#1 Travon Woodall (PG, St. Anthony’s HS)- Travon comes into Pitt after playing the point for the top high school basketball team in the country last year, St. Anthony’s in New Jersey. His high school boasts six players currently playing D1 basketball, all at great programs. He’s small for a point guard, only 5’11”, but will spend his first year under another small PG, Levance Fields, who’s done fairly well for himself running the Panthers offense. This year I expect to see Travon get a fair amount of playing time early on in the year as Levance comes back from his foot injury, and will see 8-12 minutes a game late into the season as he prepares to run this team in the 2009-2010 season. A quick guard with great court vision and ball-handling skills, he’ll be able to learn a lot from Fields and I think he’ll be a great player for this program all four years he’s here.
#12 Ashton Gibbs (PG/SG, Seton Hall Prep)- Ashton, a 6’2” combo guard was brought to Pitt for his scoring ability, especially in one area the Panthers have struggled in a bit- shooting the three. The defending New Jersey state champion from beyond the arc, Ashton will contribute immediately with his long range shooting, as well as taking a few minutes helping out Travon Woodall at the point early in the year. Ashton long-term projects as a solid college 2-guard alongside of Woodall, and I see him as a Ronny Ramon type player with more offensive skill and better size at the shooting guard position. I think as the year goes on, we’ll see Ashton in a solid 12-15 minutes a game solely because of his shooting ability, with that number possibly fluctuating a bit due to the intangibles he’ll bring to the team. If he proves he can play Pitt defense that number could be 15/game, if shooting is his only strength right now he might only get 6-10 minutes in the Big East portion of the schedule.
#25 Dwight Miller (PF, St. Pius X HS/Nassau, Bahamas)- Dwight, Pitt’s first player from the Bahamas since Doyle Hudson (2005-2007), is the most intriguing player of this freshman class: great size for a PF (6’8”, 220 lbs.), but he’s only played competitive basketball for about four years. Despite this, he was named most outstanding player at the ReebokU Camp in 2007 and drew rave reviews for his raw basketball ability. This could be in large part to his tutor- NBA Hall-of-Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, who took Dwight under his wing during his senior season and taught him quite a bit. Over the summer, Dwight proved himself very well in the Pittsburgh Summer Leagues, so I’m going to say Jamie will give him some minutes early in the year to see how he responds. I originally thought that Dwight would get a redshirt this year, but if he really is improving as quickly as reports are saying, he could find himself playing a solid 10 minutes off the bench to relieve Tyrell Biggs and Gary McGhee, and will be in the big man rotation in 2009 after Biggs graduates.
#35 Nasir Robinson (SG/SF, Chester High School)- Nasir, the highest-rated player in this class, comes in to Pitt with a great basketball attitude, something that will serve him well in the years he plays here. Only 6’6”, he tended to play wing in high school but could project to a Mike Cook-esque wing player as early as his sophomore year. He’s gotten rave reviews for his style of play- team oriented, Nasir (“Helper” in Arabic) is just as comfortable taking a team on his back and scoring 25 points as he is chipping in with rebounds and assists, an attitude the school and Jamie Dixon will love. I think that Nasir will get the most minutes in this freshman class- as the primary backup to Sam Young and Gil Brown at the SF position, he could see 20-25 minutes a year if he lives up to his high school billing. He’s known Ashton Gibbs and Travon Woodall since the 7th grade, playing on an AAU team with Travon, so that established chemistry could lead to some great things when that young group is on the court together. Nasir lead his HS team (Chester HS, home to Orlando Magic guard Jameer Nelson) to the Pennsylvania Quad-A state championship last year, so success is nothing new to him, and that winning attitude will be a great asset for this ball club.