Pitt center Randall rebounds from injury
LAHAINA, Hawaii — He has been a mere afterthought among Pitt’s litany of injuries that has sidelined senior guard Cameron Wright and delayed freshman Ryan Luther’s college debut.
For Derrick Randall, his breakout performance Monday against Chaminade in the EA Sports Maui Invitational couldn’t have come soon enough.
Randall scored 11 points and grabbed a career-high and tournament-record 21 rebounds in Pitt’s 81-68 victory. The Panthers faced No. 15 San Diego State on Tuesday night.
More importantly, Randall — at least for one game — appeared to solidify a starting center position that junior Joseph Uchebo may have let slip away.
Granted, Randall registered his career rebound game against a Division II opponent whose frontline was dwarfed in comparison to his 6-foot-9, 240-pound frame. He outrebounded the entire Chaminade team.
Randall was relatively healthy after struggling the past month with a lingering ankle injury he suffered in a preseason scrimmage.
“It’s been a frustrating time for me, the ankle injury,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “He was playing really well, had the ankle injury in the Blue-Gold game. It’s about a month that he’s been full speed and sat out for two or three weeks. It’s finally getting back.”
Dixon said injuries delayed the development of some of the team’s younger and less experienced players. Randall, for example, appeared in all 36 games but averaged only 8.6 minutes last season.
“We’ve just got to get guys healthy and get them right,” Dixon said. “And (Randall’s) one of them as well. (Luther) was out for a week (foot injury). Now he’s back, so we’re playing him and he’s giving us more minutes. We’re finding different guys and trying to get them back to 100 percent.”
After giving Uchebo the quick hook following a missed layup and turnover in the opening minute against Chaminade, Dixon played Randall 13 minutes in the first half and 30 minutes overall. A transfer from Rutgers, Randall’s previous career high was 25 minutes.
Randall immediately took up residence inside, scoring six points and grabbing 13 rebounds in the first half (including eight offensive boards). His commanding presence created second shots for teammates who, in turn, began passing him the ball.
“It was really impressive and good to see Derrick rebound like that,” junior point guard James Robinson said. “In practice, he’s one of the louder guys. He always gives his all. It was really good to see and hopefully he can continue.”
Randall’s track record isn’t that of a scorer or dominant rebounder. Dixon, though, was impressed enough by Randall’s performance against Chaminade.
“He’s played better in practice in the last week. I think it was important,” Dixon said. “As disappointed as we were on Friday in our performance (after losing to Hawaii), we really wanted to get our legs under us.
“I just felt like we were tired when we got here. Hopefully now we’re getting our legs under us a little bit. Derrick is getting healthier now. It’s good to see him go like that.”
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.