Pitt men's basketball team's depth could be a blessing

Pitt's Cameron Wright fights North Florida's Parker Smith in the first half on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, at Petersen Events Center.
Pitt's Cameron Wright fights North Florida's Parker Smith in the first half on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, at Petersen Events Center.
Photo by Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Kevin Gorman
| Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, 7:47 p.m.

Lewis Preston spent what he called six “not-so-great years” watching Pitt as an assistant coach at Notre Dame.

Now in his second year as coach at Kennesaw State, Preston was impressed with how the Panthers used a 10-man rotation in a 59-43 victory Sunday over his Owls.

“I think their depth can definitely cause problems,” Preston said. “When you've got 10 bodies that are physical, strong, active, live, that can wear down opponents.”

While Jamie Dixon worries about how Pitt's four new faces will fare when the Panthers (12-1) open Big East Conference play against No. 11 Cincinnati on Dec. 31, he can take comfort in knowing that his second five is not only deep, but also are experienced and talented.

And they believe in their bench.

“Since we play 10 players, the coaches are confident in all of us,” said redshirt sophomore swingman Cameron Wright, who averaged 14.6 minutes in 12 games. “Going into Big East play, a lot of teams don't play that many guys. It kind of gives us an edge, I feel.”

Junior swingman Trey Zeigler started 59 games the past two seasons at Central Michigan before transferring to Pitt. Senior center Dante Taylor started 20 games and redshirt sophomore swingman Cameron Wright 10 games last season. Junior forward J.J. Moore started only two games last year but averaged 7.5 points in 38 games.

The experience of those four players, combined with 6-foot-6 redshirt freshman forward Durand Johnson, showed in the contributions in the nonconference schedule. Pitt's bench averaged 28.7 points and 14.1 rebounds through the first 13 games.

“I think Dante Taylor, when he comes off, he gives them an added dimension inside even though he's been a starter for a couple years,” Preston said. “It will be interesting to see how Trey Zeigler, from this point forward, how he's going to step up ... and Johnson, as well.”

Zeigler averaged 16 points and six rebounds the past two seasons at Central Michigan but is averaging five points and 1.4 rebounds in 16.1 minutes for Pitt.

Where in years past Dixon has shortened his bench to an eight-man rotation for Big East play, the Pitt coach seems open to the idea of going 10-deep this season.

“Most games, you're probably going to see 10 guys out there,” Dixon said, later calling it “a good thing.”

“It gives us some options and keeps guys in the right positions. And I think the versatility of these guys will allow us to do some things, too.”

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kgorman@tribweb.com or 412-320-7812.

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