After five days of position breakdowns, today we wrap up the brief series on Pitt's basketball roster for this fall. And what better way to end it than with the greatest area of uncertainty - at center.
By all indications, converted power forward Talib Zanna will get the start at center this year. No, not because he's an actual center, rather by default. After initially saying he was sticking around for another year, Pitt's center last year jumped ship to the NBA and was a lottery pick. Dante Taylor, the backup at center, graduated and moved on from the program. And a candidate for playing time this season, Malcolm Gilbert, transferred earlier in the year.
While Adams leaving was a possibility from the start, the Gilbert transfer really threw a monkey wrench into things. Without any other option, head coach Jamie Dixon really doesn't have much choice but to turn to Zanna.
However, while he's expected to start at center, there are a few other factors that could cause a late switch, or at least allow Zanna to rotate between the 4 and the 5 if Dixon so wishes.
Pitt added JUCO transfer Joseph Uchebo into the fold over the summer. Uchebo was sought after in high school and committed to North Carolina State. He left, though, and went the JUCO route. He had a solid year in 2011-12, averaging a double double, but sustained a knee injury last season. It's pretty unclear right now just how ready he is and to make matters even more uncertain, he's not even playing in the Greentree Summer League where fans could get a glimpse of him.
Uchebo is perhaps the biggest question mark on the roster. Not only are we unsure how good he'll stack up against top talent in the ACC, we don't even really know if he's ready to play. The bottom line, though, is that he'll get a chance at minutes if he's healthy simply because Pitt has few options. That's not to say he'll play a ton, but if he's anything more than a cardboard cutout of Jim McIlvaine, it's hard to imagine him not playing right away if he is healthy.
If Uchebo can't play, though, Pitt has a couple other options. One would be Rutgers transfer Derrick Randall, who we discussed in the power forwards yesterday. But there are questions about his ability to play next season as well as he needs a waiver from the NCAA to skip the regular year of sitting out due to a transfer. But if he's around, at 6'9", that's another guy who could play some center.
The other option as it currently exists is incoming freshman Mike Young. Young is really a power forward but again, this could be a move that gets made out of desperation. If Uchebo can't play and Randall doesn't get his waiver, Young would almost have to step in as the backup center. Personally, I'd hate that move - I'm not a big fan of forcing potential stars at their natural position into roles they're not built for. Pitt did it with Dante Taylor and you can make a pretty good case that it hampered his abilities a bit.
One other factor not discussed a lot is that Pitt still has an open scholarship. In all likelihood, they're probably still holding out for a reversal in the Sheldon Jeter decision, but if not, that could be used on a JUCO player or a recruit not yet signed. Thing is, time is running out and obviously, there won't be a lot of options left if Pitt wants to use it this season.
Either way, right now the center spot has a lot of questions.
Missed a previous part in our series? Here are the other four: