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November 9, 2013
Perfect timing for Randall and Pitt
Talib Zanna was suspended for Pitt's opening game Friday night for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Timing is a funny thing but maybe, just maybe, the fact that Zanna had to miss an 88-55 win over Savannah State on November 8th will turn out to be one of the keys to Pitt's ultimate success this season.
You see, the fact that Zanna was out meant Derrick Randall was in, and if anything was ever true it's the following: Derrick Randall needed badly to feel like a contributor, like a real piece of the puzzle.
The young man has been through a ton of adversity over the past year, from the Rutgers scandal to losses in his personal life. Add to that mix transferring into a new program (one that he probably wanted to come to in the first place) then throw in some injury issues that kept him off the practice floor and some early struggles - and one thing becomes clear.
Derrick Randall needed a game like he had Friday night.
The transfer from Rutgers needed to have success in a big way, to prove to his teammates, his coach, but most importantly himself, that he could be counted on.
And right from the beginning of the game, Randall came through in spades.
He grabbed a defensive rebound high above the rim on an early possession, then came down the court and finished inside off a nice pass from Lamar Patterson (7 assists) to give Pitt an early 4-0 lead. Randall followed that by grabbing a Michael Young miss and converting it for a 6-2 lead.
Randall made sure that the Tigers of the MEAC had no illusions about historical upsets. He set the tone physically right from the jump that Pitt was going to control the game. And his teammates followed his lead inside, especially Young.
When it was all over Randall had put up a quality line: 12 points and 12 rebounds (with a block) in 20 minutes. He was a picture of quiet relief after the game, saying he had great teammates who he loved and Friday night was really about "just proving to everybody I can play." And he can play.
Randall will be an important piece to the front court if the Panthers are going to reach their max as a team. The way he attacked the glass Friday - nine of his 12 boards were offensive - will be a vital skill as the season progresses.
Patterson talked about Randall with matter-of-fact sternness: "D is a force down low," the veteran do-everything perimeter player said. When he said that, Randall couldn't hide the hint of a smile that came over him.
It felt good to hear his teammate talk about him.
Timing really is everything.
And sometimes...it's perfect.