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Pitt's Dante Taylor Looks To Improve In 2010-11

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After a tough freshman season, how much more should Pitt expect from Dante Taylor?

It's enough to say that many Pitt fans expected a little more out of then-freshman Dante Taylor last year. When the school landed its first McDonald's High School All-American in 20 years, large expectations followed. He did nothing to quiet those expectations with a 13-point debut, shooting 5-for-7 from the field against a veteran Wofford team in only 19 minutes of play. After putting up modest numbers in most of Pitt's remaining non-conference games, though, Taylor saw his minutes significantly decrease in Big East play.

Taylor's final 2009-10 stats?

4.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, .6 blocks, and .1 assists per game.

Not exactly eye-opening numbers. Taylor, like most freshmen, was a bit overmatched at times -- he was slow on defense and hesitant on offense.

Still, there were some positives during the season. He occasionally showed flashes of greatness, getting into double figures in points or rebounds in seven games. Perhaps his best effort came on the road against highly ranked Syracuse. He collected 10 points and eight rebounds on 3-of-4 shooting in only 23 minutes, adding a steal and a block, energizing Pitt and helping the Panthers to pull out the best win of the season in a hostile environment. He also shot 58 percent from the field on the season, good for second on the team (behind starting center Gary McGhee) among players with at least 100 minutes.

All indications point to Taylor having a better season in 2010-11. In his first two games in the Greentree Summer League, he's racked up 40 points and 20 rebounds, good for a 20/10 average. His Pitt teammates have also been seeing signs of improvement:

"You see Dante getting it," senior guard Brad Wanamaker said. "He's a hard worker. Coming in as a freshman you could see him sometimes get a little nervous. Maybe he worried too much. This summer something has been going on. Dante has been improving. He's finishing around the basket better. He's been in the weight room working hard"...

Starting center Gary McGhee agrees. When McGhee and Taylor went against each other in practice last season, McGhee bullied Taylor and pushed him all over the court. That has not been the case this summer.

"You can definitely tell he got stronger," McGhee said. "Visually, you can see it. When I play against him I can tell, too. It's not the same guy I was backing down as a freshman, just putting him under the basket and scoring easy buckets. Now he's stronger. I have to go to more moves to get my shot off quicker."

Taylor has also slimmed down a bit and that should only help his effectiveness. Still, I don't expect Taylor to start at center in the beginning of this season. McGhee was serviceable last year and head coach Jamie Dixon has a history of starting upperclassmen. However, Taylor should see a bit more playing time and possibly even at power forward, where he could be most comfortable. This much is certain -- Pitt will be counting on him to produce a bit more this year and all signs point to him doing just that.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.