Share This Page

Pitt's Taylor making most of minutes

| Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Christopher Horner
Pitt's Dante Taylor celebrates after scoring against UConn in the final seconds of the first half Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 at Petersen Events Center. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Pitt senior Dante Taylor knew what was expected of him.

After all, when he arrived on Pitt's campus in 2009, he was a McDonald's All-American, the school's first in 22 years. He had a scoring average of 23.8 points at Maryland's National Christian Academy and a reputation as one of the Washington area's best high school players.

The subsequent expectations can be a lot of baggage for a young man of 19 to carry into the Big East, but Taylor dealt with it quietly and efficiently.

“I never paid attention to it,” he said.

Which is probably the chief reason he enters the final games of his Pitt career with no regrets after starting only 20 games — all in 2011-12 — and never averaging six points or five rebounds in any season.

Yet with a clear mind, he has assumed an important role off the Pitt bench, replacing starting freshman center Steven Adams in key moments of games.

In the 69-61 victory against Connecticut on Saturday, Taylor scored six points, with seven rebounds. But in the final four minutes — after UConn had rallied to tie the score at 58 — he dished out the game's biggest assist, grabbed his fifth offensive rebound and hit two free throws and a basket to ensure Pitt's third victory in the past four outings.

“I just tried to step up as a senior,” Taylor said.

Such leadership, if it continues to rise to the surface, will be important for Pitt, which is 15-4 and 3-3 in the Big East going into its game Tuesday at Providence.

“He's really an unselfish kid,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “He's really a great teammate, and guys like him. He doesn't care about his individual stats. He just wants to win. He's been around a lot of winning teams, and he wants to continue to do that.”

Taylor's most important contribution was a pass to freshman James Robinson, who turned it into a tie-breaking 3-pointer to give Pitt a lead it never surrendered. In the center of a pick and roll with Lamar Patterson, Taylor took the pass, could have turned and shot, but he spotted Robinson alone deep in the corner.

Later, in a similar situation, he accepted the pass from Tray Woodall and decided to shoot. Those plays became the most important five points of the game's decisive moments.

“I trusted in (Robinson), and (Woodall) trusted in me,” Taylor said.

Dixon, usually judicious with his praise, was enthused.

“I can't say enough about him down the stretch,” Dixon said. “We talked to him about that he may be the guy who gets the catch but not the shot. That's something we're improving on. That was huge for us. We've got to continue to make right decisions at the right time. Those were two very good decisions by Dante at that point.”

Similar decisions will allow Taylor to earn additional playing time and make the most of his senior season. After offering advice to Adams on how to handle expectations, he is now listening to former Panther Nasir Robinson, who attended the Villanova game last week in Philadelphia and was Taylor's house guest over the weekend.

Robinson told Taylor to savor his senior season.

“He told me how fast it's going to go and how much he misses it,” Taylor said.

“It's starting to sink in that it's winding down, so I'm just trying to make the most out of these games. Sooner or later, it's going to be gone.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.