Woodall: The Heir Apparent

The Pitt men's basketball team has had a history of bringing in talented point guards to learn from its talented point guards, that's the case this year as well.

With senior Levance Fields still rehabilitating his foot injury, freshman Travon Woodall basically will get a trial by far even before Fields passes the torch. Woodall has run the Pittsburgh offense since official practices began 10 days ago, and he was in charge again in the FanFest intrasquad scrimmage Sunday.

Fields learned from Carl Krauser, and he learned from Brandin Knight. Now, it's Woodall's turn for some on-the-job training. In the scrimmage, associate head coach Tom Herrion guided a team against assistant coach Pat Sandle's squad.

"It's one of the biggest challenges, but also one of the biggest reasons for our success the past seven years and what we've accomplished,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "To be able to have a point guard ready to go when one guy leaves, that's tough. (But) we have two good ones with Travon and Ashton Gibbs. And they can play together, too, because Ashton can play the two as well.''

Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker both can play the point and two-guard, but Woodall primarily is a point guard. And he certainly is Pitt's future at the position, as well as the stop-gap measure until Fields returns.

"I'm ready, Woodall said. "I talk with Levance all the time about it, and I've had a good background coming into this situation. What I didn't know, Levance has shown me about being a point guard at Pitt and in the Big East.''

Woodall got a taste for the physical nature of the Big East during an early workout with his teammates. The slick guard drove the lane and was met by Big East first-team all-star Sam Young before he reached his goal. Young was still standing after the play, and Woodall got some teeth bashed in.

"I had a mouth guard in, and it split,'' Woodall said. "So, that tells you how strong Sam is, but I found out real quick how tough it is to go against a Big East defense. But this team is the best, so I'll continue to learn.''

That's Woodall's best asset, according to Dixon. His coachability shined through during his senior season, as Woodall didn't even start so some others could play for powerful St. Anthony's and Coach Bob Hurley in New Jersey. Woodall started his first three seasons, but but came off the bench as a sixth man last season when St. Anthony's was the top-ranked scholastic team by USA Today.

He's been well-coached, and he's won,'' Dixon said. "And he's a team guy. He came off the bench last year. ... He led them in assists. They won every game by 30-40 points, a great team, especially the perimeter guys.

"He's a true point guard. Student body president (with a) 3.5 GPA. And he's a great recruiter for us. He didn't lose a game. He defends. Those are good attributes, and they're the reasons we believe he's a special player.''

Woodall actually was in the same backcourt with McDonald's All-American Mike Rosario, now at Rutgers, and Kansas freshman Tyshawn Taylor. Woodall volunteered to play behind those guys.

"At the end of the day, it didn't matter who started,'' Woodall said. "All that mattered was who won. I knew Coach would play me when it mattered.''

Fields endorsed Woodall as well, but he's not yet ready to hand over the reigns.

"He's learning how to play at this level, and he's doing what he needs to do,'' Fields said. "I'm very confident that he'll be able to get the job done if he needs to step in. I'm sure he'll be ready if I can't start the season.''

Woodall already has benefited from being at Pitt. He's put about 15 pounds on his 5-foot-11 frame and is around 200 now under Pitt strength and conditioning coach Tim Beltz's guidance. Continued improvement in that area certainly will benefit him in the future.

And help the Panthers successfully make the transition to another point guard just as well as they have in the past.

Notes: Freshman forward Dwight Miller (bruised heel) and Fields did not participate in the intrasquad scrimmage.

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