Senior Day

It's going to be difficult for future senior classes to upstage last year's group, as Levance Fields, Sam Young and Tyrell Biggs won the most games and took the Pitt men's basketball program the farthest in the NCAA Tournament.

But Jermaine Dixon and Chase Adams have made significant impacts at Pittsburgh, albeit in the shortest stay for any class. Dixon has played for the Panthers just two seasons, after transferring from a junior college in Florida, but he has worked hard to be among the top defensive players in the Big East.

This was the only season at Pitt for Adams after he transferred from The Centenary in Louisiana after the school de-emphasized men's basketball. But Adams, his former Conference's defensive player of the year, pushed Panthers Ashton Gibbs and Travon Woodall in practice to help them improve.

Dixon and Adams play their final Pitt home game when the Panthers play host to Rutgers today at 4:30 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center.

"Jermaine's leadership has really shown in the way he's handle his situation this season, starting with the injury and recurrence of it,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "(But) he's really handled adversity, which is a true sign of character, and that's a testament to what he's accomplished here.

"His leadership was able to show through those injuries. He never complained. Never thought about himself, only the team, and I'm so thankful that he's been like that. I have great respect for what he's done, and I believe his teammates feel the same way about him.''

Coach Dixon believed that Adams had a similar impact on the Panthers.

"He made a lot of sacrifices, too,'' Dixon said. "He left his home and a school where he played for three years, because he wanted to come to Pitt to be part of a winning program, go to the post-season and get a degree from a great University. He played a lot of minutes early, but not lately.

"And you can see how hard he's worked by him coming in and hitting a 3 against St. John's. ... Our practices are 15 guys working hard to help everyone improve, and Chase has been a big part of that.''

After hitting a 3-pointer as time ran out to beat Providence Thursday night, Gibbs believed the best ending for Dixon and Adams at the Pete was a win against the Scarlet Knights as well.

"We definitely want to send off our two leaders, Jermaine and Chase, with two final wins at home,'' Gibbs said. "Jermaine, I've really learned a lot from him as far as his work ethic and leadership skills on and off the court are concerned. He's been a real role model to me, and that's something I really cherish and hope to take with me.''

Both Adams and Dixon believed the Villanova win this year was their most exciting moment at the Pete. Dixon added the Connecticut game last year when Pitt beat the Huskies when they were No. 1 at the end of the regular season. For Adams, playing in front of a packed house with more than 12,000 raucous fans was quite a new experience.

"It's been very exciting,'' Adams said. "I wasn't familiar with the Oakland Zoo before I got here, but I got to know real quick how much they love coming out here to watch us play. All the fans, they've been very loyal to us, and they're doing our best to help us do our very best when we're out on the court. And that's all we can ask from our fans.''

While Adams' senior season has been a whirlwind, Dixon believed his two years at Pitt have gone by quickly as well. But it certainly was just as interesting.

"And I thought it was going to be a lot harder,'' Dixon said. "But it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. And I definitely enjoyed it. My teammates from last year and this year made it an easy transition for me. They brought me in like a family member. I thank all of them for that.

"But the coaches and the media and the fans, everyone made it easy for me. I've never been injured before in my life, so it was really tough to miss the time that I did. I still feel like I don't do things as well now as I did at the end of last season, like getting in passing lanes defensively and getting steals for our team.

"I still feel a step slow for that, but I think I've come along pretty well,'' Dixon added. "(And) I think we all can do better on our steals. But as long as we're getting stops, that's OK, too. Steals help us get out in transition, but stops are very important as well from a defensive standpoint.''

Dixon should be rewarded for his defensive game when the Big East teams convene at the Conference Tournament next week.

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