Oct. 30, 2009
FOCUS ON Travon Woodall
As part of our Countdown to Tipoff features, we will profile several of the 2009-10 Pitt men's basketball players or a certain aspect of the program. Today, we feature redshirt freshman Travon Woodall; Friday: Pitt's current NBA players DeJuan Blair, Sam Young and Aaron Gray; Saturday: Where are They Now?, former Pitt players and their whereabouts in professional basketball; Sunday: Pitt vs. Slippery Rock recap; Monday: Feature on Chase Adams.
By Mike Gladysz, Panther Eyes
When Pitt's Travon Woodall thinks back to a year ago, he doesn't have many memories from the basketball court. In fact, last year's basketball season was a blur for Woodall--for a variety of reasons.
First, Woodall caught an elbow to the jaw during a practice and missed time with a significant jaw injury.
"I don't even remember what happened, to tell you the truth," he said. "All I remember is getting hit and going down."
A few months later, after playing sparingly at guard during non-conference play, Woodall, now a redshirt freshman, was a permanent bench fixture, watching his teammates plow through Big East competition and into the NCAA Tournament.
"I'll tell you what," Woodall said, "It was rough. As a freshman, your first mindset is that you want to play. But when you sit down and think about it, the coaches know what they're doing. It's going to make me better in the long-run."
Woodall has no problem admitting that now. And this season, after a year of watching from the outside and learning Pitt's system, Woodall has four years to left play at Pitt and is ready to contribute in a deep guard rotation that could turn out to be one of the more versatile groups in the Big East.
"Travon, Ashton (Gibbs) and Chase (Adams) as well, and Jermaine (Dixon)...they're going to be interchangeable in two spots," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said of the Panthers' guard rotation. "It's what we've done often and it makes them better players, makes us a better team."
Woodall said he spent a lot of last year learning from former Pitt guard Levance Fields, who is now playing professionally in Russia. He joins a long list of Pitt guards who paid their dues and learned from the seniors ahead of them.
Woodall said the biggest thing he took from Fields is learning the mindset to help become a true point guard and find the open man at all times. He also got great game knowledge by watching Pitt's run to the Elite Eight.
"I've seen different situations and different points of the game," he said. "I've seen how Levance did things. The strategies he'd use to get everyone open in critical situations for shots, I learned from that. Even though I don't have all of that experience on the court, I have the experience of seeing it first-hand. That's definitely going to help."
And it's not like Woodall isn't used to playing against top talent. At St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, N.J., Woodall was part of a team that saw five of his fellow seniors sign with NCAA Division I programs. He guided St. Anthony to a 32-0 record, a No. 1 national ranking and a national championship while earning recognition from various media outlets throughout. All of that, parlayed with hard work over the past year, means Woodall feels prepared.
"I'm excited to finally be able to play and make an impact," he said. "This year we've got a lot of players like me who aren't necessarily trying to make a name for ourselves, but are trying to make a name for this team. We don't have the big names like we did last year, but we have great players, and I think it's going to be a great year.
"At the end of the day, I'm happy that I did redshirt. Now I've got four years to really show what I can do."
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