Panther Staff Embracing Past & Building for Future
With an impressive freshman season that saw him earn unanimous Freshman All-America honors along with the 2003-04 Big East Rookie of the Year award, Chris Taft proved he belongs among the nation's elite college basketball players. Taft is a rugged rebounder and athletic shot blocker who combines great passing abilities for his size. He is a terrific offensive player who owns a superior low post game and good medium range game and a tough, aggressive rebounder who goes after the ball. With his imposing size, mobility, athleticism, jumping ability and knowledge of the game, he is able to impact a game without scoring. It is also common to see the six-foot-10-inch, 250-pounder complete inside passes from the low-post or alley-oop passes on the fast break. Additionally, Taft has given Pittsburgh its first shot blocking threat since seven-footer Mark Blount (1997-97) played for the Panthers. All the pieces are in place for Taft to have a phenomenal sophomore season at Pittsburgh. Only 19 years old, Taft has unlimited future potential.
After only one season at Pittsburgh, already ranks among school leaders in career blocked shots (15th with 60).
Named a Freshman All-America by several organizations (The Sporting News, Foxsports.net, Rivals.com Second Team, College Basketball News Second Team and Basketball Times Second Team)...Earned the 2003-04 Big East Rookie of the Year Award and named a unanimous selection for the Big East All-Rookie Team...Selected to the All-Big East Third Team, the only freshman or rookie player selected for an all-league honor...Led Panthers in rebounding (7.5), blocked shots (60) and double-doubles (6)...Ranked among Big East leaders in several statistical categories: 8th in rebounding (7.5), 6th in offensive rebounds (3.11) and 10th in defensive rebounds (4.39)...Concluded season ranked among Pittsburgh's career leaders in blocked shots (60)...Played in all 36 games on season and started 24 games at center...Set school's season freshman records for: most rookie of the year honors (6), field goals made (162) and ranked among leaders in points (2nd), scoring average (4th), field goal attempts (5th), field goal percentage (2nd), free throws made (7th), free throw attempts (2nd), rebounds (2nd), rebound average (4th) and blocked shots (3rd)...Notched double figures in 14 of the season's last 21 contests...On season, reached double figure scoring in 19 games and double figure rebounding nine times while leading the squad in rebounding 17 times...Reached double figure scoring in six of his last 10 games and double figure rebounding in four of his last eight...Earned Big East Rookie of the Week honors for a school record six times on season (Dec. 22, Dec. 29, Jan. 12, Jan. 26, March 1 and March 7). Tied the former school record with his fourth selection...Became the first Pittsburgh player since Brian Shorter in 1989 to earn Big East Rookie of the Week honors in back-to-back weeks. Taft earned back-to-back Rookie of the Week honors two times (Dec. 22 and Dec. 29; March 1 and March 7)...Averaged 7.3 points and 8.0 rebounds in Pitt's three NCAA Tournament games...Finished with eight points and four rebounds in NCAA "Sweet Sixteen" contest vs. Oklahoma State, 3/25...Pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds (five offensive/11 defensive), scored six points in 30 minutes of NCAA Tournament First Round game vs. UCF, 3/19...Earned Big East All-Tournament honors after registering 9.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and shooting 54.5 percent (12-22) from the floor in Pittsburgh's three games...Poured in 11 points (4-8 FG) in 26 minutes of the Big East Championship title game vs. Connecticut, 3/13...Finished with 10 points and eight rebounds in Big East semifinal vs. Boston College, 3/12...Scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds in Big East quarterfinal vs. Virginia Tech, 3/11...Named Big East Rookie of the Week for a school record sixth time on March 7 after averaging 20.0 points and 8.5 rebounds per game and converting 81.0 percent of his field goalas...Registered sixth career double-double with 16 points (7-10 FG) with 11 rebounds (six offensive) vs. Villanova, 3/6...Finished with a career/game high 24 points (10-11 FG) and six rebounds in 30 minutes at Providence 3/2...Pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds and scored nine points vs. Syracuse, 2/29...Finished with fifth career double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds with two blocks at Georgetown, 2/24. Also hit 5-7 field goals...Despite early foul trouble, scored 10 points (5-6 FG) and pulled down six rebounds in 14 minutes at West Virginia, 2/21...Registered fourth career double-double and fifth career 10-plus rebound contest with 16 points (career-high 8-15 FG) and a career-high 15 rebounds (also matched career-highs with seven offensive and eight defensive rebounds) in 40 minutes at Seton Hall, 2/9...Scored 15 points (5-11 FG), grabbed six rebounds and blocked two shots in 23 minutes vs. St. John's, 2/4...Scored 14 points (5-11) with seven rebounds vs. Boston College, 1/28...Finished with 15 points (6-10 FG) and eight rebounds in 23 minutes at Syracuse, 1/24. Also made an incredible alley-oop pass on fast break to Mark McCarroll...Scored eight points with seven rebounds and two blocked shots in 33 minutes at Connecticut, 1/19...Posted third career double-double with 17 points(ties career -high), 12 rebounds (seven offensive rebounds is a new career-high) and five blocks vs. Rutgers, 1/17...Pulled down nine rebounds, scored 10 points and blocked four shots in a home win vs. Notre Dame, 1/12...Named Big East Rookie of the Week for the third time on season after averaging 17 points and 6.5 rebounds in Pitt's first two Big East contests...Tied a career-high with his second straight 17-point contest (7-14 FG), pulled down nine rebounds and blocked three shots in 38 minutes of a double overtime win at Miami, 1/10...Scored career-high 17 points (7-11 FG) along with four rebounds and four blocked shots vs. Virginia Tech, 1/6...Scored nine points with six rebounds in 18 minutes vs. William & Mary, 1/3...Registered second career double-double with 14 points (7-12 FG) and 12 rebounds and three blocks vs. New Hampshire, 12/27...Named to Pittsburgh Holiday Hoops Tournament all tourney team...Registered a school-record tying seven blocked shots, scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds vs. Murray State, 12/20...Scored 16 points, pulled down eight rebounds vs. Georgetown College (Ky.), 12/15...Scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds vs. Penn State, 12/6...Registered first-ever double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds vs. Albany, 11/28...Threatened a triple double and reached double figures for the first time with 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five blocked shots vs. St. Francis (Pa.), 11/22...Made first career appearance in Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in Madison Square Garden with seven points and 12 rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench vs. Alabama, 11/14. The 12 rebounds ranked as the second highest rebounding total in a Pittsburgh rookie debut (Sam Clancy grabbed 16 rebounds) in his freshman debut.
A 2003 graduate of Xaverian Prep in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lettered three years for Head Coach Jack Alesi...Named New York State Player of the Year as a senior...E.A. Sports All-America selection and Parade All-America Third Team honoree...Named First Team All-State as a senior...Two-time All-City and CHSAA selection...Selected All-CHSAA First Team by the New York Daily News and New York Post...Averaged 23.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, four assists and four blocks per game as a senior...Selected to play in the E.A. Sports Roundball Classic on March 31 at the United Center in Chicago along with the Wendy's Big Apple Classic (Chicago)...Averaged 23 points and 12 rebounds per game while leading the Xaverian Clippers to an 18-10 record and diocesan title and CHSAA Final Four as a junior...Named Second Team All-City by the New York Daily News...Led squad to CHSAA semifinals three straight years...Averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds while helping lead Xaverian to a 21-7 record as a sophomore...Named the Big East's "Ace Recruit" by USA Today...Ranked among the nation's top-100 recruits in all publications (No. 21- Rivahoops.com, 21- PrepStars, 24-Basketball News, No. 43- HoopScoop)...Listed on Street & Smith's All-Metro New York City team...Rated among Athlon Sports top-20 senior centers (No. 7) and among nation's top-100 recruits...Ranked among the nation's top-100 seniors (No. 35) by Lindy's...Listed as the ninth best player in his class at the ABCD Camp...Listed No. 20 on The Sporting News/Rivals.com top-100 recruits list...Played on Brooklyn Bridge/Juice All-Stars AAU team for coach Dwayne Morton...Competed at the ABCD All-Star Camp.
Born Christopher Taft on March 10, 1985 in Brooklyn, N.Y....Son of Tareka Taft...Has brother Anthony Simpson...Also has two cousins -- Tony and Melody...Won E.A. Sports Roundball Classic's NBA Street Volume 2 video game tournament...Becomes the fifth Xaverian basketball player to sign with a Big East Conference school (Chris Mullin, St. John's; Roger McCready, Boston College; Carlton Screen, Providence; Terence Mullin, St. John's)...Xaverian plays in the New York City Catholic League...Nickname is "The Big Ticket" as New York Metro's SchoolSports magazine featured a covershot of him with those words...Claims to "wake up, sleep, think and eat basketball"...Committed to Pittsburgh in early September, 2002...Selected Pittsburgh because he said it "felt like home"...Hails from the Coney Island section of Brooklyn...Favorite athlete: Kevin Garnett...Playing style reminds analysts of former Maryland student-athlete and Los Angeles Clippers player Chris Wilcox...Role model is his mother...Undeclared major.
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