Pittman Returns, Ready for Big Things

The news on Wednesday that Dexter Pittman would return for his senior season was music to the ears of the Texas staff and fans. The 6-9.5, 295-pound center seemingly came into his own in the last eight games of the season.

On Wednesday afternoon at Cooley Pavilion, junior center Dexter Pittman announced his decision to return to Texas for his senior season. While many question the draft prospects of Pittman, his play in the last ten games of the season had a number of NBA scouts excited about his potential to the point of at least three scouts telling people close to the program that Pittman would have a "legit" chance to be a late first round pick.

After entering the media room, Pittman didn't waste much time announcing his intentions.

"I talked this decision over with my family, my coaches and some of my teammates, and I have decided to come back for my senior year," Pittman remarked.

He went on to add, "The primary reason is because I feel that my body is not yet physically ready for the next level. I feel like I've got more room to grow and I've got time to get better. I felt like year I only scratched the surface this year, and I know that there is only more to come through the hard work that I'm going to do this spring, summer and fall."

The 6-9.5, 295-pound center who averaged 10.1 points, good for third on the team and 5.5 rebounds, which was second on the team, also pointed to next year's team and the chances for success as a reason for returning.

"That played a big role in my decision. I know that I've built a relationship with all the guys on the team. We're like brothers. We've got a great team bond and chemistry. Seven of us came in as freshmen together, and there's five of us left that are very close. I'm also really tight with the younger guys like Clint Chapman, Alexis Wangmene and Gary Johnson. We've also got Jai Lucas added to the bunch. We're going to be a great team. We always add on every year. We're always going to be good, because as individual players here at Texas, we get better," Pittman said.

Add in the trio of November signees in 6-7 wing Jordan Hamilton, 6-2.5 guard Avery Bradley and 6-7 wing Shawn Williams and the Longhorns have the makings of a team that could make a deep NCAA Tournament run in 2009-10.

As talked about for the better part of three years, the Rosenberg Terry product reported to Texas at 388 pounds and has since dropped more than 90 pounds through dedication under the watchful eye and instruction of strength and condition guru Todd Wright. As expected, the still developing center pointed to Wright as another main reason for staying.

"He (Coach Todd) is also a big part of why I came back too. He said that he is going to make sure that I do what I need to, get my body right physically, and he's going to take my game to a whole other level, and I trust him because he has done it for me before. I put all that in his hands. Whatever he says, I trust him." Pittman said.

Pittman Facts

Pittman started 25 games as a junior. After coming off the bench in the season opening win over Stetson, Pittman was inserted into the starting line-up.

Pittman started the next 15 games averaging 7.7 points and 4.7 rebounds featuring inconsistent finishing around the rim and the inability to stay out of foul trouble.

Pittman returned to the bench after the Longhorns blowout loss in Norman. He came off the bench the next nine games before being inserted back into the starting line-up after a 13 point, 10 rebound performance in a loss at Texas A&M.

Pittman was a different player the second time around as a starter. In the final ten games of the season, he averaged 13.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots.

His play took off in his last seven starts as he averaged 15.1 points and 8.4 rebounds, including 17.3 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game in the Big 12 Tournament.

Pittman continued his impressive play in the first round of the NCAA Tournament putting up 17 points and 11 rebounds in a win over Minnesota. In the second round loss to Duke, Pittman scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds.

Pittman scored in double figures 14 times on the season, including six double doubles. He posted three blocked shots or more on four occasions, with his season high of four coming against Kansas State in the Big 12 Tournament.

He converted 61.6% of his field goal attempts and 69.1% from the free throw line in 2008-09.

Next up for the Longhorns will be the decision of junior forward Damion James, who is expected to put his name in the draft without hiring an agent. James has until April 26 to make a decision.

Should James make the jump to the NBA, the Longhorns would have to replace his elite level rebounding ability. James, averaged 15.4 points and 9.2 rebounds in 2008-09.

Projected Line-up Should James Opt for the NBA

PG Dogus Balbay 6-1 junior
SG Avery Bradley 6-3 freshman
SF Jordan Hamilton 6-7 freshman
PF Gary Johnson 6-7 junior
C Dexter Pittman 6-10 senior

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