Pitt Basketball: Will Malcolm Gilbert Crack 2011-12 Rotation?

Of all the incoming freshmen, the one that intrigues me the most in terms of playing time isn't phenom Khem Birch - it's Malcom Gilbert. We all know that Birch will get his fair share of time, but with so many big men, I didn't figure Gilbert would get that much time ... I even figured he could be in for a redshirt.

But the longer the offseason goes on, the more it looks like he'll be playing right away.

Now, a look at Pitt's rotation in the frontcourt shows that it's going to be pretty crowded there. In addition to Nasir Robinson and Dante Taylor, there's Birch and Talib Zanna. All four should not only play, but contribute pretty regularly. Gilbert, like those players did, will need to get stronger to play in the Big East. Even so, he has one clear advantage over those players.

And that is that he's the only true center in the group.

Birch and Taylor should both play at the 5, but both are true power forwards. Same for Zanna and the undersized Nas. That alone will probably ensure that Gilbert gets onto the court.

Well, that and his talent.

While all eyes were on Birch, Gilbert slowly climbed his way up the recruiting rankings. Now, Birch is rated as a top 15 center nationally by both Rivals (#15) and Scout (#11) and the latter site lists him as a four-star commit. ESPNU also lists him as a four-star and as a top 100 player.

Gilbert had a very good debut in the Greentree Summer League, tallying a double double (13 points and 11 rebounds) against Zanna. Even so, he says he's still getting used to the pace of the game:

"It felt good," Gilbert said. "The pace is definitely quicker than high school so I’m adjusting and getting used to it."

Another reason he'll likely play right away is that he's above average on the defensive end - something Jamie Dixon covets. But Gilbert is still definitely trying to get better offensively:

"I’m trying to work on my dribbling so that I can face the basket more," he said. "I’ve also got a great touch on my jump shot, so I’m trying to utilize that more."

The bottom line is that Gilbert went from a solid get to a great signing. I'm excited to see what Birch will do, but I can't wait to see Malcolm in action, too.

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