Yesterday, we talked a bit about Pitt's point guard situation. Today, we look at the shooting guards.
The position has rarely been filled by players of great athletic ability - that point's been brought up quite a bit on this blog. Guys have filled the role capably, though. Ashton Gibbs was a great scorer and Brad Wanamaker was an all-around player that usually filled up the box score. Going back a bit further, Ronald Ramon was pretty accurate. Talking about pure athletes, this has often been stated but you probably have to go way back to Julius Page to find one at the position.
That all (hopefully) changed, though, when Pitt landed recruit Detrick Mostella, who originally was headed to Oklahoma State. In him, the Panthers could have their shooting guard of the future. And he's one of the higher recruited shooting guards in recent memory for Pitt - maybe even the highest one in the Dixon/Howland era.
Mostella will contribute, but unless he lights the world on fire, I don't see him starting the season alongside James Robinson in the starting lineup. That could come later in the year, but it may take a while. So if he doesn't get the nod, who else is left?
The guy I've pointed to for a while has been Cam Wright. He's not flashy, but clearly improved last season. Unlike guards in past times, he's shown the ability to get to the basket and put himself in position for good shots. As a reserve last year fighting Tray Woodall and Trey Zeigler for playing time, he scored only a little over four points a game last year. But that's only part of the story. Wright shot better than 50% from the field, easily the highest of any guard on the team, and also defended very well. And despite playing more minutes, he cut his turnovers back from nearly one a game to about 1/2 per contest. He still had moments that made you scratch your head, but all in all, I think he's the likely candidate to start. And as I pointed out before, he could be on the Brad Wanamaker path.
Other than Mostella, there's Chris Jones, the forgotten man. Jones didn't get off the bench last year, taking a redshirt. That obviously was the way to go with so many other options at the position and Jones should be better for it. One of his best attributes is his size - at 6'6", he should have an advantage of many other shooting guards Pitt faces. He didn't play in any regular season games last year, so there isn't film to break down (though I went to the exhibition games last year and thought he snuck in briefly ... could be wrong). He will almost surely get minutes, but without prior experience, I don't see him starting, either. It should also be noted that his size would make him a candidate to play at small forward.
Durand Johnson is a guy that could be in the mix since he played last year, but DJ is really more of a shooting small forward who I believe is better left at small forward. For one, he's a good, not great, shooter. While it's true that he came off the bench to provide an unbelievable spark at times, he also struggled a bit. The biggest game I'd point to is Marquette, where Pitt lost in overtime at home. Johnson gave Pitt ten points but if you went to the game like I did, you came away thinking he was better than he actually was. He shot only 3-10 in that game, including 1-5 from the field, and basically scored his points because of how many shots he took. Johnson was 3-11 in Pitt's two final games against Syracuse and Wichita State. 3-7 against DePaul. 2-7 against Kennesaw State. A combined 2-7 in back to back early games against Oakland and Michigan. And defensively, Wright remains a far better option. I'm not trying to be hard on him, but he's just had a lot of spotty performances, despite it being a relatively small sample size. I'd keep him off the bench at small forward where he provided a spark off the bench.
The last guy who could see time here is 2013 recruit, Josh Newkirk. He's capable of playing both point or shooting guard, but I really expect that his likely role as backup point guard is going to force him out as a candidate to start at shooting guard. Pitt's got no one (and I mean, no one) behind Robinson at the point and the strain of starting at shooting guard isn't one Jamie Dixon likely will take.
Lots to sort out here, but I think Wright gets the start. That could change with practices before the season begins, but if I'm assessing things right now, that's the most likely option.
We'll pick things back up on Monday with small forward.