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Pitt the Great

by Andrew Force | December 27th, 2007

Aaron Gray graduated, taking with him 1109 career points and 790 career rebounds.

So how is Pitt better this year than last?

Sam Young, a patient forward for head coach Jamie Dixon, waited for the frontcourt pair of Gray and Levon Kendall to play out their careers before he really showed his skills. The ability has been there for the entirety of his career.

He just didn’t fit into the style of play. Plodding, purposeful, defensive. Young was well behind the team on the defensive end.

For better or worse, Dixon had to start him this year. What emerged from the new concoction is a speedier, more up-tempo Pitt unit.

Much of this new dynamic can be attributed to Young, a strong forward who floats around the floor like a swingman. When Oklahoma State battled Pittsburgh, Marcus Dove, a defensive stalwar,t held the junior Young scoreless for the first 10 minutes, and first 16 minutes without a field goal. The leading scorer for Pitt apparently met his match–an athletic forward with good instincts.

From the final TV timeout to the halftime whistle Big Sam outscored the Cowboys 11-5. The Panthers subsequently ran away with the game.

The Cowboys game was not the only game Young and Pitt started slowly. Faced with the tall task of the Duke Blue Devils in Madison Square Garden, Pittsburgh stumbled, tripped, face-planted, drooled, and snorted coming out of the proverbial gates.

It was ugly. Very ugly in the first half.

Once again Sam Young hardly made a peep early. Despite managing only four first half points on seven shots, Young finished the game with a strong 17 points.

Duke witnessed a flurry of offensive maneuvers from the junior forward. It all started with a pick-and-pop in the corner which culminated in a slightly fading jumper.

Then Young converted a difficult leaning banker. In overtime Young found any shot he wanted. Duke had no answer.

Late and critical are apparently more interesting times for the relatively elderly Young.

With Mike Cook’s severe knee injury, critical has reared its ugly head once again.

Young is still not a Big East star. He plays best when opponents forget about him. His skills hit you in the eye the second you start focusing harder on point guard Levance Fields or center DaJuan Blair.

For Pitt to maintain its perch atop the country, look for Young to quietly outclass the class of the Big East.

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