Pitt women’s basketball season preview capsule
This is the second season for Pitt women’s basketball coach Lance White, but the cheerful Texan said, in many ways, it is like his first all over again.
A major roster overhaul brings seven newcomers, including five freshmen, to Pitt, as White set out to recruit a more athletic team than the one that went 11-20 (2-14 ACC) a season ago.
“You really have a complete roster shift, and some players, you really don’t know what they’ll be able to bring,” White said. “But we want to be a lot better than we were last year. … The expectation for me is to grow and battle, and we think they can battle in the ACC.”
As with any young team, the Panthers expect to experience growing pains, but White doesn’t expect his team to take a step backward.
Players to watch
Aysia Bugg — Granted a sixth year of eligibility after blood clots forced her out of the lineup five games into last season, the 5-foot-7 point guard is a player who was top 10 in the ACC in assists as a sophomore. Expect Pitt’s offense to run through her, both distributing and scoring.
Cara Judkins — The 6-2 junior center from Maryland saw her minutes increase as last season progressed, and she finished as Pitt’s leader with 5.6 rebounds per game and 34 blocked shots. The Panthers still are smaller than many teams in the ACC, and they will need strong play from their leader on the low block.
Dayshanette Harris — One of Pitt’s freshmen and the heir apparent to Bugg in the backcourt, Harris will be “fun to watch grow,” according to White. If she can take on more ballhandling duties in her first year, it will help alleviate pressure on Bugg and let the veteran be more of a scorer.
Season will be a success if …
The team can grow into a cohesive unit during nonconference play and parlay that into ACC wins. After two conference victories a year ago, White isn’t lowering expectations because of youth. “When I got here, I knew it would take some time to put together a roster that can compete at the highest level,” White said. “This group is the first step. They’re athletic, but now they have to prove what they can do.
Season will be a flop if …
The Panthers aren’t able to get scoring production when they face the rigors of ACC play. Bugg’s career best for a full season is 7.8 points per game, and that is the highest of any player on the team. Whether it’s a freshman, a returning player or a transfer like Marcella Lamark, a 6-4 post player with shooting range who did not play last season at Texas Tech, if the Panthers can’t get scoring, it will be a long season.
Matt Grubba is a contributing writer.