Taylor Will Make An Impact

Now that Coach Jamie Dixon has taken the Pitt men's basketball program to another level, recruits like Dante Taylor could be the norm for the Panthers.

And with Pittsburgh losing four starters, including all its post scoring, some might believe that Dante Taylor needs to step right in to dominate in the paint.

And that's just fine for the 6-foot-9, 240-pound Taylor.

"I don't really feel any extra pressure,'' Taylor said. "Whatever the coaches want me to do. Score, play defense, rebound, play a lot or come on in spots. I came here to win basketball games, and I'll do whatever it takes to do that. We have a lot of different guys here who can step up, so we'll need that as a team.

"I feel like I can be a contributor right away this season, but that doesn't mean I'm a complete player. I can always improve in every area, scoring, rebounding, defense, but I'll be able to help this team this season. ... This is a different level than high school, but I'm a hard worker. So, I'll eventually get there.''

That's good news for the Panthers, who likely will use Taylor in the four or five spots this season. Taylor believes he can play both if necessary.

"But I'll play wherever they want me to play,'' Taylor said. "If they need me at the one (point guard), I'll give that a try, but I'll be all right at the four or five. I know I can face the basket and shoot the short jumper.

"But I also have some post moves that I can go to. So, I can do both the four and the five, and I can score from either spot. I guess the difference would be how I play defense. And I know that's real important at Pitt.''

In order to give a maximum effort at both ends of the court, Taylor must continue to work on his conditioning. The good thing is that he's well aware of his shortcomings in that area and has worked hard to improve.

"I wasn't in good shape as I should've been when I got here, because I had some things to get done back home and couldn't work out as often,'' Taylor said. "But my conditioning is much better now. I'm in pretty good shape, actually, so I'll be ready for practice and the preseason.

"I just needed to work out consistently, running and lifting, and I did that once I got going here. I've been working really hard since then, and I'm ready to go. They said they have some tough practices here, so I had to be in good shape. It's a lot tougher than anything I've been involved with so far.''

Coach Jamie Dixon wasn't afraid to praise Taylor and all his young players.

"Dante works very hard and knows what he's doing,'' Dixon said. "He's not afraid of putting in the extra work and the extra time. So, he's a real hard worker, and he's similar to the other three freshmen (Talib Zanna, J.J. Richardson and Lamar Patterson) in that regard.

"We recruited them and explained to them that we didn't think DeJuan would be back. That's what we told them and oftentimes you wouldn't say that, but we believed it, and that's how it turned out. So, that's why we were able to get guys as good as these four (freshmen).''

Taylor assessed his classmates as well.

"We all get along pretty good off the court, and I think we'll work together well on the court,'' Taylor said. "And all the guys, they all have talent.

"Lamar, he can play all the guard positions or even the three, because he can shoot and dribble with the best of them. Talib, he can shoot and handle the ball, too, but he's an excellent rebounder. Very aggressive.

"And J.J., he might be a little undersized,'' Taylor added, "but he's tough and very physical. And he's a good shooter, too. That's what I love about this freshman class, we can shoot the rock. All of us can shoot.''

That's good for Pitt as well, because Taylor and his fellow freshmen -- including redshirts Dwight Miller and Travon Woodall -- will impact the Panthers' season without a doubt.

And that pressure doesn't bother Taylor at all.

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