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Three Pitt seniors face busy offseason

| Sunday, April 17, 2011

For the first time since arriving at Pitt, Gilbert Brown, Gary McGhee and Brad Wanamaker are on the bubble.

The seniors are squarely on the fringe of the 2011 NBA Draft and in the midst of a frantic spring to showcase their ability to pro coaches, scouts and general managers.

"I think," Wanamaker said, "I can play my way in."

From an all-star game in Houston and a prestigious tournament in Virginia to training regimens in Las Vegas and Chicago, the three are doing whatever it takes to boost their stock in the eyes of NBA brass.

Damian Saunders and Bill Clark of Duquesne, Casey Mitchell of West Virginia and Talor Battle of Penn State also are looking for a shot at the next level.

If all goes well, they could achieve their dream and get called during the two-round NBA Draft on June 23. At the least, they hope to be invited to the summer leagues, provided they take place with impending NBA labor troubles.

"It's all about going out and competing and showing teams you're worth taking a chance on," said Brown, a 6-foot-6 wing.

The three Panthers players are listed on various NBA mock drafts — each in the bottom half of the second round. pencils in Wanamaker, a 6-4 guard, at 50th overall. has McGhee, a 6-11, 265-pound center, going 55th overall.

• Three different websites — , Hoopsworld and NBA Draft Depot — envision Brown getting tabbed between 48th and 51st overall.

All three are virtually guaranteed to be invited to pro camps this summer.

"I know there are going to be some looks," Brown said. "It's really up to me to go in there and make a good impression."

Ryan Feldman, who runs, watched the Pitt trio last week at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in Virginia. The four-day, 12-game event included 64 of the nation's top seniors.

"All three of them are certainly borderline second-round picks and have a chance to play their way into the league," Feldman said. "Workouts are going to be important for guys like them. They need to go in, show they can do the things that the teams don't know they can do."

Pitt junior guard Ashton Gibbs, who declared for early eligibility, has until May 8 to decide whether to withdraw his name. In a sample of 13 mock drafts, Gibbs was selected in one of them — going 60th overall, the final pick of the second round.

Feldman was impressed with Mitchell as the Portsmouth event wore on.

"His jumper was on fire in the first game. He spent the next two games showing off his athleticism and ability to get to the basket," Feldman wrote on his website. "He put it in 30 points in his final game. This guy can certainly score."

Saunders' defensive attributes gained him attention from

"There's a lot of work still left to be done, and clearly he can't be described as anything more than an offensive project," according to the website. "But if a team believes his jump shot can become consistent, he has the defensive potential to hear his name called on draft night."

There is no turning back for Brown, McGhee and Wanamaker, the second-winningest class in school history with 111 wins (and 29 losses). They are working out at Petersen Events Center and staying in shape until pre-draft events pick up next month.

All three are eyeing an invitation to the NBA Combine from May 18-22 in Chicago.

In the meantime, Brown will return to Impact Basketball in Las Vegas, where he worked out earlier this month. McGhee is going to train with Attack Athletics in Chicago with Tim Grover, a renowned personal trainer. Wanamaker is headed to either Las Vegas or IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

"Where the best guards are, that's where I'm going," he said.

Wanamaker needs to show NBA scouts he can play point guard. He was forced to play off the ball at the Portsmouth Invitational with about 170 scouts in attendance.

"Some scouts told me that if he's a shooting guard, he won't make it in the NBA," Feldman said. "They said that if he's a point guard, he will make it."

Wanamaker shot 32 percent from the field at Portsmouth (8 for 25) and in his final 13 games at Pitt, he went 2 for 17 from 3-point range.

"They said I can rebound the ball and make plays," Wanamaker said. "That's something that's hard to teach, and it's easy to improve shooting."

McGhee also possesses something that can't be coached — size. Although he measured a smidge under 6-9 at Portsmouth, the Indiana native should be available late in an NBA draft without much muscle. McGhee, who has a 7-foot-2 wingspan, grabbed 18 rebounds in the Reese's All-Star game in Houston and opened eyes at Portsmouth.

"Teams really wanted me to show them I was a tough guy out there and use my body, push guys around a little bit," McGhee said.

Feldman ranks McGhee higher than anyone; no other two-round NBA mock draft, of the 13 researched, includes the Pitt center. Feldman said many teams target back-up big men late in the second round.

"Gary McGhee has probably the best chance of the three Pitt guys to make it," Feldman said. "And all three of them have a decent chance to make it."

This is the first time in at least a decade that any Pitt player is on the NBA draft bubble. Sam Young, DeJuan Blair, Aaron Gray and Chris Taft — the only Panthers drafted since 1999 — were virtual locks to get picked. No other Pitt players were listed in the mock draft in the previous 11 years.

Additional Information:

On the road

The 2011 NBA Draft is two months away, but here is where mock drafts have local players going in the two-round, 60-pick event.

Brad Wanamaker, Pitt: 50th pick,

Gilbert Brown, Pitt: 51st, DraftExpress

Gary McGhee, Pitt: 56th,

Damian Saunders, Duquesne: 56th, DraftDepot

Casey Mitchell, West Virginia: 57th,

*Ashton Gibbs, Pitt: 60th,

* • declared for early entry but hasn't hired an agent

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