Pitt makes position clear: More scoring, better rebounding
Pitt juniors Lamar Patterson and J.J. Moore should spend a lot more time this season playing together rather than passing each other on the way to bench.
Coach Jamie Dixon is committed to getting two of his top returning scorers — who both play small forward — on the floor simultaneously during the 2012-13 season.
Patterson (6-foot-5, 221 pounds), the team's co-MVP last season, will return at small forward, where he started 37 games last season. Moore (6-6, 215), named the Panthers' most improved player, will man power forward when the Panthers go with a smaller lineup.
“That's probably the way of doing it,” Dixon said during Pitt media day last month. “You've got to get your best players on the floor. It's something you are going to see a lot more, for obvious reasons.”
The departure of three-year starter Nasir Robinson leaves 6-9, 230-pound junior Talib Zanna as the' only returning power forward for the Panthers, who open the season at 6 p.m. Friday against Mount St. Mary's at Petersen Events Center.
The small forward spot, meanwhile, is crowded with Patterson, Moore, sophomore Cam Wright and 6-6 redshirt freshman Durand Johnson.
Patterson (9.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Moore (7.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg) almost exclusively played small forward last season. They were at their best in the final month of the season. Patterson averaged 12.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists in the final 10 games. Moore averaged 11.8 points in the final 13 games.
They were on the floor together for a combined 10 minutes and 46 seconds in the two exhibitions, including the final 4:03 of last week's Hawaii-Hilo game.
“It's been working out well so far,” Moore said at media day. “It spaces it out and gets guys open. I'm trying to screen better and rebound better for the team.”
The power forward in Dixon's system needs to be able to rebound and pass and be somewhat of a perimeter threat. Moore, arguably the team's best athlete, made at least one 3-pointer in each of the final 13 games last season, shooting 42 percent from behind the arc during that span. But he averaged only 2.9 rebounds per game, and managed only two rebounds in 78 minutes in the three-game CBI finals against Washington State.
If Moore plays power forward, Pitt will need strong rebounding from its centers — senior Dante Taylor and five-star freshman Steven Adams. After having surgery in April for a broken fifth metatarsal on his right foot, Moore devoted time to upper-body work.
Patterson led the Panthers in 3-point shooting percentage (41.0), steals (38) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.11) last season.
A Lancaster native who attended national power St. Benedict's (N.J.) as a senior, Patterson is embracing his new leadership role.
“I knew it was coming,” he said. “A lot of guys look at me as an example, and if I'm not doing the right thing, they aren't going to do the right thing.”
John Grupp is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.