Pitt Panthers basketball: Previewing shooting guards and small forwards

Cameron Wright led all Pitt guards in scoring last season with 10.5 ppg. Pitt is a little depleted in the shooting guard department with Wright being the only true shooting guard on the roster.

Pitt's Cameron Wright drives on Duke's Rasheed Sulaimon

Pitt’s Cameron Wright drives on Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon

In fact, the only guards on the Pitt roster other than Cameron Wright are point guards Josh Newkirk and James Robinson. The official Pitt roster lists swingman Chris Jones as a guard/forward, but the 6-foot-6 rising sophomore has never entered the Pitt lineup in any position other than small forward.

The Panthers had recruited a shooting guard to fill that void on the roster next season, however their 6-3 recruit Cameron Johnson of Our Lady of Sacred Heart. However, Johnson had a bit of a growth spurt during his senior year growing to 6-foot-8, which most definitely moving him out of consideration for any time at shooting guard. However, Johnson has a unique skill set given that he spent most of his life as a guard, he could prove to be a versatile forward.

The Pitt Panthers basketball program has lacked in the shooting guard portion of the lineup since Ashton Gibbs departed the program in 2012.

Cameron Wright, the only senior who will see playing time next season, is the Panthers’ sole option at shooting guard. Wright will no doubt lead the team in minutes played as he will see increased time and pressure to be a leader on the team.

An excerpt from a review of Wright’s play published on April 19:
“Wright showed everyone that he is more than a defensive player. In previous seasons he was an offensive liability and was in the game merely for his defensive prowess. This season the Panthers counted on him to score when facing particularly tough defenses that silenced their first two scoring options.”

Expect Wright to average closer to 35 minutes per game next season. However if he struggles or gets into foul trouble the Panthers could deploy a lineup featuring both Newkirk and Robinson; or they could put one of their many versatile small forwards to fill-in.

The most important position on the Panthers is the small forward position. The Panthers will most likely get a large part of their production from players in this position.

Durand Johnson will be a star for the 2014-15 Pitt Panthers. The soon-to-be was on the rise last season prior to tearing his ACL thus ending his season against Wake Forest on January 11. He averaged 8.8 ppg on just 19.8 mpg last season. He is the perfect player to build a Jamie Dixon version of an ACC offense around. In addition to being an elite scorer, he is fast, athletic, strong and can play tremendous defense.

As soon as he recovers from his ACL injury expect Johnson to contribute in a big way for the Panthers. Until then, transfers-sophomore Sheldon Jeter will play an increased role for the Panthers. The Beaver Falls native originally attended Vanderbilt but elected to move closer to home. He showed signs of great potential in limited time at Vanderbilt.

Recruit Ryan Luther from Hampton became Pitt’s first local high school recruit since DeJuan Blair of Schenley. Luther possess a fairly decent jump shot for a 6’8 forward. If he is able to avoid being redshirted he could contribute valuable minutes off of the bench.

Regardless of who starts the season at small forward there are big shoes to fill. Second team All-ACC player Lamar Patterson who graduated following a terrific senior year, averaged 17.1 ppg last season and is on the radar of numerous NBA teams.