Today, we wrap up the rankings of the careers of all of the 67 basketball players ever to suit up for Jamie Dixon. As a reminder, here's the drill. Myself and contributors Aron Minkoff and Jim Hammett ranked each player and our composite results are displayed.
Before we get started, we employed a few main rules here:
1. Only the Pitt portion of a player's career counted - Khem Birch played less than a season with Pitt. While he was a productive college player elsewhere, the fact that he spent so little time with the Panthers showed in our rankings.
2. Only the time a player spent under Dixon counted - A player like Julius Page, for example, would rank higher, but he spent only his senior year under Dixon.
3. Best career, not best player - This isn't about determining the best player under Dixon. It's more about who had the best career at Pitt under Dixon. Steven Adams may be a better basketball player than several of the guys on the list but he only played at Pitt for a year and has certainly developed more in the NBA since then.
Games Played: 72
Year(s) under Dixon: 2007-2009
Cardiac Hill Rankings
Aron Minkoff: 1
Jim Hammett: 1
Anson Whaley: 1
Average Ranking: 1
Before I get into today's post, I wanted to thank Aron who not only put all of our numbers together, but who also wrote the daily posts. He put an unreal amount of time into this to help us get through a really slow time in college sports, so a huge kudos to him. It's not easy to find the time to do the kind of work that he did, so give him your thanks. This was his idea and never would have happened without him.
Aron, Jim, and I didn't agree on everything in our rankings that spanned the last few weeks. But the decision for the top career in the Jamie Dixon era was a unanimous selection as we all chose DeJuan Blair. Obviously, there's going to be some disagreement with our choice, but that's why these things are so cool. It's not that we're right or others are right - it's really about generating discussion.
The case for Sam Young, our No. 2 player, over Blair is a solid one primarily because Young played for four years under Dixon while Blair played only two. As we tried to stress throughout, our rankings were about determining the player with the best career. But in our opinion, a stronger case can be made in Blair's favor despite only hanging around Pitt for two years.
I wanted to take today's post because I had a lot to say on Blair vs. Young. I apologize in advance because while I wanted to focus on Blair, this really turned into a Blair-Young narrative of sorts. I thought it was important to document why Blair was my choice and much of that had to do with things that Young didn't bring to the table.
Jim and Aron surely have their own reasons for picking Blair first, but here are some reasons why I did.
Better All-Around Player
I know, I know - career, not ability. That's true, but this is just one of several reasons that I took into account. Blair wasn't only a better player, he was (in my mind) a significantly better all-around player.
Blair averaged a double-double in his two seasons with the program and Young never had the kind of two-way dominance that he did. As a true freshman, he scored 11.6 points while grabbing 9.1 boards per game. His 337 total boards were fourth in the conference. He became the first Pitt player ever to record 400 points and 300 rebounds as a freshman. He was even better as a sophomore, averaging 15.7 points and 12.3 rebounds per contest. By that time, he was one of the most dominant big men in the entire country.
Defensively, Blair was better, too. His 1.5 steals per game over his career was better than what most guards can muster and a testament to how quick he was and how adept he was at disrupting plays. And the fact that Blair (barely) bested Young in blocks shouldn't be disregarded, either, since he was constantly undersized against his opponents.
It's also noteworthy that he took better care of the ball, too, averaging only 1.6 turnovers per game as opposed to the 2.4 that Young averaged in his final two years. In fact, in Blair's final season where he handled the ball more, his turnovers per game actually decreased and his 1.3 turnovers were more than one fewer per game than Young. Playing on the perimeter, Young is, of course, going to be open to more turnovers. But also consider this - Blair actually averaged slightly more assists than Young did - as a center.
To me, there's no question that Blair was the better all around player, even as a sophomore. but as we stated time and again, these rankings were more about career. So why did we opt for Blair?
Glad you asked - read on.
In only two years, Blair earned enough awards that would make a lot of pros jealous:
- Blair won the Big East's Rookie of the Year Award
- Blair was not only on the nation's All-American Freshman team, but was a unanimous pick
- Blair was the Big East's Co-Player of the Year as a sophomore
- Blair was a prestigious unanimous First Team All-American selection as a sophomore
Simply put, Young never achieved any of that despite having four years to do so. For Blair to accomplish that in his first two years as a collegiate player was borderline superhuman. When you consider a player's career, awards are a huge part of that. Blair's individual success brought the kind of individual national attention that hadn't really been achieved at Pitt since the days of Charles Smith. That leads me to ...
That national attention garnered by Blair was undeniable.
His 12.3 rebounds per game as a sophomore were fourth in the entire nation. In addition to the First Team All-American selection, Blair was also featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in the 2009 season preview edition and was a common name in living rooms everywhere.
Let's be clear here - Blair didn't put Pitt on the map. They were already there and that was in part to what players like Sam Young had achieved earlier. But Blair's individual attention proved that you could be a legit star and even contend for Player of the Year here, really taking Pitt to another level in terms of more attention from better recruits.
That, in part, gave the program a boost and helped make Pitt a 'player' for big men. After Blair's big season, the Panthers landed McDonald's All-American Dante Taylor and five-star centers like Khem Birch and Steven Adams. Blair's play, of course, wasn't the only reason Pitt got those guys (or, in Adams' case, maybe not even much of a reason at all) - but you have to think that throwing Hasheem Thabeet around like a rag doll, dunking on anyone and everyone, and putting up big games on ESPN had some impact. Blair at least proved that Pitt was a place where talented bigs could thrive.
Blair's career really helped push Pitt even more into the spotlight.
Dominated His Position
While Young was a great offensive player, he wasn't in the discussion of being the best at his position as Blair was. Again, Blair wasn't only a First-Team All-American, he was a unanimous pick. Those lineups are mixed of all sorts of positions, but Blair was arguably the top center in the country. By the time he left, Young was known as a very good forward, but at the height of his career as a senior, was still only a third-team All-American, as rated by the AP and Sporting News - Blair was on the first team of three organizations, and second on a fourth. To be considered the best or among the best at his position by the time a player wraps up his career is flat out special.
Young's Four Years
One thing I did want to touch on was the fact that Young played four years to Blair's two. That was definitely a factor in our decision and for me personally, maybe the biggest reason to consider picking Young. But it's worth noting that while Young was certainly a contributor in those first two seasons, he wasn't a star. Few players are right out of the game - but Blair was one of them.
In Young's first two years, he averaged fewer than eight points, four rebounds, and one assist. Really, he was more of a role player in that time. The fact that he was able to contribute anything is a big deal, but it's not as if he was a star for four seasons. He also regressed considerably in his second season, shooting a career-low 45% from the field and also under 60% from the free throw line. He also didn't have the three-point shot, which he developed later in his career, shooting under 27% from that range.
Again, Young was obviously a contributor in his first two seasons and that can't be disputed. But it is worth noting that, like just about everyone else, he really had to grow into his position and definitely had some struggles early on. So while Young certainly gets credit for two more years under Dixon, his seasons weren't so far and away outstanding that they deserve to propel him past Blair, in my opinion.
Blair departed the program for the NBA following his sophomore season and was drafted just one pick behind teammate Sam Young. While he finished just behind Young in the draft, he overtakes him in our rankings.
When you add it all up - the national recognition he brought to the university, the awards, the status as perhaps the best center in the nation, the two-way dominance, the fact he was a better overall player, Blair deserves our top spot for the player with the best career under Jamie Dixon.
Do you agree or disagree? Tell us in the poll and comments below. Before you do that, however, you may want to see all of our picks right up against each other. Here they are.
|1||DeJuan Blair||DeJuan Blair||DeJuan Blair|
|2||Sam Young||Levance Fields||Sam Young|
|3||Ashton Gibbs||Carl Krauser||Carl Krauser|
|4||Carl Krauser||Sam Young||Levance Fields|
|5||Lamar Patterson||Lamar Patterson||Chevon Troutman|
|6||Levance Fields||Brad Wanamaker||Lamar Patterson|
|7||Aaron Gray||Ashton Gibbs||Ashton Gibbs|
|8||Brad Wanamaker||Aaron Gray||Aaron Gray|
|9||Chris Taft||Chevon Troutman||Brad Wanamaker|
|10||Talib Zanna||Gilbert Brown||Chris Taft|
|11||Nasir Robinson||Chris Taft||Gilbert Brown|
|12||Chevy Troutman||Talib Zanna||Steven Adams|
|13||Gilbert Brown||Travon Woodall||Talib Zanna|
|14||Travon Woodall||Ronald Ramon||Julius Page|
|15||Jamel Artis||Nasir Robinson
|16||Michael Young||James Robinson||Travon Woodall|
|17||Ronald Ramon||Michael Young||Michael Young|
|18||Mike Cook||Mike Cook||Jamel Artis|
|19||James Robinson||Jamel Artis||Nasir Robinson|
|20||Cam Wright||Julius Page||Jaron Brown|
|21||J.J. Moore||Jermaine Dixon||James Robinson|
|22||Jaron Brown||Jaron Brown||Gary McGhee|
|23||Julius Page||Steven Adams||Jermaine Dixon|
|24||Jermaine Dixon||Levon Kendall||Ronald Ramon|
|25||Gary McGhee||Gary McGhee||Cam Wright|
|26||Antonio Graves||Dante Taylor||Dante Taylor|
|27||Dante Taylor||J.J. Moore||Tyrell Biggs|
|28||Steven Adams||Antonio Graves||J.J. Moore|
|29||Levon Kendall||Keith Benjamin||Levon Kendall|
|30||Keith Benjamin||Tyrell Biggs||Antonio Graves|
|31||Tyrell Biggs||Cam Wright||Durand Johnson|
|32||Chris Jones||Josh Newkirk||Chris Jones|
|33||Josh Newkirk||Khem Birch||Keith Benjamin|
|34||Durand Johnson||John Johnson||Mark McCarroll|
||Sheldon Jeter||Josh Newkirk|
|36||Mark McCarroll||Durand Johnson||Toree Morris|
|37||Khem Birch||Chris Jones||Trey Zeigler|
|38||John DeGroat||Trey Zeigler||Sheldon Jeter|
|39||Toree Morris||Mark McCarroll||Khem Birch|
|40||Trey Zeigler||Chase Adams||John Johnson|
|41||Ryan Luther||John DeGroat||John DeGroat|
|42||John Johnson||Derrick Randall||J.J. Richardson|
|43||Derrick Randall||Yuri Demetris||Isaiah Epps|
|44||Joseph Uchebo||Joseph Uchebo||Malcolm Gilbert|
|45||Chase Adams||Ryan Luther||Yuri Demetris|
|46||Yuri Demetris||Aron Phillips-Nwankwo||Aron Phillips-Nwankwo|
|47||Aron Phillips-Nwankwo||Cameron Johnson||Ryan Luther|
|48||Cameron Johnson||J.J. Richardson||Dwight Miller|
|49||J.J. Richardson||Doyle Hudson||Chase Adams|
|50||Doyle Hudson||Malcolm Gilbert||Doyle Hudson|
|51||Dwight Miller||Toree Morris||Derrick Randall|
|52||Malcolm Gilbert||Nick Rivers||Joseph Uchebo|
|53||Cassin Diggs||Joshua Ko||Cassin Diggs|
|54||Tim Frye||Cassin Diggs||Cameron Johnson|
|55||Mike Lecak||Isaiah Epps||Ed Turner|
|56||Nick Rivers||Marcus Bowman||Dante Milligan|
|57||Maurice Polen||Ed Turner||Austin Wallace|
|58||Marcus Bowman||Dwight Miller||Tim Frye|
|59||Charles Small||Dante Milligan||Marcus Bowman|
|60||Isaiah Epps||Charles Small||Mike Lecak|
|61||Joshua Ko||Tim Frye||Maurice Polen|
|62||Dante Milligan||Mike Lecak||Joshua Ko|
|63||Ed Turner||Maurice Polen
|64||Austin Wallace||Geoff Rizk||Charles Small|
|65||Geoff Rizk||Austin Wallace||Geoff Rizk|
|66||Ryan Tiesi||Ryan Tiesi||Sean Brown
|67||Sean Brown||Sean Brown||Ryan Tiesi|