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June 17, 2011

Summer league preview

The Pittsburgh Basketball Club Summer Pro-Am kicks off on Monday night. Today PantherLair.com basketball analyst Matt Steinbrink looks at each team.


Team: UPMC
Pitt players: Travon Woodall, Talib Zanna, Durand Johnson
Best non-Pitt player: Lamar Castille

Why they could win it: With Woodall running the point, his development could make the difference for this team. He will have Castille, Sean Johnson (Duquesne), and sniper Durand Johnson on the wing. Zanna will anchor the post on his own for the most part, and Castille has dominated the league with his strength and experience. The inside-outside combination of Woodall and Zanna figures to be dominant.

Concern: Only Josh Chojnacki (YSU), at 6'8, is slated to play inside with Zanna. This squad possesses a wealth of wing players but is thin inside. The point guard duties are totally left to Woodall as well, where he will have to display more consistency and production in this particular setting.


Team: SPK Law
Pitt players: Ashton Gibbs, Lamar Patterson
Best non-Pitt player: Deniz Kilicli

Why they could win it: Gibbs has scored in bunches in Greentree and that figures to continue. After turning down a chance at professional basketball, he is back in school on a mission. He will also have teammate Patterson on his wing, a versatile forward that was a large contributor to the championship team his first year. The two Panthers will be working with a rival in the post, Kilicli. Kilicli will have a significant strength advantage inside on a nightly basis, which could prove to be deadly with Gibbs' ability to stretch the defense.

Concern: This team features three players who love to shoot, especially from outside the arc in Gibbs, Patterson, and Jerry Jones (Duquesne). Will there be enough shots to go around and will the team have the discipline to get Kilicli his touches inside? If the three-point shots aren't falling on a particular night, who is going to get the ball to the hole? As long as they do not become one-dimensional, this team has a great chance to win a title.


Team: The Lair
Pitt players: Isaiah Epps, Dante Taylor
Best non-Pitt player: Coron Williams

Why they could win it: Pitt fans will get their first look at Epps, who missed last year's league. The ball will be in his hands as Epps will get a large opportunity to make his claim for playing time this fall. The question remains if Taylor will ever take that next step, but if he has made that leap, this team will challenge. Williams is a great outside shooter that will be a sniper alongside Epps and DJ Cole of Youngstown State. Mezi Nwigwe is very experienced and has played in the league for years. He can provide production on the wing.

Concern: Other than Taylor, the team is a bit thin inside. They will need to utilize some undersized forwards from Robert Morris and Youngstown State on the interior. The pressure will be on Epps as well, who will need to prove he can play with the other big-time guards in the league.


Team: PGT Trucking
Pitt players: Cameron Wright, Nasir Robinson, Malcolm Gilbert
Best non-Pitt player: Jeremy Chappel

Why they could win it: This team is very well-rounded and balanced. The ball-handling duties will fall to Eric Evans and Wright primarily. Robinson can be extremely difficult to contain in this type of environment. BJ Monteiro and Anthony Myers also bring scoring. Chappel could be the difference-maker. He has played in the league for over four years and has consistently been one of the top performers each year. If this team finds the chemistry and freshman Gilbert can man the post defensively, look out.

Concern: The court can appear very small in this league at times and this team lacks a great outside shooter. Chappel can knock down shots but he is streaky. When the defense packs it in and eliminates the penetration, can they rely on an outside shooter? That will be the question.


Team: Center Court
Pitt players: John Johnson, J.J. Moore, Khem Birch
Best non-Pitt player: Lance Jeter

Why they could win it all: This team could be the most talented in the league. Jeter dominated the league last year and can serve a variety of different roles. This team has two solid options at point guard, with the more experienced Velton Jones and incoming freshman John Johnson. In order for this team to win the league, Moore and Birch will need to be playing at a high level. Moore is ultra talented and can score. Birch could be the x-factor on the inside. Pittsburgh basketball fans will also get to see local product Tom Droney in this setting after his freshman season at Davidson.

Concern: More than any other team in this league, potential is littered throughout the roster. There will be plenty of questions heading in for this team, but they also probably have the highest ceiling. With Jeter and Jones' experience, it may be a perfect match for the young and explosive talent in Moore, Birch, and Johnson.


Team: PBC
Best non-Pitt player: TJ McConnell, Kyle Goldcamp

Why they could win it all: McConnell was extremely impressive last summer and dominated play alongside Gilbert Brown. He will now be paired with Truck Bryant in the backcourt, along with Kyle Goldcamp up front. This core will serve as the three pieces that could succeed in the league.

Concern: Mike Talley (Duquesne) showed some flashes last summer, but not one other player on the roster has played in the league (other than McConnell).


Team: SteelCityTickets.com
Best non-Pitt player: Jabarie Hinds, Aaric Murray

Why they could win it all: The West Virginia team will certainly be interesting. Six freshmen and two transfers will look to come together and gel as a team in a competitive environment. Although they are young and may have their struggles, the team contains a lot of natural talent. Murray is a 6'10 transfer that has serious upside. Jabarie Hinds is an explosive point guard from Mt. Vernon that is capable of making exciting plays. Juwan Staten, a Dayton transfer, was a big-time recruit out of Oak Hill Academy and is still in the early stages of his career.

Concern: So much youth and inexperience could spell trouble. They will also get a late start on the league, as they cannot compete until June 27th.



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