Pitt freshmen adjusting to NCAA Tournament hype
Steven Adams knew there was a party at the Campus View Club inside Petersen Events Center for the Pitt players to learn their NCAA Tournament destination.
He just didn't know about the other invited guests.
When he arrived Sunday night, the 7-foot freshman center from Rotorua, New Zealand, was slightly shocked but properly introduced to the tournament's importance in the U.S.
A roomful of fans, school officials and an impressive buffet were there to greet him.
“Teammates said we had a feed upstairs,” he said. “I was like, ‘Sweet! Food.' I didn't know what to expect. They said it was a big deal. I didn't really care.”
Adams cares only about the basketball. The hype surrounding it is for others to celebrate.
He's too busy with more relevant pursuits, including 31 starts, a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game (seventh-best all-time for a Pitt freshman) and 62 blocked shots (third-best).
In the days leading up to Pitt's second-round NCAA West Region game Thursday against Wichita State in Salt Lake City, Adams remains calm.
“People (in New Zealand) probably do (follow the NCAA Tournament),” he said. “I never did. It just never interested me at all. I never got into this.”
Then, there's freshman guard James Robinson, who has been preparing most of his life for his NCAA moment.
“This is pretty much everything I've looked at since I've been a kid,” said Robinson, who played at legendary DeMatha (Md.) Catholic High School. “It will be a lot of fun. It will be a good experience.”
Robinson, 19, is second on the team with 113 assists and third in minutes (26.5), exposing him to the stifling pressure that can lead to mistakes in big games.
And so it was that Robinson's bad pass cost Pitt a possible game-tying shot against Syracuse last week in the Big East Tournament.
With Pitt trailing by three and 16 seconds left in the quarterfinal game at Madison Square Garden, Robinson tried to get the ball to Tray Woodall, but the pass didn't have enough velocity and was intercepted by Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams.
“(Syracuse defenders) did a good job of speeding me up,” said Robinson, who's averaging 1.2 turnovers per game while handling the ball much of the time. “I made a bad decision, but I learned from it. (Tray) talked to me about it, but he pretty much said: ‘Get over it. It's just one play. We have more basketball to win.' ”
Woodall prefers to concentrate on the freshmen's unselfishness.
“You have guys as freshmen (on other teams) who want to come in and score,” he said. “These young guys understand, and they know what we've got to do to get it done.”
Perhaps that's why Adams and Robinson are second in starts by a Pitt freshman (31) to DeJuan Blair (36 in 2007-08).
The pair are two of the six Pitt players who never have played in an NCAA Tournament game but have played important minutes this season. The others are redshirt freshman forward Durand Johnson, redshirt sophomore Cam Wright, redshirt junior forward Talib Zanna and junior guard Trey Zeigler, a transfer who played the previous two seasons at Central Michigan.
Wright and Zanna (injury) were members of Pitt's 2011 team that lost to Butler in a third-round game, but they didn't play in the tournament. Plus, junior J.J. Moore's tournament experience is limited to one minute against UNC Asheville in '11.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said the presence of two freshmen in the starting lineup doesn't concern him.
“Not too many teams are starting two freshmen, so we needed them to be sophomores early on in the year,” he said. “We've been through a long year, a lot of games. We've seen everything we need to see. Our guys understand it. There's no excuse for inexperience at this point.”
Show commenting policy
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.
- Pitt falls flat in finale loss to Miami
- Pitt’s Young taking a pass, improving his all-around game
- Miami (Fla.) gets prepared to take on ‘physical’ Pitt team
- Emotional send-off awaits Pitt seniors
- Artis leads Pitt to lopsided victory over Cornell
- Bowl destination is at stake for Pitt football in regular-season finale
- Second-quarter explosion leads Pitt past Louisville
- Pitt’s Dixon monitoring minutes early in season
- Zone defense more common for Dixon, Pitt men’s basketball team
- For Pitt’s Narduzzi, Petrino’s ‘O’ always a challenge