So I stumbled upon this Jamie Dixon Q&A from Scout. There's the typical stuff in there - his thoughts on Pitt's upcoming trip to Ireland, practices, and the new version of the NCAA Tournament. But buried near the bottom was this nugget, when asked how Gary McGhee and Dante Taylor were progressing:
"Gary, is easily the best center we’ve ever had, defensively. That’s half the game right there. That can’t be underestimated..."
Go ahead, let's hear it. Let it all out. Done laughing yet? Well the fact is when you go through Pitt's roster of centers since Dixon or even Howland has been there, who was really a better defender? I'm not the biggest McGhee supporter in the world and I think all this talk about him dominating the summer league has elevated him to a stauts that, frankly, I don't think he belongs in. He's a fine center who has without question gotten better, but no superstar.
If you can get past the bobbles with the ball, the somewhat awkward-looking footwork, and the occasional misses from close-range, you'll find a competent and very sound defensive center. And his ability to defend without fouling is amazing. Consider this - he didn't foul out of a single game last year and reached four fouls only twice. He averaged just over two fouls per game, but was physical enough to average almost two blocks a game. How many starting centers can say that? Plus, no other center in the Howland/Dixon era topped his 1.7 blocks per game that he achieved last season.
Here's the lineup of true starting centers in the Howland/Dixon era:
DeJuan Blair - Clearly the best of the past decade and a pretty good defender. His rebounding ability was unbelievable, but as far as being a face up defender, I give McGhee the edge over him. Blair's phsyical play sometimes led to foul trouble, which forced him to the bench. His shorter frame also allowed taller players to shoot over him.
Aaron Gray - I don't know if there's any other adjective to more adequately describe him than 'good.' He was a solid Big East center, and improved greatly over his time. But I think McGhee is a little quicker on his feet and better defensively than Gray was.
Toree Morris and Ontario Lett aren't even in the discussion.
Gary McGhee may not be Pitt's best center and may not play in the NBA as Blair and Gray currently are. He also hasn't shown the ability to score or rebound as well as either yet. But as a man-to-man defender, while at Pitt, he may be the best the school has seen in the past decade.