Fields Not Ready Yet

What had been feared for some time was confirmed by Pitt men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon during the Panthers' media day festivities Thursday.

Senior point guard Levance Fields won't be ready to begin practice with his teammates Friday, but there is still hope that he'll be ready for Pittsburgh in the season-opener with Fairleigh Dickinson Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center.

"Levance won't be going tomorrow, but we'll see how that goes,'' Dixon said. "I think he feels like he can go, as you might expect from Levance. But we're going to try to keep him out for a while. Obviously, his conditioning is nowhere near where it needs to be. For obvious reasons.''

Fields was shooting around on the court a little bit, while Dixon held a press conference, and he talked about the situation afterward.

"It's frustrating, because I'd obviously like to be out there with my teammates doing as much as I can,'' Fields said. "So, it hurts, but I have to do what I need to do. I'm doing a lot of leg extensions, strengthening my legs back up again. I'm not able to cut as hard as I'd like to do, but it's coming along.

"It's where I need to be right now, and we're taking our time with it. Not like last year. I'm not saying that we rushed it last year, but it was in-season and I wanted to get back. But being where we are now, we can take a little more time with it. So, that's what we're doing. We're bringing it along real slow.''

Fields initially broke his fifth metatarsal -- the outermost bone that connects the little toe -- in his left foot Dec. 29, 2007, during a lopsided loss at Dayton, the game after Mike Cook suffered a season-ending knee injury. Fields missed seven weeks after that, but finished the season strong to lead the Panthers to the Big East Conference Tournament title and into the NCAA Tourney.

Fields took two months off after the season, per doctors orders, but played in Pitt's Pro-Am Summer League at Green Tree in suburban Pittsburgh and also participated in Phoenix Suns player Steve Nash's NBA point guard camp. Fields, however, did not participate in Pitt's offseason conditioning workouts in the spring or go through any on-court training.

After playing in the Pro-Am in June and July, Fields reportedly experienced some pain in the foot. After an examination, a slight fracture in the same bone was found. Instead of resting it again, Fields opted for the surgery, a bone graft procedure in mid-August to stabilize the foot.

Fields pronounced that he would make a special return on Valentine's Day after his injury last season, but he did not want to pick a return date this time even though Halloween Election Day (Nov. 4) were on the horizon. Dixon agreed.

"We'll just have to see him play and see how it goes,'' Dixon said. "So, I don't think we can make any predictions on that. Who would have thought he'd be playing for two months (in the summer) and not have one problem with it, and then have the injury re-occur? It's unexplainable. It just hurt one day in August even though he'd been doing two-a-days and three-a-days for two months.

"So, we'll see how it goes, but he wants to get back as soon as possible. It's obviously a setback. There's nothing positive about him not being able to go and losing conditioning, but ... he's getting back on track and has done an excellent job in leadership off the court. I'm very impressed with that.''

Once Fields makes his triumphant return, he doesn't expect to miss any time due to further problems with the foot.

"That's why we're taking our time now, so that won't happen,'' Fields said. "It was the best surgery that I could have. They wanted to do it the first time, but they weren't able to because it wasn't the same type of cracked bone as it was the second time. Now, with the surgery, I'm going to be fine.

"I'm out on the court a little, and as long as I don't go too fast I'll be fine. I'm rehabbing and getting back in shape, but there's no pain and no chance to break it again. I have some padding in my sneakers and a customized shoe for more comfort. So, everything is moving forward, but we're taking our time.''

Freshman Travon Woodall likely would be Pitt's point guard if Fields misses any games. Sophomore Bradley Wanamaker also could get a shot there. Woodall could miss the opening of practice as well, however, as he suffered a slight concussion and "had a couple teeth knocked back'' during Wednesday's workout. Woodall had another doctor's appointment Thursday afternoon.

Also, freshman Dwight Miller has been held back by a bruised heel for about six weeks, Dixon said, "so, that's really been a step back for him.'' (And) Brown has been out for a while with ankle problems, but he "has been going for the last week or two. As everybody knows, ankle injuries can be recurring throughout the season, so that could bother him at times. But that's basketball.''

Pitt has two preseason games before the opener, against Seton Hill Nov. 2 at 4 p.m. and La Roche College Nov. 9 at 1 p.m at the Petersen Events Center.

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