“You can always go home.”
It’s been said by a lot of people of lot of different ways for a very long time. So it must be true, and the longevity of the statement bore out at the Peterson Events Center, Jan. 27, as the Pitt legends of the game returned to the scope of their blue and gold dominance.
You know the names and you remember them. Pitt basketball and winning were a common theme song. Sam “Bam” Clancy, Charles Smith, Jerome “Yea I Broke It” Lane, just to name a few. (If you think for one minute I am not going to say it you are crazy, Sam Clancy’s shirt should be retired and hanging in the rafters next to Charles Smith!!! Live with it.)
On Jan. 25, 1988, it was the day at the old Fitzgerald Field House that will live forever. Lane, taking the pass from Sean Miller, and the most famous dunk in Panthers history soon followed, shattering the backboard against Providence. Most of college basketball nation remembers that play, as ESPN televised that game nationally. Lane was in attendance at this Jan. 27, 2018 matchup against Syracuse.
From the outset it appeared that the cavalry had arrived just in the nick of time. The young but fearless Panthers jumped out to a 14-6 lead on a tall, but not a normally talented Syracuse team and appeared to have shaken their freshman blues. Jared Wilson-Frame, the heart and soul of the Panthers, got it started with 12 quick points…And then, and then? As they continue to do, the turnovers reared their ugly heads.
Speaking of just in time, the Syracuse Orange showed up at a time when this freshman-laced team needed to see some less-than-superstar talent to measure their medal against. Truth be told, this might be the least talented team “The Cuse” has posted in the past five years.
Enough with the sad song. Here’s what you got with the Panthers, now that we’re a few months into the season.
Wilson-Frame, as I said, is the team leader. A pitbull in the lane and can shoot the three, just not as consistent as I’m sure he would like. Your bona fide 3-man is Parker Stewart. He shoots it well and is getting better and more consistent each game. Marcus Carr is your point man, athletic, great ball control in transition, but makes his mistakes in the passing lane, and more than the floor general should. I continue to wonder why Coach Kevin Stallings doesn’t go with his proven senior guard, Jonathan Milligan. I suspect he wants to get Carr ready as soon as possible.
Khameron Davis is one of several swingmen to play the three-spot along with Shamiel Stevenson, who doubles down at the three-spot and can step in and play the four respectfully.
The trouble spot for the team out the gate was the lack of inside presence. Terrell Brown is the future at the five-spot. He started the season with a few nagging injuries, but has come on to give the team a few inside points, decent defense and some great blocked shots.
The unexpected pain came in the ongoing hurt foot of senior big man Ryan Luther. The Hampton/Gibsonia native was forced to take a redshirt and come back next year.
To wrap this up, with 3:25 left on the clock and the Orange up 50-43 over Pitt, there were signs of the finally live and sizable crowd starting to make their way to the parking lot.
But it’s not over yet.
Say what you want, but I’ve said it from Day 1. Yes, they are young to be sure. Seven freshmen, but they fight to the finish, show signs of emerging talent, and grow more confident each game.
To give you a bit of perspective, I’ve been around the game for 40-plus years, coached at Slippery Rock, Point Park, and Pitt, and I am telling you this team is not as bad as their record (8-14, 0-9 in ACC as of Jan. 30) would indicate, and they give you what they’ve got. From here they can only get better.
Coach Kevin Stallings’ staff will need to weather the lack of experience storm, bring in a few blue chippers and hope they are a potential superstar, like Clancy, Smith and Lane, and can call Pitt home!
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