"I can tell you for sure he's not a center, by any stretch of the imagination," said Trevor Brown, the coach at National Christian Academy in Fort Washington, Md. "He was the biggest kid on my team, but if a center was checking him it was a mismatch. He can shoot 3s and his first step is quick enough he can go by people. I was led to believe he'd be playing the four, but they're playing small ball. The things he used to do at National Christian Academy, he's not doing any of that there."Now this quote might not sound all that bad - he's kind of taking the high road and trying to politely suggest he doesn't agree with the current stance. But how about this?
"The way it's going right now, it would be really hard for me to send a McDonald's All-America up there again," Brown said. "People call me and say, 'Why isn't he playing? Why is he playing the center spot?'Let me start with the first quote. People may laugh when they see quotes talking about an athletic PF out there, dropping 3s, and quick enough to go around defenders - that's simply not the Taylor we've seen. Heck, I don't even think we've seen glimpses of that kind of player. But that's what a comfort level can do when you play someone completely out of position. Don't forget that this kid won a skills competition - contests usually won by guards. Imagine taking Vince Carter and trying to force him to play the point. Imagine Jason Kidd trying to make the switch to the 2. Kind of laughable, isn't it? Now take that situation and extrapolate it because of Taylor being only a freshman and you get the mess that you have now.
Further, the line "I was led to believe he'd be playing the four" is, well, not good. Who led him to believe that? To me, seemingly, it means coach Jamie Dixon. If he was led to believe that and that isn't the case, then you've got to think there may be trust issues moving forward.
Going back to what I said earlier. Mess. That's an ugly word. I don't call it a mess because Taylor has failed to significantly produce. Lots of All-Americans come in and don't produce right away. I call it a mess because of the second quote. The last thing Pitt needs is to have coaches of blue chip prospects questioning whether they can trust Jamie Dixon's handling of players. You can look at this situation and say, 'well, it's only one coach - what's the big deal?' Well, Brown has also had his hand in other top players' development including NBA Star Kevin Durant and former Georgetown star, Jessie Sapp, so others are likely to follow. But, really, the big deal is that OTHER high school coaches of elite athletes will likely see what's going on in this situation and could have the same kinds of doubts.
And while other schools that regularly land these types of players such as Duke or UNC have track records of grooming such athletes, Pitt is in relatively new territory. Taylor is the school's first McDonald's All-American in over 20 years. While they can point to success stories such as DeJuan Blair and Sam Young, they can't provide examples of grooming those upper tier athletes. You might look at that and say it doesn't matter 'Look what he's done with the athletes he's gotten. He's proven he can develop talent.' That may be true. But you have to remember you're dealing with 18-year old kids. Many don't necessarily care that you've proven you can handle turning Aaron Gray from a project into an NBA player. They want to know what you're doing with the likes of a Carmelo Anthony, an O.J. Mayo, a Michael Beasley.
So far, in recent memory, Pitt is 0-1 in these types of situations. Do I think it will get better? Yes. I think Dixon will eventually relent and move Taylor to PF. But maybe not until next year. Or later. I think Taylor will eventually show the kind of game that's been talked about once he bulks up a bit and gains some more experience. But while we're waiting, this looks like something of a black eye for Pitt.