Talib Zanna played his final game in a Pitt uniform on Saturday in a 61-45 loss to first ranked Florida. Zanna is a player who matured greatly under head coach Jamie Dixon and really kicked it up a notch in March.
Zanna, originally from Nigeria, came to America to play basketball. Zanna struggled a bit in his first few weeks in the U.S., repeatedly calling home and asking if he could return to Nigeria. Zanna’s father would not allow his son to give up his dream and it paid off.
Zanna had never played basketball as a child, he was always more of a soccer player. He was discovered at a basketball camp in Nigeria that he attented that was hosted by former Nigerian Georgetown basketball player Godwin Owinje and Bishop McNamara high school basketball coach Marty Keithline. Keithline decided to give the 6’9 Zanna a chance at a new life in America.
Zanna prospered in high school and had a very successful high school career. In his senior season at Bishop McNamara he recorded 15 rpg and 16 ppg as his stock quickly rose. Zanna received scholarship offers from Oklahoma, Boston College and many other division one basketball programs before committing to Pitt.
Zanna leaves Pitt as the 44th member of the exclusive 1,000 point club. Zanna had an up-and-down career for the Panthers, but he will most certainly be remembered for his exit from the program.
The past few senior classes have flopped in March and performed well under expectations. With the Panthers struggling for much of the second half of the season, Zanna took his game to another level come March.
In the month of March, Zanna averaged 14.6 ppg and 10.4 rpg, that is good enough for a double-double each game on average. With the Panthers tournament chances in doubt, he figuratively put the team on his back and carried them within three points of the ACC championship game and the third round of the ACC tournament.
As Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook wrote on March 14, Zanna’s 19 points 21 rebounds display against UNC was a performance that was second only to DeJuan Blair’s 22 points and 23 rebounds against UCONN in 2009. Cook goes on to make the argument that Zanna’s play in March has elevated his name amongst some of the Panthers’ best players, Charles Smith, Jerome Lane, Don Hennon, Brandon Knight and DeJuan Blair.
Only time will tell if Zanna will be remembered as a Pitt icon. However, all Pitt fans will remember the run he took the Panthers on in March of 2014. It was a legendary run that has elevated his NBA draft stock to potential late-second round pick.
Zanna will probably not get drafted, he will probably end up having a fairly nice career overseas. But he should be remembered by all Panthers fans as one of the best big men in the Jamie Dixon era, just behind NBA players DeJuan Blair and Aaron Gray.