Oct. 31, 2009
In the tradition-rich history of Pitt men's basketball, dozens of players have moved on to the professional ranks. Recently, Pitt players have kept that going both on U.S. turf and overseas. There are currently four former Pitt players competing in the NBA: DeJuan Blair, Sam Young, Aaron Gray and Mark Blount. Here is a look at how Pitt's recent NBA players are faring:
DeJuan Blair: San Antonio Spurs (Rookie, Forward-Center)
Link to player profile: http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?playerId=3965
Blair, the Big East Co-Player of the Year a season ago, was the second-round selection and 37th overall pick of the San Antonio Spurs. After a dominant preseason in which he averaged nearly 14 points and eight rebounds per game, Blair made his regular season debut on Wednesday against the New Orleans Hornets.
Blair exploded for 14 points and 11 rebounds in 23 minutes, going 7-10 from the floor and adding three assists. Throughout the game, ESPN commentators moved away from his previous nickname of "Big Fella," referring to him as "The Beast" and constantly crediting him for tough, tenacious play.
Announcers haven't been the only ones, either. Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich has spoken highly of Blair, as has several of his current teammates. In an interview last week, Spurs' guard Tony Parker was quoted as saying about Blair: "He's an animal out there."
During Thursday night's game against the Chicago Bulls, Blair was limited to less than 13 minutes but still scored six points on 3-3 shooting. He also pulled down four rebounds.
The Spurs next play at home against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday at 8:30 p.m.
Sam Young: Memphis Grizzlies (Rookie, Forward)
Player profile: http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?playerId=4020
Young, Pitt's leading scorer for the last two seasons, had a standout NBA preseason of his own. The 36th overall pick in the NBA draft, Young averaged 10.5 points and three rebounds per game in the preseason. He twice scored 22 points and registered a steal in all but two games. In one contest against the Oklahoma City Thunder, he scored 15 fourth-quarter points to lead his team to the win.
In his regular-season debut, Young was limited to nine minutes due to an ankle injury, but finished the game with three rebounds and a steal.
Pitt's leader in consecutive games played (143), Young joins several past Big East players on Memphis' roster. Marcus Williams, Rudy Gay and Hasheem Thabeet are all former Connecticut players, while Allen Iverson, now in his first year with the Grizzlies, is a former standout at Georgetown.
Memphis played on Friday night and returns to action on Sunday against the Toronto Raptors.
Aaron Gray: Chicago Bulls (Third year, Center)
Player profile: http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?playerId=3207
The 49th overall selection in the 2007 NBA Draft, Gray has spent his entire NBA career with the Bulls. Over a two-year span, he's appeared in 117 games, scored 458 points and pulled down 388 rebounds. He recently signed a one-year extension with the Bulls, but is yet to appear in any games during the 2009-10 season.
Gray started 18 and appeared in 56 games for the Bulls last season, averaging 12.8 minutes per contest. In his final year with Pitt, Gray was a first-team All-Big East and third-team All-America selection while helping the Panthers to the Big East Tournament final.
Mark Blount: Minnesota Timberwolves (10th year, Center)
Player profile: http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?playerId=70
An NBA journeyman and solid NBA veteran, Blount was a second-round pick of the Seattle Supersonics in the 1997 NBA Draft. He spent three years with minor league affiliates before signing with the Boston Celtics as a free agent on Aug. 1, 2000.
Since then, Blount has played for the Celtics, the Denver Nuggets, Minnesota and the Miami Heat. He rejoined the Timberwolves in August through a trade.
Blount averages 8.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in his career. During the 2006-07 season with Minnesota, he averaged a career-high 12.3 points per game and started 81 of 82 games while also logging a career-high 31 minutes per game. He's also appeared in 32 career playoff games.