Pitt continued its undefeated start against itself with the second intrasquad scrimmage of the preseason on Sunday at the Peterson Events Center.
First, I'd like to say I love the Maggie Dixon Heart Fair. It's a great event for families, and promotes good heart health with screenings and other info sessions. Not to mention Coach Dixon and the players are there to sign autographs and take pictures as well. It's named after Coach's Dixon's sister Maggie Dixon, and I recommend going in the future if you've never been. If you don't know her story, I highly suggest you read about it here.
This scrimmage marked the return of redshirt junior Durand Johnson after he tore his ACL during last year's game against Wake Forest. For him to not only be back for the start of the season but even earlier is great. He had seven fouls and definitely looks like he's still getting back in the swing of things, but he moved very well and had a couple nice jumpers. He'll be a big part of the rotation this year. He finished with seven points, including a three-pointer.
Easily the player of the game was sophomore Mike Young (20 points, six rebounds). He didn't do anything terribly flashy but it was one of the games you look up and realize he had more points than you probably expected. Young had a good mix of some jumpers and easy baskets. Just like last year, he was very good with free throws, which is good because the way he plays he will get fouled a lot this year.
Junior James Robinson seems to have finally lost the little bit of extra weight he had been hanging on to the last couple years. He's a slimmer, faster, and more aggressive player. To me, there's no question he's the best guard on the team overall, and he got some scoring done with 15 points to go along with seven assists. Robinson had a hand-in-the-face three-pointer, and was driving to the basket often.
I can't believe I'm about to type this, but Joseph Uchebo could very well be the starting center this year. He finished with 12 points and seven rebounds. For those that don't know, he had a severe knee injury coming into Pitt that many were not sure he'd recover from. He's very much slimmed down, and moves much much better than he did last year. There are times you can tell he's not running 100%, but he still makes plays. He's a decent defender, great passer, and has some offensive moves too. My only concern is he can maybe jump a solid six inches off the floor. He works very hard though, and will give other centers fits trying to play against him.
RS Sophomore Chris Jones will demand some time at the 2/3 spot this year. After getting surgery on his injured hand, he looks good. Can shoot and drive well. He finished with 10 points including two three pointers.
Sophomore forward Jamel Artis had nine points, moved well, and had a three-pointer. He looks about the same as he did last year (which is a good thing, he was great). He'll contribute this year.
I was slightly disappointed with sophomore guard Josh Newkirk. He didn't stick out very much. I've always felt he'd be a nice scoring option to compliment Robinson's passing. Hopefully he was just a little off.
Junior transfer Sheldon Jeter disappeared a little, but had some great dunks at a few points in the game. He's athletic, and hopefully can find a way to score some points.
Freshman Cameron Johnson, who's probably the more surprising recruit of this year's class, may not redshirt. He's a deadly three-point shooter, and isn't afraid of contact. He really needs to add muscle and weight though. He still looks like he's getting used to his body a little bit.
Freshman Ryan Luther is a definite redshirt. Luther didn't do anything particularly impressive but you can see some talent and potential.
Junior transfer Tyrone Haughton was probably the least impressive. He has a great athletic body, but it's clear he's still learning the system and the right places to be which is to be expected having only gotten to Pitt at the beginning of August.
Senior Derrick Randall collided with James Robinson early in the game and did not return. I suspect it was an ankle sprain, and hopefully not serious.
Obviously Cameron Wright did not play as he is still recovering from his broken foot. Best guess is December for his return.
I've learned to never try to make projections about Pitt basketball this early (good or bad). I do think this is an NCAA Tournament team, and will be a contender in the ACC. If I had to pick a starting 5 right now, I'd probably go Robinson, Jones, Artis, Young, and Uchebo. They'd have some great players off the bench just with Newkirk and Durand Johnson, not to mention Sheldon Jeter.
Pitt Basketball's next event is their Spike and Slam Madness Event at the Fitzgerald Field House. This should be a fun event, and Pitt will have a couple recruits on hand including Isaiah Moss, Rozelle Nix, and Kain Harris.