#22 Brad Wanamaker (SG, Roman Catholic HS)- Brad, the 2007 Philadelphia Inquirer Area Player of the Year, comes off an up-and-down freshman year where he showed flashes of the offensive force he was in high school. He stands at 6’4”, great size for a college 2-guard, and could be the starter this year, depending on if the Panthers run a big lineup (Blair, Biggs, Young, Brown, Fields) or small (Blair, Young, Brown, Wanamaker, Fields), as well as the preseason competition between Brad and incoming junior Jermaine Dixon. Either way, I expect Brad to see 15-20 minutes a game as the starter or first guard off the bench, a similar position to what Keith Benjamin played last year before the injuries to Cook and Fields. He has experience, playing 10.6 minutes per game during the Big East portion of the schedule, largely during Field’s injury time, but those minutes will prove huge during this season. This is a player who averaged close to 18 points per game his senior year at Roman Catholic, and I could see Brad averaging close to 10 points this year. He had some times last season where he really showed some offensive and defensive skill, using a great penetration move to get to the hoop, as well as some great passing ability. He definitely looked a little nervous at some points but I expect his confidence and his game to grow by leaps and bounds as he enters his 2nd year in the Big East.
#45 DeJuan Blair (PF/C, Schenley HS)- If you haven’t heard by now about DeJuan Blair, Pitt’s super frosh from last season, then you probably haven’t been following this basketball team too closely. Expected to start off on the bench last season, Blair quickly showed during preseason that his skill, athleticism, and love for the game were too much to be behing JUCO transfer Cassin Diggs on the depth chart. A consensus freshman All-American as well as Big East co-Rookie of the Year, Blair wowed in his debut against Houston Baptist with 20 points, 14 rebounds (including a Pitt record of 10 offensive boards) and 4 steals, a great number for a center. His obvious love for the game made him an easy fan favorite as well. He had an even better game against national power Duke at Madison Square Garden, putting in 15 points while grabbing 20 rebounds, showing the country just how good he is. Blair is the clear starter for Pitt at center, though an eventual move to power forward could be in his future, seeing as a 6’7” center won’t cut it in the NBA. He averaged nearly a double-double (11.6 points, 9.1 rebounds) last year and I expect to see that up to 15 points and 12 rebounds a game as he learns how to stay out of foul trouble and use his wide body to open up the lane. A possible All-American this year, Blair will be a huge key to Pitt’s success in the physical Big East, and I don’t see him disappointing anybody.
#55 Gary McGhee (C, Highland Senior HS)- The career leader for rebounds in the state of Indiana at the time of his graduation, Gary is a developing prospect with great size for the Big East and a nose for the ball. Gary often came off the bench in games for 8-12 minutes, averaging 1.5 rebounds and 1.5 points in his short stints, but showed flashes of an Aaron Gray-esque center in his playing time. While not known for his offensive prowess, Gary could see time alongside DeJuan Blair if Jamie wants to get some real height in the game, though I see the majority of Gary’s minutes coming when Blair rests, as we don’t have too much depth at the 4/5 positions (Tyrell Biggs being our only other true big man). Gary’s playing time, however, rests solely on his progress as a basketball player- his team did win the Pittsburgh Summer League this year, and he’ll have plenty of time in the non-conference to prove his worth, but I can’t see Gary getting a huge amount of minutes this year. I think another year of 10 or so minutes per game is what he’s looking at, as both Biggs and Blair will eat up the majority of minutes at the PF and C position, when Sam Young isn’t in the game. If he shows the ability to get 4-5 points and 4-5 rebounds consistently in those 10 minutes, then his playing time will increase. Remember, it took Aaron Gray until his junior year to really hit the national spotlight, and I feel Gary McGhee is taking a similar path.