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Pitt point guard Robinson focused on leading, looking to score

| Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, 9:36 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pitt's James Robinson brings the ball upcourt against Cal-Poly's Ridge Shipley during the second half Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, at Petersen Events Center. Robinson's 3.25 assist-to-turnover ratio is the best in the ACC.

James Robinson is a star in categories that define solid, if unspectacular, play.

The Pitt sophomore point guard owns a 3.25 assist-to-turnover ratio, which leads the ACC and would rank as the best in school history.

The 6-foot-3 Robinson also leads the Panthers in free-throw shooting at 87.5 percent.

That the foundation of Robinson's game is efficiency makes it difficult for him to pinpoint the area where he needs to improve the most.

“We're 11-1, so it's hard to say,” Robinson said. “Maybe take more shots. I just want to keep making the best play that's there.”

Robinson earned a reputation last season for defending the opponent's best perimeter player and making clutch shots, but the Panthers are hoping to see him become more assertive offensively.

“He is showing a different part of his game this year, shooting the ball and scoring,” Pitt fifth-year senior Lamar Patterson said. “Last year he was probably a little more timid, but now he's getting out, making plays and doing everything you need a point guard to do.

“I think he's more of a leader this year, also more vocal. He's doing a great job, progressing well.”

It's no surprise, then, that Robinson is putting a greater emphasis on his leadership than increasing his 8.0-point scoring average.

“I'm still learning on a daily basis, just trying to be even more of an extension of a coaching staff,” Robinson said. “If I have an opinion, I feel like the locker room respects me enough to let me voice my opinion. When other guys have something to say, it's my job, my duty to listen to them and try to accommodate them.”

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon is more concerned with Robinson's leadership role, as well.

“The guys trust him. That's obvious,” Dixon said. “The main thing is, I think, his defense is such a constant for us — the guys respect that.”

At the same time, Dixon wants Robinson to become a better offensive threat. Where he scored in double figures seven times last season, Robinson has yet to do so this year.

“Offensively he's got to become a consistent shooter,” Dixon said. “He's not going to be a guy that gives you 20 every night, but if he can knock down open shots, the way we pass the ball and move it, he's going to get enough open looks.

“His penetration off our offense, off our movements, off our sets is critical, and he's such a good decision maker (that) you want the ball in his hands.”

Robinson believes that practicing against speedy freshman Josh Newkirk has helped his game at both ends. Now he is focusing on being more aggressive.

“Being more aggressive doesn't necessarily mean scoring more points or taking more shot attempts but getting in the lane and, if my shot is there, take it or find the open guy,” Robinson said. “I think that's the model for this team: being as unselfish as we can while at the same time being as aggressive as we can.”

Spoken like the model player for that system.

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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