Dixon, Pitt men's basketball team aren't planning island vacation
Confronted with the departure of his two best players, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon graciously accepted 10 extra days of practice this summer.
The rare block of practice time is an incentive from the NCAA, awarded to basketball teams participating in offseason international tournaments.
Pitt departs Friday for a four-game tour in Nassau, Bahamas, the first of 13 Division I programs scheduled to play a series of games against local teams. Other college programs making the Bahamas trip include Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio State and Cincinnati.
Dixon appreciates the teaching opportunity for his younger players. Normally, Dixon wouldn't be granted this much official practice time with his players until the fall.
“Those (local) teams in the Bahamas have a lot of guys that played college, a lot of good athletes, but they don't play a lot together,” Dixon said. “The main thing is we see our guys in situations a little bit earlier and you can make adjustments when practice begins in the fall.”
Dixon said sophomores Jamel Artis, Sheldon Jeter, Chris Jones, Josh Newkirk and Mike Young, along with freshmen Cameron Johnson and Ryan Luther, will benefit from the extra work.
The expectation is those players will collectively replace Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna, who combined to lead Pitt in scoring, rebounding and assists last season.
Dixon isn't overly concerned because he has built a program that wins 20 or more games and appears in the NCAA tournament annually.
Conceivably, the bulk of those lost points, rebounds and assists could shift to the Panthers' three returning starters — Young, who started all 36 games and finished second on the team in rebounding as a freshman; junior James Robinson and fifth-year senior Cameron Wright, the leading returning scorer.
Other players expected to benefit from the extra work include Artis and Newkirk, who both appeared in 36 games last season, as well as Chris Jones (30 games). Junior Durand Johnson appeared in 16 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
“It's a little different this year. I'm a little bit more comfortable with the new guys,” Dixon said. “The last time we played in one of these (international tournaments), we were an experienced group with a lot of returning guys. Our freshmen didn't play much when we got there.”
Four years ago, Pitt played six games in Ireland the summer after being ranked No. 1 in the country and advancing to the Elite Eight.
Last season, Pitt finished 26-10 and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
“This year's team is not as experienced. That last team was ranked No. 1 in the country,” Dixon said.
“We're playing some guys at positions they (didn't) play before. Sheldon's playing more three (small forward), Michael played some five (center) last year — those two really stand out.
“You start establishing your team and who can do what and who does something better than someone else. New guys come out and their confidence builds.”
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.