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Young Pitt basketball team expects growing pains

Rob Biertempfel
| Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, 8:24 p.m.
Pitt's Marcus Carr drives past  Slippery Rock's Micah Till in the second half Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, at Petersen Events Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Marcus Carr drives past Slippery Rock's Micah Till in the second half Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, at Petersen Events Center.
Pitt's Ryan Luther blocks the shot of Virginia's Mamadi Diakite in the second half Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017 at the Petersen Events Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Ryan Luther blocks the shot of Virginia's Mamadi Diakite in the second half Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017 at the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt's Jared Wilson-Frame drives to the hole against Slippery Rock in the second half Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, at Petersen Events Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Jared Wilson-Frame drives to the hole against Slippery Rock in the second half Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, at Petersen Events Center.

Pitt coach Kevin Stallings furrowed his brow as he looked over his roster on the team's preseason media day. Ten of the Panthers' 12 eligible scholarship players never have played in a Division I game.

“We have so many things that are coming that are going to be first-time things,” Stallings said. “There are going to be some growing pains.”

Pitt has no returning starters. It won't be as tall or as talented as most of its ACC opponents. Yet Stallings saw plenty of grit as he tried to piece together a starting lineup during preseason workouts.

“I have a couple of guys who play like their hair is on fire every day,” Stallings said. “It's why a couple of them made a case to be in our lineup. They play with such great energy, passion and effort that, as a coach, you can't rationalize not rewarding that, even though we might have another guy who might be more talented.”

Senior forward Ryan Luther (Hampton) can be a factor inside but also is foul-prone. When he's on the bench, the Panthers might struggle on the boards.

“Rebounding is going to be a concern all season long,” Stallings said.

Guard Marcus Carr headlines a group of seven freshmen who all figure to get playing time.

“They come ready to compete. They really take in what coach says and they execute,” senior guard Jonathan Milligan said. “That's rare for young group to be able to do.”

Carr has shown in practice that he has the smarts and savvy to play point.

“His ability to quarterback a team is way beyond what I expected,” Stallings said. “He's very advanced for his age and his class. He's very mature and has an extremely bright mind.”

Freshman guard Khameron Davis has been bothered by a sore heel, which he reinjured Oct. 28 during a scrimmage against Villanova.

“It's a plantar fasciitis issue,” said Stallings, who's taking a cautious approach toward working Davis back into action.

Picked to finished last in the ACC, the Panthers figure to take their lumps this season. How they react, Stallings said, will offer clues about what lies ahead.

“We'll get knocked on our head a few times, but these guys, I'm pretty sure, are going to complete,” Stallings said. “And there is enough talent there that eventually we'll be a good team.”

“You don't know what you have until adversity hits you. I have great confidence in their character.”

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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