The Pitt basketball program held a media session recently and while there wasn't any earth-shattering news to come out of it, there were a few things worth mentioning.
First, the team appears to be pretty healthy after dealing with all of the injuries over the summer. Nearly half the team, including James Robinson, Sterling Smith, Chris Jones, Cameron Johnson, Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, and the now-departed Josh Newkirk all were on the operating table this offseason. Rafael Maia also had several injuries to deal with and is the one guy according to head coach Jamie Dixon that isn't quite ready to go yet.
"The one guy, Rafael Maia, hasn't been able to go, but I think he's going to be able to go tomorrow. He's had three different injuries since the time he's arrived. Hamstring, fractured thumb and turf toe. I don't know how you manage to get turf toe when you haven't been practicing but he's managed to pull that off."
The other thing I got from this was that the positions, while defined, will be very much fluid. For example, James Robinson will of course be the team's point guard, but several other guys will play there as well in addition to shooting guard responsibilities.
"Damon will play some point. Chris was a possibility. Mike Lecak has played some. Sterling Smith will play some, and Jonathan Milligan as well. We've got some options, and we'll look at them, but we anticipate James being our guy.
The big men will also rotate, seemingly between power forward and center. In addition to Mike Young talking about moving back to power forward, Dixon offered this:
We want our bigs to be a little more interchangeable this year so we can do a combination of things offensively and defensively."
All of that said, the point guard thing is kind of a non-factor to me if Robinson stays healthy. His minutes have steadily increased during his time at Pitt and last year, he played nearly 34 minutes a game. If Robinson stays out of foul trouble and doesn't have injury issues, we're probably talking about five minutes per night here.
The big man thing could be a little different. Young is getting an opportunity to play power forward based on any combination of new guys, such as Maia, Ododa-Nelson, and Nix being able to man the center spot. Personally, as I've mentioned before, I expect someone to pan out there. But if not, we could see more of Young there as well as several guys rotating back and forth between the two spots. Young's spot at the four will depend almost entirely on if Pitt can get competent play in the middle.
Paul Zeise of the PG also has a tentative depth chart and said the team will play a closed scrimmage against a major program. That game will take the place of the second scrimmage the Panthers are forgoing this year. I mentioned somewhere earlier that the team playing only one scrimmage was a difference from previous years. But what I didn't know then was that they were planning the closed scrimmage. That will be helpful as the team opens up with a stiff test in Gonzaga.
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