Men’s Basketball: Summer league heating up

By Lauren Kirschman

Basketball season won’t officially start for a few more months, but fans can get an… Basketball season won’t officially start for a few more months, but fans can get an early look at the 2010-11 Panthers, including incoming freshmen, this summer.

The team will play in the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am Summer League, which is made of six teams featuring current and former athletes from Pitt, Robert Morris and Duquesne, as well as top players from local Division II and Division III schools.

They will play on Mondays and Wednesdays at the Greentree SportsPlex.

“We’ve been waiting all year for summer league to come around,” Pitt sophomore Dante Taylor said. “It’s an opportunity for us to get better and show what we did in the offseason.”

For Pitt fans, the league provides the first look at incoming freshmen J.J. Moore and Cameron Wright, who enrolled at Pitt on Monday.

Moore, a small forward from Long Island, N.Y., is ranked No. 8 at his position by Scout.com, and is the Panthers’ highest ranked recruit. There was doubt whether Moore would be eligible because of academic reasons, but was cleared to play this week.

Wright is a 6-foot-4 guard from Cleveland. Scout.com ranks him the No. 74 recruit in the country.

Pitt redshirt sophomore guard Travon Woodall said the league provides a good opportunity for new players to acclimate to the team.

“It’s a chance for us to see how they are, and at the same time, they get the chance to see how we play and how tough we play and how hard we play on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “It gives us a good feel for what’s going to happen in the future.”

Pitt’s third recruit, guard Isaiah Epps, won’t enroll until August.

The teams played three games on Monday, featuring standout performances from several Pitt players, including Moore and Wright.

Center Court 65, P&W Motors 63

The first game of the night came down to the final seconds, but Robert Morris’ Karon Abraham missed a 3-pointer for P&W on the final possession of the game to seal the victory for Center Court, led by Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs and J.J. Richardson.

Center Court led by double digits in the second half, after taking a 30-24 lead into the break, but P&W clawed its way back into the game with help from Abraham, who scored 13 points.

But Center Court held on for the win.

Pitt fans saw a familiar performance from Gibbs in the second half. Finding his shot, he hit all of his 3-pointers in the tight second half to finish with 17 points and went 6-13 shooting, including 3-6 from the 3-point line.

Richardson showed good touch around the basket, adding 11 points and pulling down five rebounds.

UPMC 75, Lair 67

The point guards stole the show in the second matchup of the night, with Woodall facing off against Duquesne commit T.J. McConnell.

The Lair jumped out to an early lead, thanks mostly to McConnell, who scored 20 points and added eight rebounds and four assists.

But Woodall took control and brought UPMC back as he scored 15 points and dished out five assists. He guided UPMC to a to a 37-28 halftime advantage and shot 6-13 from the field and 2-4 from the 3-point line.

“It felt good,” Woodall said. “It was the first time out there playing the game with officials and everything. We’re good to go.”

Taylor did his part for UPMC on the inside, and the Lair didn’t have an answer for the center. He controlled the glass, scoring 17 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.

“For the first time, I thought I played pretty good — rebounded, ran the floor,” Taylor said. “I just tried to come out and play the game — not do too much. I tried to come in and incorporate the things that I did, the things that I worked on.”

Gilbert Brown was aggressive in the Lair’s losing effort, but struggled to find his shot, finishing 6-26 from the field and scoring 16 points. Talib Zanna also played for the Lair and was 6-10 from the field, scoring 13 points.

SPK Law 69, PGT 59

The final game of the evening was probably the most anticipated for Pitt fans, as it featured Moore for SPK Law and Wright for PGT. The two met to expectations.

Moore came out firing, scoring many of his 13 points in the early going. He finished 4-7 from the field and showed his shooting range in hitting both of his shots from the 3-point line.

Wright led PGT with 16, going 8-15 from the field.

Brad Wanamaker was one of the most impressive players of the night, stealing the limelight from the incoming freshmen as he scored from all over the floor. He led SPK with 17 points, added seven rebounds and offered two assists.

Wanamaker’s play was instrumental to SPK, stretching its lead in the second half to put the game out of PGT’s reach.

Nasir Robinson reached double figures, as well, with 11 points.

Lamar Patterson scored 13 points, and Gary McGhee added a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds in PGT’s losing effort.

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