Oct. 15, 2009
PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTESHEET
Thursday, October 15, 2009; Petersen Events Center
Quoting Pitt Head Coach Jamie Dixon
Q: You've replaced production before and you've replaced key contributors. Can you tell me the most challenging part that you've had in replacing players?
A: "We're gaining a lot of young freshmen, and we're a younger team that has performed pretty consistently. I know what it looks like on paper, but fortunately for us, we've never really looked at that. We've told guys to elevate their game, we've always had guys surprise people and I would anticipate the same thing happening again this season. I can't tell you specifically who it will be, but I'm sure it will be a couple guys, and I have some ideas. They're ready for that opportunity and we've been getting them ready too so it's a good time, it's exciting and they're ready. We've had challenges replacing different guys- two starters, three starters. This year, it's four starters. We've got good players in the program and they're ready to go."
Q: For the most part over the past decade, you've had a returning point guard that's played a majority of the minutes. What are your plans for this season?
A: "You know, you never go in with a guy that has played 30-35 minutes in the past or whatever it may be. I think that we've had the opportunity to bring some players in, to make some changes and make adjustments. We'll see how it is- no lineups have been made, no minutes have been decided. I think that's exciting about every year, and this year especially. We lost a very good point guard in Levance Fields, we lost Brandin Knight and Ronald Ramon. We've always had a couple of point guards in the program and that's what we were preparing for when we recruited Ashton Gibbs and Travon Woodall for this situation when Levance was leaving and they were coming. We took two very good point guards in the same class and two guys that can play together too for this reason. You lose a guy, a very good player, but we couldn't be in a better situation than we are. We couldn't be in a better position there where we are with these two guys."
Q: Do you see Travon Woodall as primarily a point guard?
A: "What we'll do, and what we've done this in the past with Travon, Ashton and Chase as well, and Jermaine, is that they're going to be interchangeable in two spots. We've done that in the past with Ron and Levance. I've seen three point guards on the court, and we've done that. I like the versatility that they bring and their ball handling and the quickness will usually come with it. Obviously with Jermaine being out, it's is going to change that a little bit, but eventually we're going to have those guys interchangeable. It's what we've done often and it makes them better players, makes us a better team and that's what we're working with."
Q: How is it going to be playing without Gilbert and Jermaine? Who's going to fill that leadership role with them out?
A: "Jermaine is there every day at practice. We've had guys step up, obviously we want all the guys to be ready, but right now they're not. Jermaine is recovering from his injury. Gilbert is obviously in a different situation and he was punished severely, but he'll be back on the court and I think he'll be better for it. They're both part of the program and both part of the team. It usually comes down to the point guard and looking to the point guard for leadership, so we'll be looking to the guys that I mentioned earlier. I think Ashton and Travon have been tremendous in fall workouts. They've both been really good and I've seen a lot of growth in Travon, I've been really impressed with how he has improved these past few weeks, since we have started playing. I also saw considerable growth with Ashton in the summer with the U.S.A. Under-19 team."
Q: What kind of expectations do you have for Jermaine Dixon this season as the only returning starter and senior on the team?
A: "Get healthy first. We'll start there. Honestly, it's a setback, but I think that it can be a good thing in some ways. His body can be rested and we can find positives to the situation. It's tough and difficult but he's experienced, he's there every day, and like I talked about, he's leading on the sideline right now so often times that could be even better for players. We have guys that work camp and coach and do things. You learn more sometimes by watching and I think that can be an opportunity for him as well."
Q: What are your expectations of Dante Taylor considering how high the public's expectations are for him? Is he close to being ready and having significant playing time?
A: "Dante is obviously a great kid. We recruited him because he is a great kid and a great player. The ranking was not even a factor when we looked at him, and it never is. He's a very positive person, a nice person who is going to be a very good player. He works very hard and knows what he's doing. He's not afraid of putting in the extra work and the extra time. He's similar to the other three freshmen. Some are ranked higher, one of them is ranked higher than the others, they're all ranked heavily but I tell you what, they're all going to be very good players for us: Lamar Patterson, J.J. Richardson and Talib Zanna. They all work hard, they've improved in seven weeks and ranking or not, they're all going to be very good players. We'll see how practice goes, but obviously they're going to play because if you just look at the numbers, look at the guys we have, they're going to play. Some of the freshmen are going to play a lot of minutes this year on the front line. It's a great opportunity and I think that might be partly why we were able to get such big guys in one class. In fact, I think they knew the opportunity was going to be there. This will be the best four guys we've brought into a class, and I think I've said that before with Tyrell Biggs, Sam Young and Levance Fields and in the end, I think that group lived up to that. This foursome probably seems to be better; I really do feel that they're going to be that good- barring any injuries, they're great kids. We recruited them and explained to them that we didn't think DeJuan would be back. That is what we told them and often times you wouldn't say that, but we believed it and that is how it turned out, so that's why we were able to get guys as good as these four are."
Q: You talked about flexibility at the guard position. Is it possible that with your roster from top to bottom, this may be the most flexible team that you've ever had?
A: "I look for depth and once we get everybody out there I think we have 13 very good players on scholarship and then two pretty good walk-ons, one with a lot of experience, so in a lot of ways we could have a lot of flexibility as you said and a lot of depth. We could probably play small, we could also play big, and I would anticipate that our experience is more in our perimeter guys, our smaller guys. Often times, that is a big factor, so we're going to have some guys play some different spots. As I mentioned those guards are going to play different spots, our wings are going to play different spots and as we've done that in the past; practiced it in certain situations and we may do that more consistently during games. It looks good on paper, but everybody looks good on paper. We always need to adjust, we always find guys that surprise like I said before, and guys that step up and play that we didn't even anticipate. We practice their flexibility and trying to get them to practice before the situation in order to increase their versatility."
Q: You use the word program a lot and I was wondering if you could talk about the type of program that you've built here at Pitt.
A: "Everybody uses the word program; I don't know what year that encompasses when you want to accomplish that- a couple years, two or three years. It usually comes around when one player or a couple players were really good. When you start replacing them you have a program and I think we've gotten to that point. I feel that we have very good players in our program again this year; I think we have very good players. They're a little younger than we've had in the past and we have six freshmen, but two of them redshirted. I think we've got some guys ready to go and we have some young kids that are going to play a little quicker than they would have played, but we recruited them expecting that. We have a very good program and like I said in the beginning, I've been here 11 years now and we're looking to continue to build and continue to make people proud of our program, proud of our players and keep the seats filled. I was told the waiting list was 3,000 which translates into three tickets per person, 9,000 tickets is what they said was on the waiting list so we've got to keep them happy and keep on selling out."
Q: It sounds like the goals and expectations will be the same as ever this year, what are they?
A: "It's to be the best as we can be, to improve as the year goes on, probably more so this year with the youth. We never limit ourselves to a conference championship or an NCAA Tournament berth or this and that. This team can be as good as any team that we've had before. No one thinks that outside, they just look at what we have on paper, but we don't play the game on paper, we play them out there on the court. Where we are now, is not where we're going to be in January, or February or March. That has to be our belief, our driving force and our motivation because if our freshmen play like freshmen in January, February or March, you know we won't be the team we want to be."
Q: How did the experience of leading the Under-19 U.S.A. team to the world title help you here at Pitt?
A: "I think it did, I think it will help. More so with Ashton and the experience he received, I think it was very good. I hope every experience, everyday will help- coaching over the summer, coaching different styles, I think we're going to do some things here that we did there that we haven't done in the past. We're always adjusting, especially offensively, I don't think our defensive principles change too much, but our offensive attack changes pretty much every year. We won't be running every play the same anymore; this isn't what we did last year. This is a different group of players. It is what we do in our program, we try to learn from our experiences and I think Ashton learned a lot and he improved. When you guys see him I think you'll see a difference, he's bolder, quicker, he looks like a different player."
Q: Can you talk about Chase Adams and the type of player he is?
A: "It's unique, we have six freshman like we talked about and two seniors that have one year of playing experience between the two- that's probably a first. But, they're going to be counted on to be very productive for us and I think Chase really came out with a great attitude. He's open-minded; it's not easy to come to a new program after you've been somewhere else for three years. But he's playing, and picking things up quickly. We're going to coach him in certain areas and help him understand the way that we do things and not to get frustrated with that because he's an older guy that's fixed in his ways. He understands that these are just little things when looking at the whole picture and that these fundamentals that we may be emphasizing are just little things that take time to get them right, but you just need to play hard and do what you do. I'm excited, he's a great kid. He's doing well in the classroom, hopefully he'll graduate in one year with summer school, so I think he's just a great kid with a great personality, a great addition to our team. Playing wise we'll find out more as we go from here. I've only seen him in individuals so once we get him in the five-on-five we'll know more."