, or even close to those put up by redshirt frosh Gilbert Brown. But they're not bad for a rookie.

"We tell Bradley every single time that we've got confidence in him,'' Pitt senior point guard Ronald Ramon said. "We know he can knock down shots. He just has to believe in himself that he can go out there and play. I don't think he had it in the beginning this year, but his confidence level is coming back. And he's showed that he can play. A lot of players go through it.

"You're worrying about things too much, working hard on defense so the coach doesn't take you off the court, and that takes your mind off trying to score and trying to play your game out there. So, that's what he went through a little bit, but now I think he's a little more comfortable in the offense and with our plays and what he has to do to play more often.''

Wanamaker has played more than just garbage minutes in recent games, although he hasn't tallied as many as he did against WVU. Wanamaker spelled his Panthers teammates at both guard spots, as well as small forward. His opening shot, a long 3-pointer, was perfect. Two more baskets followed before Wanamaker missed a trey in the second half or he would have been just one point short of his season total against the Mountaineers.

"When the first shot went in, man, I just said thanks,'' Wanamaker said. "It was about time, but it just gave me more confidence. And the next couple times I was open, I took the shot, and it went in. That gave me more confidence to try to get all my teammates involved. They're all saying good job.

"They told me it was a good shot, even when I missed, and they feel happy for me. Levance (Fields) asked me how it felt when I got to the bench, so they have confidence in me. I should have confidence in myself. Lately, I haven't been playing a lot, but when I got in there I tried to make plays.''

Prior to the WVU game, during the final film session, Dixon rode Wanamaker a little harder than usual. That good-natured razzing continued on the court.

"Coach tried to get me some confidence, and (Thursday) was my best game of the year,'' Wanamaker said. "He was getting on me a little bit, asking me if I was ready. I told him (I was), but I didn't take it like he was getting on me. It was like he was trying to pick me up to let me know they were going to need me in the game in order for us to win. ... It helped me a lot.

"So, it makes me want him to do it even more, and I know he'll probably do it a lot more. It was a big adjustment for me, knowing what you can and can't do (in college). People are much smarter here than high school. ... Early in the season, I think it was more of me just thinking too much. Now, I want to get out there and just play, taking it like it was practice and I was going against our guys.''

Wanamaker gets another shot at Big East competition when Providence visits the Petersen Events Center Tuesday night at 7:30.

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