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Pitt at the PBC Pro-Am Summer League

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The last time I saw Sheldon Jeter was at the NCAA Tournament in Orlando, where he was wide-eyed while watching the Panthers during their shoot-around before their second-round game against Colorado.
Jeter looked like a kid window-shopping outside a storefront.
When I saw Jeter Monday night at the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am Summer League, now at Montour, he looked like someone who is finally fitting in with not only an NCAA-caliber team but one in his hometown.
* Mike Young is much trimmer, and his back is better for it.
Young said he arrived at 250 pounds as a freshman, and a fracture in his back caused discomfort during the season. It didn’t require surgery, so Young has taken some steps to reduce stress on his lower back.
He has grown to 6-9 ½ and now weighs 229 pounds, down 16 from his playing weight last season. He said he is down to nine percent body fat, and looks like a much leaner version of himself.
“I lost weight and have been stretching and working on my legs,” Young said. “I’ve been doing hot yoga. The first few times, I had to get used to the heat. It’s 105 degrees. It helps get me sweating so I have shed a lot of weight, and it helps me stretching.”
Here’s an even bigger development: Young expects to play center next season, even at a lighter weight. And he’s OK with that, acknowledging that he’s the tallest player on the roster (except for Joseph Uchebo, who has a bum knee) and, according to Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, was the team’s best post defender last season.
“Coach already has been changing the offense,” Young said, “so the ‘four’ and the ‘five’ are interchangeable.”
* If you know anything about Jamie Dixon, it’s that he puts very little stock in these summer league games. They are designed for his players to get a chance to play against some good competition but they are nothing but glorified pick-up games.
“It’s just fun,” Dixon said. “I think it gives them a different look. We’re working out during the day. I get to see my guys play against different guys.”
This is why I don’t pay much attention to the Pro-Am statistics, though they can be telling. For instance, Sheldon Jeter scored 17 points and had 10 rebounds, which amounts to a nice debut.
But he also was 1 of 8 from 3-point range, which makes you wonder if his mindset has changed at all from high school, when he went 0-for-10 on 3-pointers in the 2012 PIAA Class AA final. If Jeter is going to make an impact at Pitt, it’s probably going to be as a stretch-four.
The surprise of the night was freshman Cameron Johnson, the late spring signee out of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. He scored 15 of his team’s first 21 points and finished with 24 points on 9 of 16 shooting (4 of 9 from 3), and looked smooth doing so. He graduated from OLSH a few weeks early so he could enroll at Pitt on May 12, and has already added 11 pounds to his wiry 6-foot-7 frame. Whether he cracks the lineup this season or takes a redshirt, Johnson might have been a steal.
* Remember this: The player who had the biggest impact on the Panthers last season, Lamar Patterson, missed most of the Pro-Am with a bothersome knee. The player who was the biggest surprise, Cameron Wright, missed some games because of a conflict with classes. Then again, the MVP of the league was Talib Zanna, who carried over that confident play into a strong performance in the ACC last season.
As of right now, Pitt’s starting lineup should like this: junior James Robinson at point guard, fifth-year senior Cameron Wright at shooting guard, redshirt sophomore Chris Jones at small forward, sophomore Jamel Artis at power forward and Young at center.
That would leave sophomore Josh Newkirk as the first guard off the bench. Durand Johnson, who is recovering from a torn ACL and won’t be ready until at least August, also is expected to be a scorer off the bench. Jeter can play either forward position. And Derrick Randall should get minutes at center.
That leaves three players – freshmen Cameron Johnson and Ryan Luther and junior center Joseph Uchebo – vying to crack the rotation. Johnson and Luther are candidates to redshirt, although one or both could get playing time if they show they are ready or someone is injured.
Tyrone Haughton, the junior-college center from Iowa Western, still needs to finish a class to become eligible and is missing valuable time working out with the team this summer. And it doesn’t appear that Shaquille Doorson, the 7-footer from the Netherlands who signed last fall, is in the team’s plans anymore.
Both players were recruited by former Pitt assistant Barry Rohrssen, who left for Kentucky.
* Some notes from my conversation with Dixon.
Dixon said new assistant coach Marlon “Smoke” Williamson, hired last week to replace Rohrssen, “is going to do a great job.”
“We’ve had a lot of great assistants,” said Dixon, who has seen staffers Joe Lombardi (IUP), Tom Herrion (Marshall), Pat Skerry (Towson) and Mike Rice (Robert Morris) get head-coaching jobs, “and I think he’s going to be another one.”
James Robinson is at a Nike point guard camp in New Jersey, so he missed the opening of the Pro-Am. Durand Johnson also won’t play in the Pro-Am this summer because of his knee injury. Not sure why Cameron Wright did not play Monday night, but he missed games last year because of a conflict with classes.
Pitt will play overseas this summer, taking advantage of an NCAA rule that allows teams to do so once every four years. The Panthers will play in the Bahamas Aug. 1-7, with the key being that allows them to practice 10 times prior to the trip and while they are away.
“We did it for Ireland and had 10 days but this is only seven,” Dixon said. “With Ireland, we didn’t have eight weeks of (summer) workouts with the guys.”
Dixon said the Bahamas has “become the place to go,” and he decided on going there after getting positive feedback in discussions with Louisville coach Rick Pitino and North Carolina coach Roy Williams.
“They said it’s really good,” Dixon said. “It’s the simplest trip. As you can see, 13 teams are doing it. We finish summer school early, so we will be the first team to play. The teams there will be somewhat fresh. It’s not the ACC, but… it’s a reward for our four All-ACC Academic guys and finishing in the top 10 percent of the APR.”

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Author: Kevin Gorman

Kevin Gorman is an award-winning sports columnist who also covers Pitt men's basketball for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Gorman, 40, joined the Tribune-Review in August 1999 and has been a sports columnist since September 2009. He won Pennsylvania Newspaper Association first-place awards for sports columns in 2011 and '12, and has covered the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup Final twice each, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the Rose, Citrus and Sun bowls and the Big East and NCAA basketball tournaments. Gorman spent three years as the Pitt football beat writer and seven years covering high school sports and recruiting, and also has served as color analyst for FSN Pittsburgh/Root Sports on the WPIAL football and basketball championships and as guest analyst for its Trib Total Media High School Edition and hosts a TribLIVE Sports Radio show from 2-3 p.m. every Friday. He has worked at newspapers in Memphis, Phoenix, Dallas and Kansas City, which makes him something of an expert on barbecue and sunscreen. A graduate of Baldwin High School and Penn State University, Gorman has a son, Kieran, and comes from a large Irish-Catholic family whose roots are in Greenfield and Mt. Washington. Don’t be surprised if you run into one of his cousins; considering there are more than 100, be surprised if you don’t.

 
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