Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why Pitt basketball will be better next season

1.  The absence of Ashton Gibbs-  I hate that it has to come to this, but his career did not have the great ending that everybody hoped for.  I don't care if he is averaging a team high 16.7 ppg, or is making 39.8% of the his threes and 85.4% of his free throws.  Those are just statistics.  Pitt is not about statistics.  Pitt is about leadership, toughness, consistency, and heart.  Gibbs showed little of any of those traits.  In the offseason I was told that Gibbs really wanted out of college and when he was told he wasn't good enough to get into the NBA, he sulked and pouted.  Unfortunately that continued into the season.  When he was on, he was the Gibbs of old.  When things didn't go his way, he moped, complained, and failed to show the leadership that a senior, and best player on the team should display.  He would even refuse to talk to the media after games sometimes, something a true leader would never do.

Bottom line, many can't grasp that losing a player with Gibbs' statistical output could be a good thing, but every year in sports a team loses a player with great stats only to become better.  Stats aren't everything.  Teamwork, chemistry, leadership, and heart is what wins in any sport, and even more so in Pitt basketball.  Without those traits, three pointers will mean nothing in the end.  And Gibbs did not have those traits this season.

2.  The absence of Nasir Robinson-  This is not the same as Gibbs.  Robison is what he is, and what he truly is, is not a starting power forward in the Big East. The fact that he was for two seasons is the fault of Jamie Dixon, not Robinson.  There is a place for Robinson on any team.  He works hard, has talent, and has heart.  But he was woefully overmatched as a 6'5" (at best) power forward in a league as good as the Big East.  He would best serve the team coming off the bench where his enthusiasm and passion would give the team a spark.

Robinson was forced to play the four because of the failure of Talib Zanna, Dante Taylor, and Khem Birch to seize the position.  Birch's departure has been well documented, but Zanna and Taylor are true centers in Pitt's system.  Dixon likes his power forwards to be mobile and good passers.  Perfect examples are Levon Kendall, Chevon Troutman, and for awhile, Sam Young.  Zanna and Taylor, while not bad players, are not ideal fours for Pitt.  Unfortunately Dixon's inability to find a quality four means either Zanna or Taylor will have to be the starting four next season. They will still get minutes at center but will finally be forced to play more at the four because of...

3.  The arrival of Steven Adams-  Trust me when I tell you, unless Adams totally looks lost as a freshman, and that's doubtful, he will only be at Pitt for one season.  That doesn't mean he will average 20 points and 10 rebounds for Pitt as a freshman.  In fact, it may be more like 10 points and 8 rebounds a game.  But his value will go well beyond just his stats.  There's a reason why every basketball team in history does their best to get 7'0" tall players, why they get drafted in the first round despite mediocre production, and why they get paid tens of millions of dollars in the NBA even if they aren't all-stars.

A player of Adams' size and talent has a trickle down effect on every teammate who is on the floor with him.  On either end of the floor, Adams will have to be accounted for and game planned for because he will cause terrible matchup problems.  With such attention on him, the rest of the team gets more freedom.  Suddenly, when a player drives, the low post defender assigned to Adams can't leave him because he knows a quick pass to Adams would be a guaranteed two points.  Defenses would also have to collapse on Adams meaning perimeter shooters will have an extra second to get off a shot.  On defense, he will control the paint.  No player in the league will be strong enough to push him out of there.  A Panthers defender gets beat on the perimeter and gets into the lane?  Well, good luck because the next person you will run into is an athletic 7'0" monster.  Those are things that won't show up in the box score, but will win Pitt games.

4.  The arrival of James Robinson-  The 6'3" point guard won't begin the season as a starter, and may not be a starter all season unless he pushes Tray Woodall to the two, but make no mistake about it, Robinson will play a lot next season.  And that's great news for Pitt.  Physically and mentally strong, Robinson is the true point guard that the Panthers have missed since Levance Fields graduated.  When he steps on the floor for the first time, he will already be the best defender and ball handler of any guard on the roster.  He is not a great athlete, but he was born to be a quarterback on the basketball court, and when things get iffy at the end of the game, or when the defensive pressure is about to sink the Panthers, look for him to have the ball in his hands.  There are plays at the end of a game that don't show up in the statistics, but are the difference between winning and losing.  The Pitt teams of recent years made those plays.  The current Panthers have not.  Robinson will help to bring that skill back.

5.  The continued development of Lamar Patterson-  I know a lot of Pitt fans don't have faith in Patterson but as a redshirt sophomore he is actually a pretty good player already, and he should only get better. His defense is lacking, and he has to get better at that facet of his game, but he can score in the paint and from beyond the arc, he can pass, and he can rebound.  In fact, despite being only 6'5", he is probably more of the Pitt type of four than Zanna or Taylor.  But assuming he stays at the three, the inside presence of Adams, combined with the departure of the Panthers two top scorers, could mean Patterson becomes a much bigger part of the offense.  In fact, I don't think it's crazy to see him perhaps getting 12-15 ppg, combined with his excellent passing and rebounding.

6.  Better ball protection-  The Panthers success over the last decade was not because they were more talented, it was because they were more efficient.  A major part of that efficiency was not giving the ball away.  That changed this season.  Woodall was the biggest culprit and he will be the main ball handler again next season.  But as I previously stated, it's likely that Robinson will handle a good portion of the ball handing next season, and he protects the ball with his life.  The next two biggest culprits are Robinson and Gibbs, and both will be gone.  John Johnson has also been adept at protecting the ball and as of now he will be the starting two.

7.  Better defense-  This one is simple.  Neither Gibbs nor Robinson were even mediocre defensively while Adams and Robinson are both excellent defensively.  The very fact that Pitt will have a center and a point guard who are excellent defenders will go a long way in making the entire defense better.

Summary-  Don't get me wrong.  I'm saying that the Panthers are guaranteed to be a top ten team again next year.  But I do think they will be an NCAA team again.  That may sound crazy considering the two top scorers are graduating, but there is much more to basketball than scoring.  I don't mean to continue to dump on Gibbs and Robinson, but because they are the two main players on this team, this season was doomed from the beginning.  Gibbs was a very good player for three years, but he checked out last year.  Robinson was overmanned.  Neither can play defense, neither are highly talented athletically, and neither  are vocal leaders.  That's not who you want leading your team.  And in basketball, where there are only five players on the floor at once, two players can make a big difference.

Who will be the new leaders?  That's the question.  Woodall, Patterson, and Taylor are probably the best bets, but it remains to be seen.  Adams and Robinson have the charisma that true leaders have but they will be freshmen.  And the team is still without an ideal shooting guard or power forward so that's another problem.

But Pitt is always a perfect example of the phrase "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts".  A seven footer here, a tough ball handler there, a little more experience throughout, and a chance to regroup with a much better attitude.  Put it all together and I think the Panthers are a top 25 team again.

66 comments:

  1. Regarding Gibbs...
    I think you are spot on.. Perhaps that is who Khem Birch was speaking about..
    Anyway, when I watched games, it seem many don't want to take a shot... passing up open looks or not driving to the basket.. seems they are always looking to pass to Gibbs and have him take the shot.
    Apparently he may be sulking.. he is NOT NBA quality... and he was trying to get his stats up and the players (and Dixon) were trying to help Gibbs is cause to the NBA instead of winning games.

    It's well known John Johnson is not fond of Gibbs since the summer league in Greentree and vice versa.

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    1. What happened in the summer league

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    2. They went at each other...
      John Johnson was a star at the summer league.. I think voted MVP... and Gibbs sulked about it.
      If you noticed with John Johnson and Gibbs are on the floor... John takes shot.. pisses off gibbs.

      I think Dixon said, John Johnson never saw a shot he didn't want to take..

      pk, you should check out Greentree in the summer...
      it's free and not much seating so you are up front and personal... allows you to see the upcoming players before the season. I go every summer when I'm in town.

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    3. I cant figure out how to post my own response...

      anyway, Dokish, you do great work here! ...but, i think Adams will be here for 2 yrs..he needs a lot of work.

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    4. Most kids who leave early for the NBA needs a lot of work, but the NBA feels it's better to get that work in the league rather than in college. It's not like the NFL where if you're not ready your stock drops. In the NBA, if you are 7'0" tall and can move and have skills like Adams, they don't care if you're developed. They just want you. The only thing that will stop Adams from going to the NBA after his freshman year is Adams himself. If he wants to stay in college one more year because he enjoys playing there, or something like that. That does happen sometimes.

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    5. Very good point! Honestly, thank you for your hard work here..

      Lets get this Brawl started, HAIL.

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  2. Great report Chris and I agree with everything - I DO think that by the end of next year, we might be a real force to deal with.

    I can't wait to see Gibbs go - this is the classical addition by subtraction as you mention above - not nearly as happy that Nasir will be going too but, his ....everything except toughness is just a liability.

    I expect John Johnson to do well next year - JJ Moore, we just keep waiting - Gilbert Brown didn't really come on until his senior year so, maybe there's hope yet for him.

    I'm liking Zanna more and more with each game but, Dante just doesn't have it for whatever reason.

    I think we make a very serious run in the NCAA's next year!

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  3. Chris, since we're in the midst of a lost season can you run down the entire roster of next years team and what you would expect to see...not necessarily what you want to see.

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  4. I also agree with everything you wrote and will add this thought- Pitt's 4s and 5s (across the board) can't effectively pick and roll or pick and pop. This kills JD's offense. Nas, Dante, Zanna all have the skillset of a 5 and consistently mangle perfectly executed pick and roll opportunities. I me, this needs addressed more than any other aspect of this team.

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  5. Doke - You are wise. However unless Robinson is a great shooter, Pitt will not have any outside game. Also, with the exception of DeJuan, Dixon does not play freshmen very much. So it is doubful that 2 of them can make a big impact at the same time.

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  6. I completely agree regarding Lamar Patterson. Two years ago he entered the game vs. Texas and as a true freshman, hit two big 3's to tie the game in the second half. I didn't think he'd be a light's out shooter, but he really showed moxie in the way he handled himself in that game, versus what was at the time, a top-5 team. He has that "it" factor that makes a great college player - and reminds me a lot of Jaron Brown.

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  7. Dixon will play a freshman if he's good enough to play, like Dejuan Blair and Chris Taft. Adams and Robinson will definitely play a lot. Adams will probably only be there for one year so Dixon isn't going to have him on the bench. And Robinson will be the best defender and ball handler of the guards so Dixon isn't about to sit him a lot either.

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  8. Agreed. Not sure when Gibbs checked out last year, but good writeup. Defense and influx of talent could be 1a 1b
    Gordo

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  9. Chris:
    Your opinion of Dixon as a coach seems to have slipped. I don't see the statements about his skills to bring a team together like you were stating earlier this season.

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  10. Better coaches than Dixon have had worse seasons. I thought Dixon would rally them because he always did in the past, but this kind of season happens to a lot of excellent coaches. There's no doubt that Dixon is an excellent coach. Whether he can be a great coach is another story. That's rarefied air and that means Final Fours and a National Championship.

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  11. Excellent analysis. Thanks for telling it like it is. The chemistry issues cannot be overstated. A couple of questions Chris, what is going to happen with the Birch scholarship and do you see anyone leaving the program? If so, are we looking at any JC guys to add as an impact player?

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  12. Think we'll redshirt Gilbert next season?

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    1. NO....
      They only have Zanna, Taylor and Adams for the 4&5 positions if they did that. They actually need another 4/5 player.
      Patterson cannot play the 4 in my opinion.
      Dixon does not play a "villinova" style of game that relies upon 1 Big!!

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    2. I think Patterson's actually been very effective when playing the 4 this year. Obviously it depends on matchups, but when other teams are going small I think that's a good fit.

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  13. Chris, I know this post is about basketbal, but given that Maryland has blocked Danny O'Brien from transferring to Vandy, do you think that might improve Pitt's chances of getting this kid for next season? I know O'Brien's old OC is at Vandy so that probably put them in the lead....Any thoughts or insight?

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dc-sports-bog/post/randy-edsall-on-danny-obrien-and-vanderbilt/2012/02/15/gIQAG9ifFR_blog.html

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    1. Edsall is ridiculous to block Vandy...
      He will look like the St. Joe's BB coach (whats his name) for blocking a transfer.
      I can see no other ACC school... I can see Pitt and Syracuse added to the list...
      but no other team.
      C'mon Man... NCAA needs to step in and make some rules with this... coaches can come and go... but the players... gotcha! I know, its a free education that they can get anywhere and doubtful they will sniff the NFL... but.. C'mon Man

      but then again... Dixon blocked Khem from going to Missouri!!!

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    2. CJK, reportedly Maryland will not allow O'Brien to transfer to Pitt either because they don't want him to come back and play against them.

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  14. Dixon should go with a big lineup next season in the front court:

    C -- Gilbert
    PF -- Adams
    SF -- Patterson

    Let Zanna and Taylor be the backups at the four and five, respectively.

    A Gilbert redshirt is possible if the JuCo from California came aboard.

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  15. malik zaire is visitin pitt on monday, per rivals. also, like i said yesterday today scott orndoff is visitin pitt

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  16. Just some football recruiting stats below (sorry to change subjects).

    OSU now has 62 offers out (up 7 in a week)
    Alabama has 76 offers
    Tennesse has 120 offers

    Pitt STILL at 27 offers!!! No change the past week.

    If Kugler doesn't go to Pitt... I would be shocked!!
    Kiss Foster goodbye unless he gets Rushel Shell syndrome.

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    1. Just because pitt only has 27 iffers out doesnt mean that pitt cant get foster.

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    2. My comment regarding Getting foster has nothing to do with # of offers Pitt has made so far...

      If it will make you feel better, my nephew told me Foster will be at the Pitt v Wvu game with the coaches.

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  17. So foster is on an unnoficial visit? Nice. Itll be him and scott orndoff those are the two i know of.

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  18. Chris, im hearing that osu has a huge lead on everyone else for foster? True or rumors? If true i hope his visit to pitt today will have changed that

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    1. Ohio State already has 4 commits for 2013...
      1-5star
      3-4star

      Meyer is going to eat Chryst's lunch AND take his lunch money... Meyer is just plain aggressive and bringing SEC recruiting to Big 10 territory!!

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    2. Why would he eat his lunch and take his lunch money?

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  19. No, those rumors are false. People hear Urban Meyer's name and thinks he can get anybody he wants but it's simply not true. In fact Wannstedt beat him a few times.

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  20. Chris, Thats good. Ive also noticed that urban meyer is recruiting a TON of high caliber qbs. If one of them commits i have to assume that malik zaire will look at the osu depth chart and be scared off. Also, has chryst begun to make contact with more players yet? It doesnt make sense to me that hes getting visits from some top prospects and not even contacting others

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  21. Chris, its there really any difference between Tressel and Meyer when it comes to recruiting. Lets face it they're both top 5 coaches who should be able to out recruit pitt for 80% of the top recruits that they want.

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  22. Meyer is a little stronger now because it's his first year there and there is a huge buzz, but that also means he's involved with the best of the best all over the country. He can't get them all. They will fill up their class and many good players will be left out in the cold. That's why it blows my mind when Pitt, or other fans, hear Meyer is recruiting a player and they say "oh, we'll never beat Meyer for this kid". Well, put it this way. At least 2/3 of the kids Ohio State offers they will not end up with for one way or the other. That's a fact.

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    1. More like 85% of the kids with OSU offers will not end up there...
      But the question is... how many 4 & 5 star recruits will he get versus not get that is within 400miles of Columbus??? That circle overlaps Pitt's 400 mile radius... that is the issue really.
      Thus far, the 4 OSU committs... 3 from Ohio and 1 from NJ.
      These 4 commits are also in Pitts 400 mile radius. The ole within a tank of gas as Wanny use to say.
      A 4star DT from Youngstown... the Davis twins HS!!! A DT that Pitt can really really use!!!

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  23. chris, have you heard any names for the running backs coaching position?

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  24. You can't expect an elite player to leave Ohio for Pitt anymore than you could expect a western PA kid to go away from Pitt if they were a great program. When Pitt was great they lost nobody to Ohio.

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    Replies
    1. The operative word is "When" and "IF"
      When Pitt was Great, they lost nobody (western PA) to Ohio.
      True...
      but Pitt is not in that category anymore.. but things are looking better for the future. Need to be realistic in whom Pitt can land until they play in the ACC.
      Pitt needs to establish "pipelines" with HS coaches... whether it be Bishop McDevitt, NA, Woody, etc.. HS that have quality football programs.

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    2. Oh so you're saying it's not a bad idea to offer 2* mike cap from woody?

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    3. Nope...
      Pipelines of great players from teams that consistently produce players... current pipelines.. quips, TJ, Clairton...
      2 and 3 star are dime a dozen wherever they are from.

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  25. Doke:

    When Burch said one of the reasons that he left Pitt was because of the poor attitudes of team mates, was he talking about Gibbs?

    And in regard to football, how did the Standifer visit go last weekend and what are the chances of him coming to Pitt?

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  26. Joe, woody hills is as good of a pipeline school there is in western pa

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    Replies
    1. Yes, but the best Woody players don't necessarily go to Pitt... my definition of a pipeline school is that all the top players from that HS go to Pitt.

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    2. You mentioned woody in your post above and i think offering someone like mike cap is a way of continuing the pipeline there, 2* or not he is someone who at the very least will not be a disappointment to the team, can be a leader and surely has friends at woody who he could perhaps persuade to look at pitt.

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  27. Standifer is deciding soon and he liked Pitt on his visit.

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  28. Chris, on scout its looking like pitt has either offered or contacted zayd issah. Have you heard about it? Is recruitibg starting to pick up?

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  29. Pitt needs to stop recruiting Foster...
    another Yuri Wright...
    his tweets have gotten out of hand... perhaps all this attention has gotten to his head..

    Robfoster @DROBFoster_4
    @RossiCCU @brookeamberrr someone need to teach your mom how to suck my dick right bitch not in the mood

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  30. With the way Taylor and Birch, 2 highly regarded players, have worked out, I dont see how anyone can just assume Adams will be a differnce-maker.

    This team is in big trouble. They are definitely outclassed at the 2-3-4 positions for sure.

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    Replies
    1. Not all highly regarded players are the same. Dejuan Blair was highly regarded, too, and as I remember he was pretty darn good as a freshman. And like I wrote, a talented 7 foot kid makes a difference just by being in the game.

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  31. Anonymous, its not like birch was a bust, he was playing well. He just let others make his decisions for him. I think had he stayed at pitt and woodall never got hurt they probably have 21ish wins right now

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  32. Anybody hear how the visits went yesterday?

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  33. Doke, do you have any read on Orlando Sanches?

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  34. Joe D, Really? Your upset over a mom joke? The kid's in High School - you're going to get immature humor. Unless the joke was about your mom, there is no need for alarm.

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  35. You don't tweet that stuff. That comes under the new cyberbully law...
    Yuri Wright got expelled from much less than that!!

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  36. This article on Orndoff...
    read all of it... you start thinking... that's a pretty good "unofficial" visit what they went through. Lots of time spend on 1 recruit. (Foster was just there for the game)

    Then, read the last few paragraphs...
    Pitt still didn't extend him a verbal offer.

    This makes me cry!!
    C'mon man!!!

    http://pittsburgh.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=1332729

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  37. Joe, orndoff and foster have offers. Chryst was in my school and scott told me to my face that pitt offered him

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    1. Pk,
      Orndoff doesn't have an offer from Pitt...
      Read the article... Orndoff said so himself and is quoted in the article as such... and Rivals doesn't show it either!!
      Guess he BS'd you...
      He also said in the article he is still committed to Wisky... but looking checking other things out to make sure...

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    2. Things change. Hes a nice kid he probably misunderstood

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  38. I still have a good feeling that Orndoff will end up at Pitt but how they can't tell him that he has an official offer is just plain strange. It doesn't bother Ordnoff since he assumes he has one, but what's so hard about actually telling the kid?

    As for Foster, I wouldn't stop recruiting him over his tweets because a lot of these kids aren't choir boys, but he better be careful. He's not doing himself any favors with the things he's tweeting and eventually he may go over the line for a lot of the schools that are recruiting him.

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    Replies
    1. If I knew Fosters mom's phone number... I'd call her.
      I doubt she would appreciate what her son is tweeting nor knows the potential consequenses...
      Just plain dumb..
      smh

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  39. According to Scout, Orndoff does have an offer...

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  40. Orndoff would know and he stated just last night, quoted in print, that they never told him that he has an offer, and that he guesses they just assume he knows he does.

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  41. I have a question about Adams. If the NBA prefers to develop 7 footers themselves why is Adams coming to Pitt at all? Just to please Jamie?

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  42. A role player like Patterson makes other's around him better... not the other way around. I still feel there needs to be point production from the 3. More like 12-14ppg and a player like Patterson will struggle in that role.

    Again... for Patterson to truly fit in as a role player - his defense needs to vastly improve - and a lot of his issues seem to be mental on the court rather than physical - so that bodes well.

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  43. I hate to bring this fact up so late in the thread, but Pitt right now is a worse team than DePaul........yes, you heard that right. That shouldn't last long though....

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEKJ9G9iOcI

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