College basketball programs are allowed to take one summer trip every four years, and the opportunity to get a head start on figuring out roles ahead of the upcoming season can be of high value to some teams. One program looking to reap those rewards this summer is Pittsburgh, which is coming off of a 26-win season in its ACC debut.
Entering the 2014-15 season Jamie Dixon’s group has an important question to address: how will they account for the graduation of Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna? Those two were Pitt’s leading scorers last season, with Patterson being one of the ACC’s most versatile players. Those are two large gaps to fill, and the Panthers’ four games in the Bahamas will help this current group establish greater on-court chemistry and move closer to finding answers to that highly important question.
The level of competition the Panthers have seen in the Bahamas isn’t at the level they’ll see on winter nights in the ACC, but through two blowout victories one of the positives has been the play of sophomore forward Michael Young. Young averaged 6.0 points and 4.1 rebounds per game last season, and he’s performed well in wins over the Pyramid Food Rockets and the Bahamas All-Stars.
In Sunday’s 113-59 whipping of the All-Stars Young tallied 18 points to go along with five rebounds, making eight of his ten shots from the field. This effort came on the heels of a 17-point, seven-rebound, five-assist showing in Pitt’s opener on the trip. As a freshman Young reached double figures in scoring just five times, with the only occasion in which he strung together consecutive double-digit outings coming in wins over Loyola Marymount (ten points) and Youngstown State (ten).
With James Robinson and Cameron Wright returning the Panthers have answers on the perimeter, but they need some members of their front court to step forward. One option is Young (with another being Vanderbilt transfer Sheldon Jeter), and while it’s difficult to take away too much from his first two games in the Bahamas due to the level of competition the trip will provide him with the extra opportunities needed to get acclimated to a larger role in 2014-15.
Young’s effort led the way on an afternoon that saw five Pitt players finish in double figures, and as a team the Panthers shot 62.2% from the field (78.4% in the first half).