After missing the final 20 games of the 2013-2014 season, Pittsburgh junior forward Durand Johnson was back wearing his home white uniform on Thursday at the Panthers media day.
The 6-foot-6 Johnson was sidelined in mid-January after tearing the ACL and meniscus in his right knee in an ACC win over Wake Forest. While he may have recovered from season-ending knee surgery, Johnson has recently injured his ankle and is currently day-to-day, according to Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“Hey, an ankle injury is something you just deal with in basketball; if we had a game today, I’d be suiting up to play,” Johnson told reporters. “I just need to keep working through it and work it out. I’m not too concerned. I’m just glad my knee is back to 100 percent, it feels good, it is strong.”
Pitt took a blow last week when another key contributor from a season ago went down with an injury. On Sept. 26, it was reported guard Cameron Wright, who started all 36 games last season, had suffered a broken right foot and is out for up to 10 weeks.
With Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna both gone, Wright and Johnson are Pitt’s top two returning scorers at 10.5 and 8.8 points per game, respectively.
“I can’t really give you specifics for when [Wright and Johnson] are going to be back, but I don’t anticipate that [Wright] will miss many games, and Durand should be able to work back into it,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said. “And he will tell you he is ready to go today.”
At least for the time being, Pitt will rely on other returners such as junior point guard James Robinson, who was top 3 in the country last season in assist-to-turnover ratio, Jamel Artis, who has reportedly slimmed down this summer and fellow sophomores Michael Young and Josh Newkirk.
The Panthers begin the 2014-2015 season with a home contest against Niagara on Nov. 14.