Men’s basketball: Fans get first look at new faces

By Kelly Flanigan

On Tuesday night, the men’s basketball team took the court at the Petersen Events Center to… On Tuesday night, the men’s basketball team took the court at the Petersen Events Center to kickoff the 2009-10 season.

All eyes were on the recruited freshman at the scrimmage. Fans watched as Dante Taylor worked his post moves and hoped that he would be assertive in the competitive Big East tournament that quickly approaches.

As the season nears, Taylor said he still has work to do.

“I feel I played hard tonight,” he said. “I could have played better, but everybody on the team played hard.”

Head coach Jamie Dixon agreed.

“Dante has got to do a better job sealing and posting. He’s trying to figure out our offense and find the times of when to post, and he doesn’t quite have that down yet,” Dixon said.

But as Taylor thought he needed to work on his game strategy, another freshman had a solid performance.

JJ Richardson looked promising at the Blue-Gold scrimmage, coming down with three rebounds in 10 minutes. Because Pitt lost Sam Young and DeJuan Blair to the NBA, Richardson’s presence on the inside is a focal point.

“JJ has so much energy. He is tough, plays hard, and he’s a good screener,” Dixon said. “He’s got a good mid-range jump shot.”

Talib Zanna scored five points in Tuesday’s contest. But he displayed his athleticism and played well. He ran the court well, and Dixon was impressed with his and the other freshmen’s play.

“Dante, Talib and JJ are playing hard, getting better, and their energy is good. They all bring something different to the table. All are good rebounders. Everything that we’ve asked them to do, they have tried to take in,” Dixon said.

Lamar Patterson, who scored 10 points in the scrimmage, fit in well with the Panthers’ offensive and defensive schemes.

“Lamar has a great feel for the game. He has a great understanding and can really pass,” Dixon said. “He plays under control and doesn’t get rushed. He’s been rebounding pretty well.”

The display of athleticism and team chemistry was a result of the team having less than two weeks of practice under their belts. The NCAA mandates that practices for all men’s basketball teams begin on Oct. 15.

“I think it was very impressive what they did given the circumstances with 10 practices and the youth that is out there. I’m really encouraged by where we’ve come from practice one to practice 10,” Dixon said.

Dixon also shared his thoughts on the night’s scrimmage.

“I thought our conditioning was good. They have had a good week — six good days in a row. They’ve shown a lot of improvement. We played hard. I’m real happy with the energy, intensity and focus. The execution of plays was good considering we have so many new guys at this point.”

Senior transfer Chase Adams scored 21 points, including shooting five-of-seven from behind the arc. Adams came from Centenary College in Louisiana and is able to immediately compete, because Centenary is on probation and plans to move from NCAA Division I to Division III. Adams joins guards Brad Wanamaker, Ashton Gibbs, Jermaine Dixon and Travon Woodall, who will all compete for starting positions.

Wanamaker scored 19 points, while Gibbs scored 17 and Woodall contributed 11.

“I’m excited about our guards. Obviously they are very young, but I think they’re going to be very good players,” Jamie Dixon said.

When asked about the current starting five, Dixon laughed.

“We’ll probably have to have a starting five when we play Sunday,” he said.

The Panthers will host Slippery Rock in an exhibition game on Sunday. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m.