The four new Pittsburgh players, who will enroll in August, 2009, as freshmen, are wing Lamar Patterson from St. Benedict's Prep in New Jersey, forward J.J. Richardson from Fort Bend Hightower High School in Texas, forward Dante Taylor from National Christian Academy in Maryland and forward Talib Zanna from Bishop McNamara High School in Maryland.
The Panthers' four-member class was ranked ninth nationally by Hoopscoopline, No. 14 by ESPN-U, No. 23 by PrepStars and No. 24 by Scout.com.
"I don't look at rankings much, but I guess (Pitt media relations director) Greg (Hotchkiss) says it's ranked high in different things,'' Dixon said. "They're good kids, hard workers, and they come from winning programs. So, it's more of the same. We had to get size, and we obviously did. It's a big class.''
The following is detailed information on Pitt's four men's basketball signees:
Wing, 6-5, 220, Lancaster, Pa./St. Benedict's Prep (N.J.)/J. P. McCaskey H.S.
"Lamar is a guy who we've known for a long time, and he's very well-skilled, a good shooter,'' Dixon said. "He wanted to go to a prep school, and he changed them. We wanted him to stay at his old high school, but left and it worked out pretty well for him. He's a young senior, so his body is changing and will continue to change.''
Lamar Patterson is a perimeter player who has a high skill level, can shoot, pass and has stellar court vision. He is described as an excellent fit for the Pitt program. He has an NBA caliber body, has excellent size, is an excellent shooter and can handle the ball. He runs the floor well and can create off the dribble. A strong, versatile and athletic wing player with a talented handle, long arms and explosiveness, Patterson can attack the rim.
HIGH SCHOOL: Will play his senior season at St. Benedict's Prep (N.J.) for Head Coach Dan Hurley...St. Benedict's finished 24-1 and was ranked No. 2 nationally by USA Today in 2007-08...St. Benedict's will be ranked among everyone's national top-10 and opens its season on Dec. 1 vs. Edison Academy…Played the previous three seasons at Lancaster McCaskey High School where he competed for Head Coach Steve Powell...Named Class 4A Second Team All-State selection as a junior after averaging 20.3 points per game...Named the Lancaster New Era Area Player of the Year...Voted the Lancaster-Lebanon League's Most Valuable Player...Guided McCaskey to a 22-5 overall record, undefeated 16-0 L-L League record and third straight Section One title...Concluded junior season ranked as the area's second leading scorer at 20.3 ppg....Guided McCaskey to two straight Lancaster-Lebanon League basketball titles...Scored 12 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in helping McCaskey claim its third straight Lancaster-Lebanon League title with a win over Lancaster Catholic...Hit a buzzer beating, game-winning shot from 35-feet out, scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a 61-58 victory over Hempfield...Scored a career-high 40 points in a win over Conestoga Valley...All-L-L League selection as a sophomore...Averaged 15.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game as a sophomore...Since he became a starter, he has guided the Red Tornado to a 36-2 L-L record...Gave up football to concentrate on basketball after his sophomore year...Invited to the prestigious Top-100 NBA Camp…Ranked the nation's No. 109 recruit by USA Today…Ranked the nation's No. 15 small forward by ESPN-U…Ranked the No. 78th best player nationally by Hoopscoop.com and as the No. 23 best small forward...Ranked the No. 73 player nationally by ESPN-U…Rated the nation's No. 85 player by Dave Telep…Ranked the nation's No. 112 player by Rivals.com...Plays AAU basketball with Team Final.
PERSONAL: Born Lamar Patterson on August 12, 1991...Son of Perry, Sr. and Loreen Patterson of Lancaster, Pa....Younger brother of Perry Patterson, who played quarterback at Syracuse (2004-07) and was Second-Team All-State in basketball at McCaskey...The Patterson brothers are two of only four players in school history to earn All-State honors...His other brother Lorne Ceighton starred at McCaskey and played collegiately at Kutztown University...Favorite player is Magic Johnson...Made his official visit to Pitt on Dec. 15, 2007 and committed to the Panthers after Pitt's win against Duke at Madison Square Garden...Chose Pitt because of its facilities and coaching staff...Selected Pitt over Arizona, Arizona State, Miami, Fla., Minnesota, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Michigan, Penn State, Rutgers, Temple and Syracuse.
Post, 6-7, 235, Missouri City, Texas/Fort Bend Hightower H.S.
"Richardson is a tough, hard-nosed kid,'' Dixon said. "He's from Ohio originally, and we found that out. We were looking at another kid and really liked J.J. and stayed on him. But the more he got out there, more schools became interested. We were in there pretty deep, though, and were on him a long time.''
One of the biggest sleepers in the country, J.J. Richardson is described as a strong and athletic post-player who has an array of "back-to-the-basket" moves. He is a good post player with a strong body who moves well to the ball and has a soft touch inside of 10-feet. He also shows a high basketball IQ, has good hands, uses his body well and is an excellent passer out of the post. A player who does all the little things to help his team win, Richardson sprints the floor with regularity, can rebound on the defensive end and has excellent timing when blocking shots. He is most known for his blue collar style and constant energy and effort in the paint.
HIGH SCHOOL: Will play his senior season at Fort Bend Hightower High School for Head Coach David Green…The Hightower Hurricanes enter the season ranked No. 35 nationally by ESPN Rise Magazine…The Hurricanes are also ranked No. 2 in the state of Texas…Preseason All-Houston selection by ESPN Rise Magazine…Helped guide the Hurricanes to a 27-10 record in Class 3-5A as a junior…Averaged eight points and eight rebounds per game as a junior…Played with the Houston Elite AAU team for head coach Rick Nelson…Guided Houston Elite to the Reebok Summer Championship semifinals…Impressed at AAU tournaments in both Philadelphia and Las Vegas prior to his senior year…Helped guide team to Memorial Day Great American Shootout title in 2008.
PERSONAL: Born Johnny Richardson on February 6, 1991…Son of Johnny and Bridget Richardson…Nickname is Big John…Grew up in Troy, Ohio before moving to Texas following his sophomore year of high school…Played in same AAU program as current Pitt freshman Dwight Miller…Committed to Pitt on September 17, 2008, two weeks after his visit…Also considered Oklahoma State, Minnesota, Penn State and Utah in the recruiting process.
Forward, 6-9, 230, White Plains, N.Y./National Christian Academy
"Dante is a guy who's very highly ranked and someone that we've seen since his freshman year,'' Dixon said. "We're very familiar with him and were on him from the beginning. He's always said that Pitt was there first, and he's been very loyal about it.
"He always seemed to want to go to Pitt, and you have to admire that. Even as he got more attention the past year, he always told us he was going to Pitt. He's a tough kid, and we feel he'll do very well here.''
A consensus top-30 ranked recruit, Dante Taylor is described as a highly skilled, athletic post player who can shoot. His strengths are his quickness and athleticism around the basket. A raw talent with great upside, Taylor is very fast up and down the court, exhibits expanded range with his jumper and is a big-time post-player. A sturdy power forward who knows how to score and has the ability to play with both skill and athleticism, Taylor is a physically gifted player who runs, rebounds and prefers to play facing the basket. He has an impressive mid-range game and exceptional ball-handling skills for a big man.
HIGH SCHOOL: Will play his senior season at National Christian Academy in Fort Washington, Md. for Head Coach Trevor Brown…Averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds per game as a junior…Named Second Team All-MET by the Washington Post and earned Independent private school all-league honors…Guided National Christian Academy to a 22-7 record and No. 11 ranking in the Washington D.C. metro area as a junior…Transferred to National Christian Academy following his freshman season…Rated the nation's No. 17 player by Dave Telep…Rated the nation's No. 17 player by Scout.com…Ranked the nation's No. 24 player by Rivals.com…Ranked the No. 24 player nationally by USA Today…Rated the nation's No. 28 player by PrepStars Magazine…Ranked the nation's No. 36 recruit by Rise Magazine…Named to the Sporting News Washington D.C. All-Metro team…Named one of the top performers at the LeBron James United States Skills Academy…Competed at the NBA Top-100 Camp…Plays AAU basketball with Team Melo…Visited Pitt when his AAU team competed at the Pittsburgh JamFest.
PERSONAL: Born Dante Taylor on March 18, 1990…Son of Lisa Sharpe of White Plains, N.Y., located 20 miles north of New York City…Committed to Pitt at the 2008 summer Triple S. Harley Davidson Shootout in Morgantown, W.Va….2008 NBA draft picks Patrick Ewing, Jr. and Deron Washington both played basketball recently at National Christian Academy…Pitt recruited him since his sophomore season…Chose Pitt because of its continued loyalty, style of play, coaching staff, academic support, family atmosphere, Big East and proximity to his home of New York…Selected Pitt over Kansas, Maryland, Florida, Connecticut, Villanova, West Virginia, Syracuse, Georgetown, Indiana and Memphis.
TALIB ZANNA (pronounced Zah-nah)
Forward, 6-9, 220, Kaduna, Nigeria/Bishop McNamara H.S. (Forestville, Md.)
"Talib is a kid who is a terrific talent with a tremendous up-side,'' Dixon said. "He's a big kid, but he can get even bigger. He's a real good kid. He had a big scrimmage the other day, 20 (points) and 20 (rebounds). He didn't play in the summer so he could take summer classes, so it'll be interesting to see how he turns out after this season. But that's why he didn't get the rankings yet.''
Talib Zanna is described as a raw and strong athlete who combines skill and athleticism to create matchup problems with the opposition. He possesses a good mid-range jumper, unique and rare post-up skills and is capable of playing with his back to the basket as well as blocking shots on the defensive end. He loves to attack off the dribble from the outside and is an aggressive rebounder. He has done a terrific job of maturing his game from primarily being a defensive player and rebounder to developing a flowing offensive game where he can handle the ball on the break, pull-up and shoot jumpers. He looks to be a cross between an interior and wing player. If he develops in either of those areas, he could really turn into a fantastic player. Able to score with either hand, he plays in the mold of Tim Duncan.
HIGH SCHOOL: Will play his senior season at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Md. for Head Coach Marty Keithline…Bishop McNamara enters the 2008-09 season ranked No. 30 nationally by ESPN Rise Magazine…Named First Team All-Prince George's County by the Montgomery Gazette and Second Team All-Washington Catholic Athletic Conference…Averaged 15.0 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.4 blocks, 1.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game as a junior…Led the WCAC in blocked shots with 3.4 per game…Selected Most Valuable Player of the High School Hoops Showcase…Named to the Benedictine Classic All-Tournament Team…Guided McNamara to a 17-12 record as a junior…Recorded triple double with 15 points, 16 rebounds and 12 blocks vs. Coolidge at the Gonzaga D.C. Classic…Season-highs included 26 points vs. Georgetown Prep and 22 rebounds vs. Miami Killian…Scored 14 points, pulled down 20 rebounds and blocked four shots in a 61-56 win over Good Counsel…Two-year starter…Played for the District All-Star team in the I-95 Elite Challenge following his junior season…Averaged 10.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per game as a sophomore before being sidelined in December 2006 with a broken ankle…His team finished 18-10 during his sophomore year…Named an honorable mention All-WCAC selection and Prince George's County team member as a sophomore…Recorded season-highs of 17 points and 18 rebounds vs. Paul VI…Scored 25 points vs. DeMatha in a 56-52 loss in The Rock Summer League Championship…Played AAU basketball with the D.C. Blue Devils and Triple Threat AAU teams…Competed with the Blue Devils for coach Keith Stevens…Competed at the Super Showcase.
PERSONAL: Born Talib Zanna on October 1, 1990…Son of Zanna Awami and Mohammed Zanna…Nigerian native who moved to the United States in 2006…Began playing basketball in Nigeria when he was 10 years old…Early on, he had a goal of traveling to the United States to play basketball…His workout regimen in Nigeria included running mountains to increase his speed, vertical leap and fitness…Visited Pitt on the weekend of Sept. 19 with fellow signees Lamar Patterson and Dante Taylor…Chose Pitt for its coaching staff, playing time and educational opportunities…Selected Pitt over Villanova, Virginia, Georgetown, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Colorado, Providence, West Virginia, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Boston College and South Florida.
No. 6 Pitt (2-0) is back on the court against Akron Friday at 7 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center. The game will be televised by ESPN on a regional basis and FSN-Pittsburgh.
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