Pittsburgh signed J.J. Richardson, Lamar Patterson, Talib Zanna and Dante Taylor to its 2009 recruiting class, and Dixon believed they all should play an important role in the Panthers' game plan possibly as soon as this season.
"We explained to them that we didn't think DeJuan Blair would be back,'' Dixon said, "and ... that's how it turned out. So, that's why we were able to get guys as good as these four. (And) they're all going to be very good players for us.
"(And) they've improved in (two months) and ranking or not, they're all going to be very good players. ... Some of the freshmen are going to play a lot of minutes this year on the front line. It's a great opportunity, and I think that might be partly why we were able to get such big guys in one class.''
J.J. Richardson, a nearly 6-foot-7, 245-pound banger from suburban Houston, Texas should be among those players vying for front-court playing time. While he wasn't rated as highly as Taylor, Richardson's aggressiveness and athleticism might remind some Pitt fans about former player Chevon Troutman.
"I'm still young, so I'm just trying to fit in where I can,'' Richardson said. "I want to work hard all the time and get every rebound that I can get. It might put a little pressure on me, if people compare me to him, but that just means I have to step up my game to get to that level sooner rather than later.
"By picking Pitt, I really thought I had a chance to expand my game and develop much quicker and play much quicker than if I would have gone to another place. But I really fell in love with Pitt, and I know for sure that I picked the right place now that I've been here a few months. Everything has been great.''
Richardson noted that he can hit a 12-15-foot shot if he has to, but he'll make his mark in the paint, just like Troutman, to "attack the boards every chance that I get'' to score off the offensive glass.
"I'll just stay on the block and bang the boards,'' Richardson added. "I get points that way, and I really enjoy crashing the boards at the defensive end, too. When my name's called here, I believe I'll be ready. I know I'll be ready, because I'm going to work as hard as I can to get there.''
Richardson might be among the most-talkative freshmen at Pitt in some time. The loquacious Blair was like that as well, and if Richardson can get off to the same start the Panthers should be fine this season.
Richardson's ebullient personality was the main reason he was assigned to room with Talib Zanna, who takes low-key to a new level. Another reason could be that the two are the furthest from home. Zanna originally is from Nigeria.
"J.J. is a close friend to me, my roommate, and he has been very good,'' Zanna said. "We hang out together and talk to each other. He is far from home, too, from Texas. But that's not as far as Africa. I think that is why we get along so good, but all the guys here are like one big family to me now.''
Richardson noted that things weren't always solid between he and Zanna.
"Talib's a real quiet dude, so it didn't really work out so well in the beginning,'' Richardson said. "But now, we're great friends. We talk all the time, and I think I've been able to bring that out of him. I guess you could say that I've rubbed off on him a little bit that way. I'm very outgoing, and he likes that.
"We were told that they needed post players at Pitt, and we could earn playing time if we put in the work. So, that's what we've done and what we'll do this season. I know that I'm a very hard worker, and I think that should pay off for me. I've worked out some high-lows (post play) with Gary McGee, and it worked out pretty well. I hope we'll get a chance to show what we can do in a game.''
Pitt faces Coker College, S.C. in its final exhibition game Sunday at 4 p.m. and then plays host to Wofford in the season-opener Nov. 13 at 8:10 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center.
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