Pitt basketball head coach Jamie Dixon was dealt a blow this week when it was announced sixth man Durand Johnson would be out for the season with an ACL injury. Johnson had been the Panthers' best scorer off the bench and there was a lot of speculation on who would get his minutes.
As expected, Dixon said that one guy alone wouldn't be called upon ... several will get more playing time:
“The four freshmen are going to be playing more, given the situation,” Dixon said. “They don't have to change what they're doing. What they're doing is fine. They'll be out there longer, for longer periods of time, but no one has to reinvent themselves.”
Redshirt freshman Chris Jones (2.6 points per game) and newcomers Mike Young (6.1), Jamel Artis (4.7) and Josh Newkirk (3.8) should benefit from increased playing time, depending on whether Pitt wants to employ a guard-oriented lineup or go big with more forwards.
That's pretty much what most reasonable people have said. When word of the injury broke, my general thought was that unless one person stepped up and really played so well that they deserved the bulk of the minutes, that Pitt could rely on several players depending on what was needed at any given time.
I wouldn't take Dixon's comment about that completely at face value. If someone like Jamel Artis or Josh Newkirk stepped up and really outplayed the other bench players, my guess is that they'd play more over the others. But in general, I think we'll see those minutes get spread out as Dixon suggests.
In essence, it's all going to come down to what Pitt needs at any given time. If they're playing a quicker, more athletic team, that should mean more time for Newkirk and/or Jones. If it's size and rebounding needed more, a guy like Artis likely gets on the court more.
One of our readers, PittGuy, pointed out recently that the starters actually got more time in the Georgia Tech game and that's an option as well, obviously. Part of it could be that since it was the first game, that needed to happen while Dixon figured out what he wanted to do, but that could be an option going forward as well. I like that approach, but stretching the freshmen out a little bit wouldn't hurt, either. Not only does it give the starters a little more rest, but it also helps give the young guys more experience - something that will be helpful when the team prepares for the postseason.