Fields Starts Fast

Levance Fields says he's about 82 percent back from the second foot surgery he needed in the offseason, but the Pitt senior point guard expected to be back to 100 percent soon.

If that assessment is true, one should have some pity for the Panthers' opposition when Levance Fields is completely healthy.

Already among the national leaders in assist to turnover ratio with a 27-2 mark through three games, including 7-1 in a Pittsburgh 86-67 win against Akron in the Legends Classic Regional Round 1 Friday night at the Petersen Events Center, Fields is off to a hot start despite not playing at peak performance.

"I always expect to play well, and I started out real good last year, too,'' Fields said. "So, it's not a surprise to me, but it obviously feels good to do that. I just want to get all our guys involved in the offense and move the ball around the best way that I can. That way, we can take advantage of all our skills.''

Fields has had some success shooting the ball as well, but his passing has helped the Panthers roll to three straight victories to open the season.

"With his stellar assist-to-turnover ratio, I would venture to say that he leads the country in that category,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "We knew it was going to take some time, because of how long he was out.

"And we know we're going to have to play him back into shape. (And) the only way that he can get into game shape is by playing in live games. So, he's played very well, but we expect him to get better.''

Fields said his foot is still a little sore, and "it's probably going to be that way every time I play, just like last year.''

The difference for Fields concerned the infection in the foot. That slowed the healing process and basically kept him inactive for several months. It actually set back his recovery a bit, because he lost all his conditioning as well.

"I couldn't even go in the pool,'' Fields said. "Last year, I did that and went on the treadmill and step machine. This year, all I could do was take the pills, sit around and then come in and rehab.''

Fields noted that even though he's feeling much better and expected to be all the way back soon, he'll likely still take a day off here and there throughout the season just to play it safe.

"It really hasn't been bothering me, but since it's working I figured I might as well keep doing it,'' Fields said. "For myself, I'm still working on my defense. Some guys are still a little quicker than me, but I know that part of my games is going to take some extra time.

"And I'm still feeling my way out there, because I haven't played this long in a while. Obviously, I know some things, what I want to do, but my body doesn't always react the way I want it to go. So, it's taking a while for me to get back, and I'm getting closer. But playing defense takes the longest.''

It also will take Fields some time to mesh with Pitt's heralded freshmen class, but he believes that it's only a matter of time before the Panthers are running on all cylinders.

"Anybody who knows (Coach) Dixon knows that he likes to try a lot of different lineups in the beginning of the season to get the combinations down,'' Fields said. "I guess we know what the rotation's going to be, but I also believe that we're going to keep a 10-man rotation this year as much as possible.

"We talked about it in the past, but we didn't have as much depth. Some guys stepped up when there were injuries last year, but I think we can go 10 deep all the time this year. Everybody has a role. We all fit in pretty well, and we know what to do. But we're still working the kinks out right now.

"We have an advantage with some of these guys, especially the younger guys, who can play a couple different positions and do whatever it takes to get the job done,'' Fields added.

And with Fields, that job is to keep the Pitt offense running on all cylinders and in high gear if at all possible with maximum distribution.

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