One of the most promising things that came from the 2011-12 basketball season--the first season that Pitt has missed the NCAA Tournament in over a decade--was the emergence on Lamar Patterson.
Patterson, who is entering the 2012-13 season as a redshirt junior--went from playing in 32 games as a redshirt freshman, to starting in 37 games this past season. He shared the team's Most Improved Player Award fr the 2010-11 season, to sharing the Team MVP Award with Travon Woodall this past season.
Fast-forward to this summer, where Patterson was unstoppable--capped by helping his team to the league championship Wednesday night. Here is a look at Patterson's numbers from the summer.
June 18: 9-16 shooting, 4-7 3PT, 2-5 FT, 24 PTS, 8 REB, 0 A
June 25: 5-17 shooting, 1-5 3PT, 3-5 FT, 15 PTS, 13 REB, 0 A
June 27: 5-15 shooting, 1-8 3PT, 6-7 FT, 17 PTS, 9 REB, 5 A
July 2: 8-15 shooting, 1-5 3PT, 3-5 FT, 20 PTS, 5 REB, 11 A
July 9: 6-18 shooting, 0-0 3PT, 3-4 FT, 16 PTS, 8 REB, 8 A
July 11: 10-18 shooting, 4-10 3PT, 9-12 FT, 33 PTS, 7 REB, 7 A
July 16: 8-18 shooting, 3-7 3PT, 5-6 FT, 24 PTS, 5 REB, 6 A
July 17: 14-26 shooting, 6-10 3PT, 1-1 FT, 35 PTS, 12 REB, 4 A
July 18: 5-22 shooting, 4-9 3 PT, 13-14, 27 PTS, 10 REB, 4 A
Even if there's a game where on part of his game is off--take for example Wednesday's 1-13 performance from two-point range--he shot 4-9 from three-point range, and was nearly flawless from the free throw line. Interestingly, only two games did he have a similar number of rebounds as he did assists. Most games this summer, Patterson either had a higher number of rebounds or a higher number of assists. That is more testament of the versatility of his game, and also allows Jamie Dixon the option of starting him as a two, three or even a four.
When you ask Patterson about his progression--from key reserve, to starter to co MVP, and now MVP of the Pro-Am league--he credits teammates before him who helped show him theway, and the younger guys below him who now look to him for answers.
"Being in a program for three, four years--it's a solid part of your life here," Patterson said, "It's confidence. The coaches expect a lot out of me. My teammates, they expect a lot out of me also--just being able to have them depend on me and not let them down. That's all that matters in a leadership role, but I also depend on them too.
"It's good. Everyone's expecting a lot of things from me. We have a lot of guys returning, but as a leader I feel everyone is progressing a little bit. The newcomers are doing good. It feels good to have eight weeks of (conditioning) with the (strength) coaches. They're definitely going to benefit from it right now. Everyone looks real good."
In fact, even after his progression, all Patterson wants to talk about his his teammates. I think part of it is understandable--getting the chance to move on and put lastyear's disappointment of missing the NCAA Tournament out of the way. Also part of it is what's returning--him, Woodall, Dante Taylor, Talib Zanna and J.J. Moore. Even a junior class that consists of him, Moore, Zanna and now Trey Zeigler--many teams would take as an acceptable form of a senior class. Those returning juniors have already played in a lot of games for Pitt.
"They all look good," Patterson said of his teammates. "The conditioning, you can tell right now it's helping everyone. We workout every morning. We're all together, we're working out. The timing has been coming together on the court (in the summer league). It's been helping us."
If you specifically ask who stands out, or who has improved the most, Patterson came up with a few examples.
"We haven't hardly seen J.J. (in the summer league because of a foot injury), but I think his body has changed the most. His body has gained the most muscle right now, so it's going to be interesting once he gets on the court. Probably, definitely J.J (the most). Talib's body has always been solid. Dante is changing too. Those three have really been in the weight room hard. The freshmen have been doing a great job. You can tell, coming to college and lifting is something different."
Embracing that leadership role, Patterson also says he's impressed by the incoming group of freshmen--what they've done in workout session, the respect they show the coaches and upperclassmen and their attitudes in general.
"They know we've been through it," Patterson said "They don't want to go through with this alone. No one does. The transition from high school to college is no joke. It's been that way for me, for Brad (Wanamaker). That's the way it was when I came in. They made it easier."
Patterson was willing to offer one small goal he has for himself--even though he went back to talking about his teammates. It's pretty clear that Patterson is not done with his progression, and even more clear that he is a key leader for the program.
"For myself, I just want to stay conditioned and tone my body a little bit more," Patterson said. As a team, I just want to keep seeing guys progress and in the room. Everyone's doing the right things. Everyone is in the weight room lifting. Bodies are changing."