Earlier this year, there was quite a bit of discussion after some comments made by Pitt forward Jamel Artis about possibly playing point guard for the team this season. Head coach Kevin Stallings not only reiterated that, but also says Artis is actually the favorite to win that job:
Kevin Stallings told @CBSSports that Jamel Artis is currently the favorite to be Pitt's starting point guard this season.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) September 26, 2016
Artis playing point isn’t surprising news since that was stated back in July. But this is the first I’ve seen of Stallings saying he’s the leader to win that job.
Now, how much he plays there is up for debate. Stallings, in fact, said recently that he would play ‘some’ point guard.
Pitt, of course, lost long-time starter James Robinson to graduation this past season and needs a replacement. There are options, such as sophomore Damon Wilson and upperclassman Jonathan Milligan. In addition, there’s Crisshawn Clark and incoming freshman Justice Kithcart. But the one thing Artis in that spot would allow is for the Panthers’ to field a bigger lineup. Pitt could even conceivably have a massive backcourt if they decided to start Cameron Johnson at shooting guard. I’m not sure that happens with Chris Jones there, but you get my point. Some combination of Artis, Jones/Johnson, and say, Sheldon Jeter, Ryan Luther, and Michael Young, gives the team quite a bit of height.
It’s going to be interesting how this shakes out. One concern of mine was that Artis could lose some of his scoring focus, which has been crucial for the team at times, if he’s worried about running the offense. But perhaps that’s made up for with the development of guys like Johnson and Luther. In addition, Stallings said in that linked Trib article that he wants Artis to be a ‘scoring’ point guard and not just setting up players/running the offense. That gives me some form of confidence in knowing that Stallings realizes how important he is as a scorer.
Also keep in mind that this is something that could help Artis’ draft stock. Currently, he’s more of a fringe guy as an undrafted free agent, but a bit year could easily vault him into the second round. Don’t forget, Lamar Patterson was completely off the radar before his senior season when he worked his way into the NBA Draft. If Artis is able to show off his ballhandling and playmaking abilities, that will give scouts another reason to keep him on their radar. He wouldn’t be a point guard in the NBA but those abilities would help him get noticed.
Again, we’ll have to wait and see how this all shakes out. At the very least, it sounds as if Stallings is planning on shaking things up quite a bit with an established roster.
Something to watch for the upcoming season.