On Guard

As one might believe, the Pitt men's basketball team would be hard-pressed to fill senior point guard Levance Fields' sneakers with just one player.

So, freshmen Ashton Gibbs and Travon Woodall took turns running the point in Pittsburgh's exhibition opener with Seton Hill, while Levance Fields continues to rehabilitate his left foot.

Gibbs started at point guard, while sophomore Bradley Wanamaker was the two-guard in the Panthers' 102-51 blowout against the Division II Griffins Sunday at the Petersen Events Center. When Woodall came on to run the point, Gibbs moved to shooting guard.

"I thought it was good for them,'' Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. "I thought both of them played well. They're both good players and good point guards. They can play together. They're great kids. Travon missed about half the practices, but he shot it well. He had a couple turnovers, but did a good job. Ashton just doesn't seem to turn it over as much in practice or in games.

"(Gibbs) shoots it well, but both guys have to get better defensively. ... So, they had some good minutes and did a good job. Everybody is trying to read things into what the starting lineup is going to be or the rotation, but that's just not fair after 13 practices with five new guys and four sophomores. So, we're going to keep working on that for a while.''

One thing appears to be certain. Senior forward Sam Young will get a good look at the three (small forward) spot, while senior Tyrell Biggs started at the four (power forward). Sophomore DeJuan Blair remained at center. Redshirt sophomore Gilbert Brown, who was a starter at the end of last season, came off the bench to replace Young. But he moved to the four when Young returned.

While Brown said that it didn't matter to him whether he started or where he played, as long as he can contribute to a Pitt win, Dixon noted that Brown has played well enough to earn more minutes whether it's as a starter or coming off the bench. Brown tallied nine points, two steals and four defensive rebounds in 20 minutes. Young led Pitt with 16 points and five boards in 19 minutes.

"That's fine with me,'' Brown said. "I was just glad to get out there and play against a different team. (Gibbs and Woodall), they've got to be the leaders, because when Levance is out there he's the general. He leads us on and off the court, but on the court he's the one that keeps everybody going.

"These guys are picking that up in practice now. They're really coming along, and to see them lead in a game like this it was great to see. So, we just want them to play within their abilities and do what they can to help the team.''

Gibbs, who nine points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals in 17 minutes, found out during the morning shoot-around that he was going to start at point guard. Gibbs made just 1 of 3 from 3-point range, but did not turn the ball over.

"I think I did pretty well,'' Gibbs said. "After all the hard work we put in during practice, it didn't matter to me who started. I'm just glad we were able to get in there and get some playing time.

"Whatever we can get before Levance comes back, it doesn't really matter where they put me. I'm going to play my hardest, and as long as we can get as many wins as we can we'll be all right.''

Woodall was a little more critical of his performance. He finished with 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting (3 of 4 treys) with one rebounds, three steals and two assists, but two turnovers as well in 20 minutes.

"I think I could have done a lot better,'' Woodall said. "I got two turnovers. When Levance gets here, you know he's not going to turn the ball over. I had two assists and two turnovers, and that's not as good a ration as he's going to have. So, I have to improve that, but I think I came out and did all right. I'm kind of used to coming off the bench.

"Some people wondered how I was going to come in here and get playing time when I was coming off the bench at my high school, so I'm just trying to get used to playing here, getting a feel for the game, and getting a feel for the rest of my teammates. But after just 13 practices, I think we've got some pretty good chemistry going so far.

"I think me and Ashton, we're becoming pretty good friends off the court,'' Woodall added. "We're pushing each other to get better, but it really doesn't matter who gets the start. It was the same way with Levance and Ronald. They both played at the same time and complemented each other. That's what we're trying to do. We're trying to make each other the best players as possible.''

Both Woodall and Gibbs have found out that it's a different world playing college basketball than it was in high school, even at the level they played.

"The coaches, you know, they pushed me to work on my game and get in the gym a lot more,'' Woodall said. "They said I wasn't putting in enough work after practice and things like that. So, late nights, myself and Nasir Robinson, from 9 to about 10:30 p.m., we would just shoot and shoot.

"We took a lot of shots from the 3-point line since it got pushed back (one foot). So, it's just a matter of repetition, getting into the flow of the game and getting good shots. I'm just trying to get comfortable with my teammates and comfortable with the game.''

Gibbs believed that the off-court work, lifting weights three days each week, also was beneficial to shooting the longer-range shot.

"With that and with a lot of reps during and after practice, you can get comfortable with shooting from 3-point range,'' Gibbs said. "So, I'm getting a lot stronger and becoming more comfortable with the distance.''

And that means Pitt should be well-guarded for the future.

Notes: Blair made just 6 of 12 shots, missing several lay-ups, to finish with 12 points, seven rebounds and three steals in 19 minutes. ... Wanamaker added two points, four assists and four rebounds in 21 minutes. ... Robinson had 10 points, two assists and two rebounds in 12 minutes, while sophomore Gary McGhee had 11 points and 10 rebounds in 15 minutes. ... Robinson suffered a calf injury, but should be all right. ... Junior Jermaine Dixon played 19 minutes, but made just 1 of 5 shots, missing all three treys, and scored just two points. But he had four rebounds and five assists with no turnovers. ... Dwight Miller even got in for nine minutes and added two points.

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