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Pitt

Pitt freshman Au'Diese Toney adjusts on, off the court

Jerry DiPaola
| Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, 7:57 p.m.
Pitt’s Au’ Diese Toney had a team-high nine rebounds in a season-opening win against Youngstown State.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt’s Au’ Diese Toney had a team-high nine rebounds in a season-opening win against Youngstown State.

No one should be surprised freshman Au’Diese Toney had a long list of adjustments he needed to make when he enrolled at Pitt and joined the basketball team.

He said the practices are “longer, more physical. Everything is fast-paced.”

The game is more of a “thinking game,” he said. “You have to pick your spots.”

Of course, there’s the Pittsburgh weather, which will be a huge adjustment in another month for Toney, who is from Huntsville, Ala., and went to high school in North Carolina.

But nothing changes Toney’s lifestyle more than this little annoyance: His grandma’s chitlins are not on the team’s training table.

“That’s an adjustment,” he said. “I miss my grandma’s home cooking, baked beans, turnip greens, cornbread.”

The last one brought back some good memories.

“The cornbread was really good,” he said.

Still, Tony seems pleased with the progress he is making where it counts — on the basketball court. He was in the starting lineup Tuesday in the 69-53 opening-night victory against Youngstown State in place of Jared Wilson-Frame. He is expected to keep that spot Friday when Pitt plays VMI at Petersen Events Center.

“He took on the challenge and went out there and really played hard,” junior Malik Ellison said.

In his first collegiate game, Toney, a 6-foot-6 guard, scored 12 points and led Pitt with nine rebounds, four off the offensive glass.

“He’s a great rebounder,” Ellison said. “He always has a knack for the ball. He’s always in the right positions. He’s going to get a double-double multiple times this year just because of his activity on the offensive glass.”

You would think Toney has no regrets about his performance, but video replay uncovered some aspects of his game he hopes to improve as the season progresses.

“We played good defense,” he said, “but if I had to change anything I would play harder, make a couple (more) shots and adjust to the flow of the offense more and get to the rim more.”

Pitt’s style of play on offense appears to be aggressive movement toward the basket. Toney missed both of his 3-point attempts, but otherwise was four of seven from the field.

It starts with defense, rebounding and transition points generated by Pitt’s unique four-guard lineup that includes Ellison, Toney and two other freshmen, Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens.

“We’re probably going to do that for the rest of the season,” Ellison said of the four guards. “That’s the biggest threat right now is how athletic each and every guy is on this team.”

Yet, it’s a young team that will make a lot of mistakes. Coach Jeff Capel understands and so far has shown the patience to tolerate it.

“You’re going to make mistakes at a young age,” Toney said. “He wants you to play through it. As long as you are playing hard, he doesn’t care if you mess up.

“That’s a lot of trust. A lot of coaches don’t trust a lot of freshmen. It’s big our coach trusts us.”

Results might not show up until the outset of the next decade, but Toney said that’s the goal.

“We’re really trying to change the program around,” he said, “trying to bring it back to how it used to be.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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