Every now and then, I try to keep up with the D-League and the overseas basketball leagues to see what any former Panthers might be doing.
In case you didn't know, three Pitt players found their way onto NBDL rosters this year. Gilbert Brown, who hoped to latch on with the Boston Celtics after going undrafted, caught on with the Fort Wayne, get ready for this, Mad Ants. Gil's doing reasonably well, averaging about 11 points per game in 23 minutes of action. He's also gotten a few starts, but if you check out his game-by-game stats, you'll see he's still got the same problem he had at Pitt - a lack of inconsistency shooting the ball.
Also in the D-League is a slightly older name - Antonio Graves. Graves is still only 26, though, and he's in Ohio playing for the Canton Charge. His numbers are a bit less impressive, but he's still averaging about eight points and a couple of assists and rebounds a game.
But it's Graves' teammate in Canton and a third Pitt Panther that's surprisingly outshining everyone and looking like a potential All-Star.That would be Tyrell Biggs.
Biggs is averaging more than 19 points a game and five rebounds a game. His scoring average places him in the top 20 in the league.
Biggs' offensive prowess is a bit of a surprise. He was only a modest scorer at Pitt and never displayed any great propensity for carrying the team offensively. But he's doing just that with Canton, leading the team in scoring.
So it looks like the Charge knew what they were doing when they took him in the first round of the league's draft in November. Biggs tried out for the team before the draft, but he almost didn't go:
About four days before the Charge held open player tryouts in Canton last month, Tyrell Biggs got a call from General Manager Wes Wilcox, who invited Biggs to make the 7 1/2-hour drive from New York to attend.
“I was actually hesitant at first,” Biggs said. “Do I want to go? It’s far. I had to drive from New York to Ohio.
“That drive was crazy, but I made it and good things came out of it.”
We've heard plenty about Jamie Dixon with the Khem Birch stuff and with the team's struggles this year, but Biggs' coach was clear - playing in a program like Pitt for Dixon helped him get to where he was:
Jensen loves the fact that Biggs played at Pitt for head coach Jamie Dixon and went through Big East battles.
“I always talk about my mindset being the same as the Cavaliers,” Jensen said, referring to the organization’s emphasis on defense. “Tyrell is the same way, playing for Coach Dixon, one of the most successful college coaches in the last decade.
“So when he comes in, he already has that mindset and understands it.”
Now, I took a look back at Biggs during a Bulls' Summer League game a couple of years ago in my pre-SB Nation days (while taking the team's unis to task, no less) and he was nothing spectacular, barely getting a look on the court. But he seems to have improved and, really, that's what the NBDL is all about. The league did a great job getting that started because it gives players like Biggs a chance to get better while playing against some pretty good competition. I don't know if his strong numbers will give him a shot at making Cleveland's roster, but he's clearly in a better shot than he was a few years ago.