Feb 26, 2012; Louisville, KY, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon calls out instructions during the second half against the Louisville Cardinals at the KFC Yum! Center. Louisville defeated Pittsburgh 57-54. Credit: Jamie Rhodes-US PRESSWIRE
With all of the hype surrounding incoming recruit Steven Adams, Pitt basketball fans have a reason to be excited about this fall. Adams is widely regarded as one of the top five incoming freshmen in the nation. He will fill a huge void in the middle for the Panthers and if Pitt returns to prominence this year, Adams' contributions will surely be a reason why.
But with so much being made of his NBA prospects, Adams could be a one-and-done player, leaving Pitt after only a single season. Fortunately for the Panthers, he isn't the only big time player coming in this season.
Point guard James Robinson is a four-star recruit who is headed to Pitt along with Adams this fall. As last year went along, Robinson gained more and more notoriety and is now being heralded as a top recruit as well. He isn't going unnoticed and this past weekend, was named to Team USA's Under-18 basketball team that will compete in the FIBA Americas tournament later this month.
It isn't merely that Robinson is a great player that should have fans excited, though. He is also filling a huge need on the team and assuming he pans out, should be a key player in Pitt's backcourt for many years to come. Barring an injury that would cause a redshirt, current point guard, senior Tray Woodall, will be moving on this season. After he's gone, Pitt has few options at the position.
Two years ago, Isaiah Epps was expected to be the future point guard. As a heralded recruit, Epps seemed to be the next guy in line after Woodall. But as a redshirt freshman this past season, he couldn't crack the rotation, even as Pitt struggled in light of an injury to Woodall. Epps had a solid 3:1 assist to turnover ratio, but shot a dismal 1/16 from the field and was eventually even passed up by walk-on senior Nick Rivers. That forced Epps to transfer and left Pitt with one fewer point guard.
There's Cameron Wright, but the freshman was shaky at times this season. He shot only about 35% from the field and had more turnovers than assists.
The best remaining option is probably John Johnson. As a true freshman, he showed sparks of playing well this past year. But while he looked good at times, he may be better off as a shooting guard than a true point guard. Johnson is really a bit more of a scorer and the burden of running an offense would take away a bit from his offensive skills.
The addition of Robinson, though, will give Pitt a true floor general to take over once Woodall moves on. As a high school senior this past year, he led his DeMatha team to a 30-6 record. Robinson's team was ranked No. 1 in the state and also No. 11 in the nation. Rivals currently ranks him as the No. 8 point guard in the country and, according to the site, he had offers from the likes of Georgetown, Marquette, and Notre Dame, among others.
While Robinson is capable of scoring (averaged 11 points a game in high school), it's the other things he does that make him attractive to head coach Jamie Dixon. Robinson is the winningest player in the history of his high school and also averaged six assists and seven rebounds a game. He's the prototypical Pitt point guard that does a bit of everything and while there's no guarantee he'll be a great player for the program, the chances are good that the team has found its next point guard.
For more on Pitt basketball, check out SB Nation blog, Cardiac Hill.