The 2011 Greentree Summer League is underway and, as expected, all eyes were on Khem Birch.
Birch didn't disappoint, but fans probably hoped to see a little from the big man offensively. To be honest, though, I wouldn't hold your breath.
I know - I get it. 'Dude, you're basing this off of one summer league game - I just know you are.'
No, actually I'm not - for anyone to base that opinion on one scrimmage against teammates would be nuts. I said a few months ago that I just don't see Birch as the type of player who will step in and dominate offensively. He's just not that type of player in my opinion (that opinion, by the way, is based on having seen Birch play exactly zero times in person ... so do with that what you will). There have been times when he's overpowered opponents on offense, but as a player who could probably stand to gain a little bit of weight to compete in the Big East and someone not known for his array of offensive moves, it's hard for me to see him become an offensive force immediately.
Rivals' Jeff Eisenberg apparently sees it the same way and wonders if it could take a few years for Birch's offense to catch up to his defense:
Maybe Birch breaks that mold, blossoms as a freshman and opens the door for future McDonald's All-Americans to come to Pittsburgh. Or perhaps it takes a couple years for the 6-foot-9 forward's offense to catch up with his defense and he follows in the footsteps of past Panthers stars who didn't truly shine until they were upperclassmen.
Before someone tweets that I think Birch is a bad player or something similarly stupid, it should be known that I think he'll be a great player at Pitt. His style of play fits in perfectly with Dixon's teams and it was a major coup for the program.
That said, in nearly everything I've read in the past, it's always his defense you hear more about. Now, I'm not saying I want Birch to come out and try to score 15 points a game - hardly anyone does that as a freshman. For one, I don't think that's realistic and for another, Pitt would be better served by allowing him to focus his game on the strengths he clearly has - interior defense and rebounding.
One of the great things about his game is that Birch is a blocked shots machine as evidenced by some of his All-Star game tournaments and his first night in the Greentree Summer League (he admitted to being a little nervous, which is to be expected), where he recorded eight.
Birch should be a big-time player and will contribute right away, so this is hardly cause for concern. Teams need a mix of scoring, rebounding, and defense, and it's perfectly fine with me if the offense comes elsewhere.
But, if you're looking for Birch to come in and dominate in the Big East offensively, you may be a bit disappointed.