McGhee's Improvement Immense

Could Gary McGhee become the next post player to shine at Pitt?

Some might have laughed at the question just a few months ago, but after a strenuous offseason conditioning and working on his game, junior center Gary McGhee appears to have improved greatly in every area for Pittsburgh.

Others might say that there was nowhere for McGhee to go, but up in his development since he struggled to catch an entry pass let alone score or rebound during his brief time in the paint the past two seasons. McGhee started both exhibition games for the Panthers and averaged 11 points, 3.5 rebounds and two blocked shots with a shooting percentage at .667.

"I feel good coming into this season, and the time has arrived for me to make an impact,'' McGhee said. "I played behind an All-American and future NBA player in DeJuan Blair the past two years, so I learned a lot. I got some playing time, too, but I mostly learned from going against him in practice every day.

"So, I need to go out and show what I can do this year. There's no better time for me to do it. I learned from DeJuan and Tyrell Biggs, the little things you need to do to get rebounds and using my size and strength. I got a lot stronger for this season, and now all I need is a chance to show what I can do.''

McGhee clearly has worked on his post moves and is much lighter with 245 pounds on his 6-foot-10 frame instead of 265.

"I think he's a much better player,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "There's no question about that, and he's improved. He's real a hard worker. He always has been, and he's just a kid who is seizing the opportunity. So, he's improved, but we've had a history of that with our big guys (like) DeJuan (Blair) and Gary now, Aaron (Gray), Chris (Taft), Chevy (Troutman), guys like that.

"(And) you can clearly see it in Gary. He runs the floor better. And he's better defensively. He's rebounding better and finishing better. But, every day, we can do some things with him. We're trying to get him better with his left hand, and we're trying to get him to keep the ball up by the basket instead of the habit of keeping it low like all big guys do and not dribbling into a crowd.''

Pitt fans got a taste of how well McGhee would fit into the Panthers' rotation during the summer league games, the Blue-Gold scrimmage and now two exhibition games. He's been the starting center and averaged 16 minutes per game. Freshman Dante Taylor has been his backup.

"In the summer league, I showed that I can run the floor,'' McGhee said. "I showed that I do have some athleticism, and that I could score and do everything I need to do to play for Pitt. (And) I'm a lot stronger than I was when I got here two years ago, but I needed to do that to get ready.

"The Big East is a physical league, and if you aren't a physical player you won't be able to handle the grind day in and day out. It took a lot of time for me to adjust to that, the speed and intensity of these games. I probably didn't feel comfortable until late last season, but I'm ready now.''

McGhee and Pitt fans have some time before the Big East schedule begins, but the Panthers play for real starting with Wofford Friday at 8:10 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center.

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