Pitt players are again participating in the annual Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am Summer League, which got underway this week. True, it's difficult to get a handle on just how seriously you can take the statistics and game play. The level of competition isn't typically as strong as Pitt will face in the Big East and other than pride, there isn't a great deal on the line. Still, there are some interesting storylines to follow and things to look for this year.
1. Dante Taylor's Emergence- Taylor's performance could largely determine how far Pitt is able to go this year. The team needs more of an inside presence, and the Panthers will need him to be more aggressive both offensively and defensively if it wants to be a truly elite team in 2010-11. Unfortunately, the two players who might pose the biggest challenge for him, NBA and Pitt center Aaron Gray and Duquesne power forward Damian Saunders, are on his own team. Still, he will face up against other college frontcourt players including his Pitt teammates Gary McGhee and J.J. Richardson.
2. The Rookies- Two of Pitt's incoming freshmen, Cameron Wright and J.J. Moore, have enrolled early and are playing in the league (Isaiah Epps will be enrolling in the fall). This is a good chance for them to get their feet wet against legitimate college competition. It's unknown how much each will be relied upon during the season, but Pitt could need them at some point. The more game experience they can get before the season the better.
3. The Enigma That Is Gilbert Brown- Pitt fans have been waiting patiently for Gil to take that next step. It's a little unfair to ask for a meteoric rise like the one Sam Young experienced, but Brown's athleticism is unmistakable and it's easy to wish for more. Brown was mind-numbingly frustrating to watch at times last year. Scoring isn't everything, but one need only look at his last 15 games of the season last year to get a good idea of the ups and downs he had. His point totals over those games: 9, 25, 0, 23, 6, 16, 5, 16, 3, 13, 0, 19, 3, 17, 14. Gil likely needs to be more consistent for Pitt to go deep into the NCAA tournament this season.
4. The Forgotten -Talib Zanna and Lamar Patterson, recruits from last year, saw little action over last season. Both are a year older and have had the advantage of participating in Pitt's legendary rugged practices. Zanna and Patterson may not get a ton of minutes again this year, but the summer league could provide a glimpse of how much they've improved.
5. The Alumni- Former Pitt stars Aaron Gray and Carl Krauser are playing in the league. Gray is off to a modest start in the NBA, but with his 7-foot frame, he should be around for years to come. Krauser most recently was playing in New Zealand, but is still young enough that bigger things could eventually be in his future. I'm looking forward to seeing how they've developed since their Pitt days. And along those same lines, Armen Gilliam and Myron Brown are former NBA players that are in the league this year. Gilliam had a nice 13-year career and was the No. 2 overall NBA Draft pick in 1987. At 46 years old, it will be fun to see if he can compete with the young guys. Brown only played briefly in the NBA, but if you reach that level, you're pretty good.