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Pitt freshman Jones eyes his opportunity

| Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, 9:51 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Chris Jones plays against Loyola Marymount on Dec. 4, 2013, at Petersen Events Center.

Pitt redshirt freshman Chris Jones anticipated playing extended minutes against Georgia Tech on Monday.

With sophomore Durand Johnson lost for the season because of an ACL injury, Jones' outside shooting touch is considered an asset.

But Jones' two early fouls and coach Jamie Dixon's dependence on his starters in a tough road game limited the guard-forward to four minutes in the Panthers' 81-74 victory Tuesday.

Four Panthers starters played 30-plus minutes, and the fifth starter, freshman forward Michael Young, totaled 28 minutes.

After the game, Dixon tossed a safety net to Jones, who is averaging 2.4 points in 5.7 minutes this season and went scoreless against Georgia Tech.

“Don't write him off yet,” Dixon said.

Jones' opportunity could surface in the ACC showdown against Syracuse at 4 p.m. Saturday at Carrier Dome. Both teams are 4-0 in conference play.

“He'll be back, and he'll play good on Saturday,” Dixon said. “We'll have him ready.”

Dixon knows Pitt eventually will need Jones' offensive firepower, given his potential as another scorer specializing in long-range shooting.

Jones knows it, too.

“I can shoot the ball, but we have a lot of guys that can shoot the outside shot,” Jones said. “When I get my opportunity, I want to bring a lot of energy. On one of my fouls, I was in the wrong spot. I'll adjust when I'm out there. I know I have other guys that will help me, tell me where I need to be.”

“He can do everything: shoot, play defense, rebound,” senior and leading scorer Lamar Patterson said. “He has to get his confidence up, and he'll be a good player.”

Dixon likens Jones' potential to Johnson's. The coach said he believes Jones' production will improve with increased playing time.

In other areas of comparison between Jones and Johnson, Jones has a better field-goal percentage (47.8 to 40.5) and free-throw percentage (92.3 to 85.3), while Johnson has a better 3-point percentage (33.8 to 33.3).

“We've seen Chris play well in practice,” Dixon said. “Chris, in his minutes played, was scoring at about the same rate that Durand was. He just needs to play the way he's played in practice in games, and he's going to be out there more.”

“I'm not going to come in and try to be a 3-point shooter,” Jones said. “My job is to bring energy, create loose balls, turnovers, get rebounds and play defense.”

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jharris@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JHarris_Trib.

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