Pitt men’s basketball team reliant on sophomores |

Pitt men’s basketball team reliant on sophomores

Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Chris Jones plays against Loyola Marymount on Dec. 4, 2013, at Petersen Events Center.

Pttt likely will debut in Friday night’s season opener against Niagara at Petersen Events Center with old reliables James Robinson and Michael Young plus three new members in the starting lineup: guard Chris Jones, forward Jamel Artis and center Joseph Uchebo.

Senior guard Cameron Wright is expected to reclaim his starting job upon returning from a broken foot he suffered in September. Jones, who started at shooting guard in the Panthers’ two exhibition games, will be joined by a multitude of interchangeable players capable of playing multiple positions.

“It gives us some versatility, especially with Cam out,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said Wednesday. “It gives us the ability to play guys at different spots.”

For instance, Dixon said, Jones, a sophomore, will play shooting guard and small forward. Artis, a sophomore, will play small forward and power forward. Young, a sophomore, will play power forward and small forward, and sophomore Josh Newkirk will play both backcourt positions.

“Our freshmen played so many minutes (last year),” Dixon said. “Those five guys make us older than sophomores generally are.”

Young, Artis, Jones and Newkirk played at least 200 minutes as freshmen. Young started all 36 games. Beaver Falls native Sheldon Jeter, a transfer from Vanderbilt, appeared in all 33 games with seven starts as a freshman in 2012-13.

Junior Durand Johnson appeared in 16 games last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury.

Dixon added that local newcomers Ryan Luther (Hampton) and Cameron Johnson (Our Lady of the Sacred Heart) could contribute as freshmen.

In two exhibition games, eight players received at least 13.5 minutes per game.

“We’ve had the opportunity to move Jamel and Sheldon around to two different spots,” Dixon said. “Josh, James, Sheldon, Mike, Jamel, Chris — they’re all going to play. Sheldon played Division I at Vanderbilt. Chris was kind of the odd-man out (last year). He never got consistent minutes. They’re all going to get opportunities, more than they have before. It’ll be a variety of guys.”

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected].

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