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2014-15 Pitt Basketball Previews: Jamel Artis

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Sophomore Jamel Artis looks to build upon momentum from his freshman year.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport
Aron did an admirable job in filling with the preseason player reviews for the basketball team. I'll be taking over for the remainder of the series. Today, I give you Jamel Artis.

Name: Jamel Artis
Position: Forward

Class: Sophomore

2013-14 Stats: 4.9 PPG, 2.9 RPG

Overview
Artis averaged just over 15 minutes per game last season and by all means had a pretty successful freshman campaign. He is a part of a sophomore class that has potential to be one of the most dominant classes in school history but is often considered a bit of a third wheel due to the success of both Mike Young and Josh Newkirk. Transfer Sheldon Jeter, also in the sophomore class, is another guy expected to take some of the limelight away from Artis. If last year was any indication, though, Artis will be a key contributor to the team.

Interestingly enough, he had perhaps his two best games of the year against two of Pitt's bigger opponents - North Carolina and Virginia. He had seven rebounds in each game and those were the only two times all year he got into double figures in scoring. As he did in those games, he gave the team a real spark off the bench.

Strengths
Artis can help Pitt stretch the floor and, as I wrote about last year, he was actually one of the best jump shooters on the team (more on that in a bit). His ability to knock down shots away from the basket is one of his best characteristics and he should be able to lure bigger defenders out of the paint. This, in turn, helps clear things out a little to allow guys to drive to the basket.

He has the ability to bail out any one of Pitt's forwards and can really play a big role for the Panthers off the bench. Artis is really active on offense and kind of a glue guy of sorts. Along with Durand Johnson and Josh Newkirk, he was one of the guys who really provided a spark off the bench.

I made the comparison to Nasir Robinson last year and if Artis continues trending upwards, he could even surpass Nas, who averaged 10.6 points and 6.5 rebounds during his final season. Artis' points and rebounds per minute from his freshman season weren't that far off from what Robinson produced as a senior.

Weaknesses
One of Artis' biggest flaws was his work around the basket last year. In that article about best jump shooters linked above, I mentioned that Artis' rate in connecting on jump shots (52.6%) was practically the same as it was on shots around the rim (52.1%). For a forward, that really makes little sense and we all got frustrated in seeing him miss easy buckets last season.

While he is a good shooter, he has his limitations. Artis took 27 three-pointers last year, which may have been a tad too many considering he connected on fewer than 30% of them. He ranked near the bottom of the team among regulars and needs to improve his shot from long range.

Defensively, Artis isn't a liability. But he could improve there as well and gets his hand in passing lanes a bit more. For as much as Artis was on the court, he really should have produced more than the meager six steals he did all year - a number topped even by Derrick Randall and Durand Johnson, despite those guys not playing nearly as much as Artis did.

Conclusion
Artis will be a contributor to the team, but it's still a bit unclear just where he fits in and how much he'll be relied upon. Jeter could take some of his minutes and if Mike Young remains at power forward, we could see even less of Artis. Overall, however, he's a very solid player that's active on the offensive end.

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