# 3 Jermaine Dixon (PG/SG- Tallahassee CC)- Jermaine is the biggest unknown quantity on the Panthers this year. After the flop of JUCO transfer Cassin Diggs last year, quite a few people are willing to give Dixon the benefit of the doubt, despite his acclaim as a first team All-JUCO All-American, as well as scoring over 1,000 points in just two years. While I’m hoping Dixon is a huge addition in terms of leadership and scoring ability, I don’t think he will end up getting the start at the two-guard unless he shows a quick ability to learn the Panther offense and fit into Jamie’s system. I do think he will get some playing time at the beginning of the year to prove himself- he is a career 43.9% shooter, not a bad number for a 2-guard, so I think he will see 20 or so minutes a game, at least in the early portion of the non-conference part of the season. He should spend the majority of the year splitting minutes with Brad Wanamaker at the SG position, hopefully averaging 8 or 9 points per game in 20 or so minutes with a few assists and rebounds thrown in. He’s said to be a very physical guard, which is a good thing for the Panthers, he just has to adjust to not being the main option in the offense (maybe not even the 2nd or 3rd option in the offense) and play into Jamie’s style of basketball, and he’ll be a great pickup for the Panthers.
#11 Gilbert Brown (SG/SF, South Kent Prep)- In my opinion, Gil Brown is the most important player to this 2008-2009 Pitt basketball team. I’m not saying he’s going to be the MVP or will lead the team in scoring, rebounding, or assists, but he’s got huge shoes to fill and a lot of expectations to live up to. I’m hoping Gil plays the wing for the Panthers this year- he showed a lot of promise last season at the position, and I’m not so sure yet he’s got the shooting skills to be a 2-guard yet, though he’s still got three years of eligibility left. I’d rather use his athleticism at the wing, letting him get some rebounds and put-backs with his 38-inch vertical. Gil only shot 24% from 3-point range last year, going nearly two months without making one from beyond the arc before he buried two critical treys in the comeback win at Syracuse. He averaged 22 minutes per game last year and I think that will approach 30 this year, with averages of 12 points and 5 rebounds and assists per game very realistic. He’s not the kind of player to foul out (only doing so once last season) so big minutes are a reality for Gil. He’s got to step up to replace Mike Cook, who was a real glue guy for Pitt in the last few years, and contribute all across the board with some explosive drives on the offensive end as well as his continually improving defense, using his athleticism to protect the perimeter and even contribute a few blocks and steals. I see Gil as a potential Big East Most Improved Player and a huge dark horse candidate to lead this team this year.
#0 Austin Wallace (PF/C, La Salle Academy)- Austin fractured his kneecap before the Washington St. game and is expected to be out this entire year, as well as possibly a part of the 2009-2010 season. Unfortunately for the Panthers, it is possible that “A-Wall” is finished his basketball career, as the knee injury he experienced is extraordinarily tough to recover from. Add in the fact that he would be a redshirt junior two years removed from playing basketball and competing against Blair, McGhee, as well as incoming freshmen Dante Taylor, Talib Zanna, and JJ Richardson for playing time, and I would be surprised to ever see Austin in a Pitt uniform. Hopefully he’ll continue to energize the team with his personality and humor, and maybe we’ll see him on the court one day down the road.
#21 Ryan Tiesi (SG, North Allegheny HS) and #24 Tim Frey (SG, Mars HS)- our two walk-ons, Ryan and Tim will most likely only see the court this year in the last minute or so of blowout wins, barring catastrophic injuries to the rest of this team. We have far too much depth on this team at guard to afford to give minutes to the walk-ons, though they tend to be fan favorites when they make it into the game and hit a basket.