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Troutman showcasing his abilities in Big East play

| Monday, Jan. 27, 2003

Wonder what the folks around the Big East are thinking of Chevon Troutman these days?

The kid from Williamsport was a virtual unknown at the outset of the Pitt basketball season, a respected role player who was about as flashy as Mr. Rogers.

Nobody considered him for all-conference honors; nobody mentioned him when discussing Pitt.

Look at him now.

The 6-foot-7, 240-pound sophomore center is outplaying Big East big-timers, guys who are considered future NBA lottery picks.

He put up better numbers than Notre Dame super freshman Torin Francis to open conference play (12 points, 12 rebounds to six, seven), he did the same to Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony (23, four to 14, three) and continued his dominance with a superior effort against Georgetown's Mike Sweetney in a 65-64 victory Saturday (20, three to 12, five) at Petersen Events Center.

Troutman, of course, doesn't have to face the highly charged Pitt defense like Francis, Anthony and Sweetney did, but his statistics can't be ignored. He is averaging 13.6 points and 5.2 rebounds in 22.2 minutes, while shooting at a 77.1-percent clip (27 of 35) from the field in conference games.

His overall field-goal percentage of 75.4 (77 of 102) would be tops in the nation if he averaged 5.0 conversions per game. Troutman is just below that standard at 4.8.

"I'm just trying to make plays," Troutman said. "That's what it's all about."

Entering the Georgetown contest, Troutman had been struggling at the free-throw line with a 43.2-percent success rate, but he went 10 for 10 in the Panthers' down-to-the-wire victory over the Hoyas.

It made you wonder: Has he shored up that area of his game, too?

Maybe so.

"He's putting it all together," senior point guard Brandin Knight said. "He's building into a great player."

Troutman's a key reason the Panthers (15-1, 5-0 Big East) are ranked No. 2 heading into an off-week that doesn't have them playing again until a meeting at Syracuse on Saturday night. The game with the Orangemen will be just the third for the Panthers in 18 days.

"Things are coming to me right now," Troutman said. "We're all playing hard; it just happens to be me stepping up."

Troutman is not a showstopper but has an uncanny knack of being at the right place at the right time. He always seems to be in position for easy scoring opportunities — usually layups — and finds himself open underneath the basket with alarming regularity.

There are a number of explanations for Troutman's emergence, not the least of which are his 7-foot-2 wingspan, his incredible speed and his deceptive strength, but the biggest is his boundless energy, his ability to move at all times.

He does not take breaks on the floor, which enables him to find seams in the defense.

"We know he's going to find an open spot, because he works so hard under there," junior guard Julius Page said. "He doesn't stop."

Troutman could very easily be a 40-minute man for Pitt, yet he doesn't start and averages just 24.5 minutes per game on a team that uses three to four big men a night. The day might come when he's fixture on the floor — potentially when starting senior center Ontario Lett and starting senior forward Donatas Zavackas use up their eligibility — but Troutman isn't thinking about those things right now.

"I'll do whatever's asked of me," he said. "Just as long as we win."

Troutman emerged into the public consciousness during a Pitt comeback victory at Georgetown in the 19th of last season. He had played only a minute the five previous contests, but coach Ben Howland decided to start Troutman in the second half against the Hoyas and has kept him in the lineup ever since.

Playing inspired defense against Sweetney, while also contributing eight points and four rebounds in the Panthers' 68-67 win over the Hoyas, Troutman used that game as a springboard the rest of the way. He went on to start two NCAA Tournament games in place of season-long starter Toree Morris and averaged 6.8 points and 2.5 rebounds with a 75-percent success rate from the field in 12.7 minutes per Big East game.

Today, he is entrenched in the lineup and making a case for himself as a conference all-star. Or, at the very least, the league's most improved award.

"You have to be impressed with Troutman," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "He's just a quality basketball player."

The rest of the Big East is quickly finding that out.

Big East beast

Pitt forward Chevon Troutman's numbers in conference play:

Opp. Pts. FG-FGA Rebs

Notre Dame 12 6-8 12

Rutgers 9 4-5 6

West Virginia 4 2-5 1

Syracuse 23 10-12 4

Georgetown 20 5-5 3

Totals 68 27-35 26

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