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Gorman: Pitt taking a 'stretch' in basketball recruiting

| Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, 9:42 p.m.

There was a time when calling Pitt offering a scholarship to Hampton's Ryan Luther a “stretch” would have been considered an insult.

Now, call it a compliment.

“I'd say maybe I'm a three or a ‘stretch four,' whatever they call it,” Luther said with a laugh when asked to describe his playing style. “I have some versatility that gives me an advantage.”

The numbers are basketball parlance for positions, with the “three” traditionally serving as a small forward or swingman, and the “four” as a power forward.

It's time to get acquainted with the “stretch four,” as Luther called it, as Pitt prepares for its inaugural season of ACC basketball.

Where the physical power forward was synonymous with the Big East, the ACC relies more on someone with length who can help spread the floor and shoot from the perimeter.

While almost every coach at ACC media day in Charlotte, N.C., downplayed the differing styles between the Big East and ACC, Notre Dame's Mike Brey pointed to the power forward position as evidence.

“The one thing I heard all summer from ACC coaches,” Brey said, “is the second big guy in the ACC is more of a face-up guy and maybe not the brute force four-man, a less-skilled four-man that we saw in the Big East.”

It's already reflective in Pitt's recruiting. The Panthers signed skilled forwards Mike Young and Jamel Artis last year and have verbal commitments from a pair of 6-foot-8 wing-forwards in former Beaver Falls star Sheldon Jeter and Luther.

“Ryan is a versatile player,” Hampton coach Joe Lafko said of Luther, who averaged 21 points a game as a junior. “He has the ability to play in the interior and also has the ability to stretch a defense by shooting from the perimeter. He has to continue to work on his ball-handling skills if coaches want him to face up.”

Luther downplayed the idea that he and Jeter — who spent his freshman year at Vanderbilt before transferring to Polk State College in Florida — play the same position, given that Pitt coach Jamie Dixon took both.

Dixon is adjusting to the ACC by emphasizing the need for players capable of handling the ball and allowing for the possibility of players like Luther and Jeter to see the court at the same time.

It's also possible that Young could play in the post if Pitt fails to sign a traditional center like Satchel Pierce, the 7-footer from the Kiski School who visited Miami this weekend and plans to visit Marquette next weekend.

More likely, it's a sign that Pitt sees what the future holds in the ACC, and that signing two more big forwards isn't a stretch.

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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