Earlier, we previewed Lamar Patterson in advance of Thursday's NBA Draft. While his teammate Talib Zanna looks to have a considerably less chance of being selected, he still deserved a look.
Like Patterson, Zanna entered his senior year with a lot to prove. He never had lived up to the hype after a lot of fans got excited by a few performances early on in his career. But while Zanna didn't have a monster season, he finally seemed to take a considerable step forward.
For the first time, he averaged in double figures in scoring with 13.0 points per game and his 8.6 rebounds easily led the team. No one else even had five and with Mike Young's disappearing acts on the glass at times, Zanna really had to lead the way. He played more minutes, which would understandably lead to some increases, but he was also more efficient, making a career high 58.6% of his shots from the field.
And while Zanna didn't lead the team as much as Patterson did, he certainly had his moments. There was the big 19-point, 10-rebound game against Fresno State in his first game of the year. And his 23 points and 14 rebounds against Lehigh in only 25 minutes were reminiscent of some of his dominant Greentree Summer League performances where he took home MVP honors.
Zanna also posted 11 double doubles this year, narrowly missing seven others by only a single rebound in each game. Really, it's safe to say that he practically had double doubles 50% of the time.
What really stands out, too, was the way he showed up in some of Pitt's biggest games. He had 22 points and nine rebounds in a tough road win against Georgia Tech. He had double doubles against Syracuse and Duke. In a rematch against the Orange, he had another one, contributing 16 points and 14 rebounds. He had a video game-like performance against North Carolina in the ACC Tournament with 19 points and 21 rebounds that left Roy Williams pretty impressed afterwards.
Zanna didn't always come up big for Pitt this year and at times, I've criticized his infamous hands of stone. But overall, like Patterson, I think he did a little more than was expected.
In terms of his NBA prospects, things look pretty bleak in terms of being selected. And at 6'9", Zanna will almost certainly have to revert back to being a power forward instead of a center at the next level. There are a few things working in his favor, though.
For starters, he was a power forward most of his career and playing the position in the pros won't be anything new to him. In addition, Zanna has been working on developing a consistent jump shot and if this video is any indication of his progress, he's doing pretty good in that regard.
Lastly, the big man has been working out for a slew of teams, as his trainer indicated to us. If nothing else, Zanna has been drawing a considerable amount of interest from prospective teams.
Like Patterson, being drafted may be somewhat of a long shot - but never say never. When someone gets that many workouts in, you never know if he impressed one of them enough to take a flyer on him late in the second round so they don't have to compete with numerous other teams for him as a free agent.
But even if he isn't selected, you can expect to see him along with Patterson in the NBA's Summer League.
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