The Pitt men's basketball team took to the floor of the Petersen Events Center on Tuesday in preparation for their trip to the Bahamas and I had a chance to attend. As reported by Anson on Monday, Pitt will face four teams in five days while staying at the Atlantis Resort.
The team practiced for over two hours in what was a fast-paced and animated practice. Missing from practice was new coach Marlon "Smoke" Williamson who is on a recruiting trip.
This was our first chance to see all of the Panthers on one court, and one thing became clear from the beginning - this is not the same Panthers team that won Big East championships. There is no dominant big man that the offense runs through (Taft, Gray, Blair). This is an incredibly talented team, however, that is two-deep at each position.
With the Panthers having so much depth it is impossible to cover everything from practice in one article. This article will focus on the guards, while the other two posts will focus on the forwards and big men.
The Panthers practiced breaking a full-court press, something that ACC teams like to do, and they have struggled with. The only player that is capable of really breaking the press is Josh Newkirk. Newkirk's pure speed and acceleration give him an extra step on almost every defender.
Newkirk looked like an all-around much better player at practice than he was in his freshman year. He is a little stronger and his shot has developed nicely. He is still exceptionally weak at finishing at the hoop, nothing that cannot be worked on before the season starts.
James Robinson's shot is on the rise. He looked just about the same as he always has - nothing flashy, nothing extra special, just an all-around smart offensive player.
When Newkirk and Robinson were matched up though, Newkirk looked to be the better of the two guards. The two matched up with each other during the team's five on five scrimmage at the end of practice. Robinson's team ran a more conservative half-court offense, while Newkirk's was a fast-paced, run-and-gun style.
Coach Dixon switched around the players that played with both Robinson and Newkirk in order to get them accustomed to playing both styles of offense. It would not surprise me to see Newkirk earn a significant increase in minutes to the detriment of Robinson's minutes.
At the shooting guard slot, Cameron Wright, the senior-leader, looks to be the same type of player that he was last season. He will be relied upon to guide the team through late-game situations and had a nice looking shot.
Cam Johnson seems headed towards a redshirt this season. He is a talented slasher, but with there being many other players on the team worthy of minutes, it is hard to find a reason to play him.