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Nothing is sweeter for Pitt's Jeter than summer league

| Monday, June 23, 2014, 10:33 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Sheldon Jeter plays at Montour High School on Monday June 23, 2014.

Sheldon Jeter couldn't hide his smile when he took the court Monday night for his debut in the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am Summer League at Montour.

It was a long time coming for the former Beaver Falls star, who sat out this past season when Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings refused to sign off on his transfer to Pitt after his freshman season.

“Whenever it happened, I was not happy one bit about having to sit out,” said Jeter, the 2012 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Player of the Year after leading Beaver Falls to the WPIAL Class AA title and PIAA final. “I learned it was what I had to do, so I had to take it on the chin. … It's been a long year. God will take you through hell to get you to heaven.”

Jeter spent much of his redshirt year — he did not play at Polk State College in Winter Haven, Fla., to preserve a season of eligibility — in the weight room to transform his lanky frame to one with a muscular upper body. He has added 10 pounds to grow into a 6-foot-8, 223-pounder who can play either forward position.

“The biggest thing we saw was the improvement he made in the weight room,” said Polk coach Matt Furjanic, a Rankin native and former Robert Morris coach. “That was the No. 1, most recognizable change in his game since September. He's a very, very dedicated athlete. He wants to get better. … I can't say enough good things about him.”

Jeter enrolled at Pitt on May 12 and is in his second summer session. He's one of three newcomers, along with Ryan Luther (Hampton) and Cameron Johnson (Our Lady of the Sacred Heart) working out with the Panthers and playing in the Pro-Am. Where Luther and Johnson will be freshmen, Jeter will have sophomore eligibility next season. He doesn't turn 20 until July 24.

“Time is good,” said Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, who watched Jeter from the stands. “He was a young high school senior. I think he got some stuff done on the court, in the weight room and in the classroom. The reality is, he's now a sophomore as old as most sophomores.”

Jeter averaged 5.5 points and 3.4 rebounds in 17.5 minutes as a freshman at Vanderbilt but will have to battle fellow sophomores Jamel Artis and Chris Jones for a spot in the rotation.

“He's a good kid, a good teammate, and he can shoot it,” sophomore center Mike Young said of Jeter. “He comes in every day with an open mind. I tell him to be aggressive and play hard. Sheldon does have experience, so he knows how hard you have to play. But the ACC is better competition than he's played, especially after a year at junior college. Right now, he has the learning curve as if he's a rookie.”

Jeter said he wants to prove “that I'm not some mid-major player who lucked out” and “what position I play is the least of my worries.”

“I want to show I'm worth what I bring to the table, somebody who plays every game like it's his last,” Jeter said. “Not being able to play a sport you love hurts. This is where I'm supposed to be. I'm back where I'm supposed to be.”

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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