Through two ACC games, Pitt has certainly gotten some notable performance from its upperclassmen,
A 20.0 points per game average for senior Lamar Patterson, nine rebounds in each game from Talib Zanna, six assists to just one turnover and a team-best five steals from Cameron Wright, Durand Johnson's 18 points against Maryland and of course James Robinson's 4.5-1 assist to turnover ratio. All these, after two ACC games.
While those are all numbers you want to see if you're Jamie Dixon--possibly even more in a couple areas--the most pleasant and welcome addition to this team being where it's at, is due to Josh Newkirk, Jamel Artis and Mike Young.
Look to Saturday, where it was Newkirk and Artis who came off the bench, to help keep the team in the game after going down early to N.C. State, 17-2. Pitt came back to win that game. Young finished as one of three players in double-figures, with 13.
Dixon even admits that while Newkirk's play has been special, he's also improved as the season has come along.
"Josh his played really well," Dixon said. "He had a good stretch early in the year. The last couple games, he's played really well. I felt all along this is a terrific group of freshmen that we had."
While Dixon preaches defense, he does seem more comfortable--not by much, but still more than previous years--in giving the big men a green light when it comes to taking shots.
Even though Young starts, Artis has been the first one off the bench the last two games. If it's not Artis, it's often Newkirk the first one off the bench.
What Dixon sees is see versatility between Young and Artis, as well as a pair of players who like to shoot.
"What your four man does, kind of dictates what you can do offensively," Dixon adds. "The skills that (Artis and Young) brought are ideal for what they can do. They really picked things up. The physical characteristics, but they have the mental ability to pick things up."
For the season, Young is averaging about 20 minutes a game, Artis with 15. Artis is shooting at 52 % for the year! what you would hope for from a four. Young is at 40.3 percent, a percentage you'd also hope for. The intriguing thing is these two taking three-pointers. It's not often, but for the season, Young is 3-11 from three-point range, Artis, 3-7.
Dixon likes it, but as usual, it's the defense he doesn't want to see falter.
"I don't want their shooting to affect other parts of the game," Dixon said. "I think defense is the biggest part of the game. Especially for big guys. Ball screen defense, transition defense."
And for all these guys, who come from high schools where they're counted on to be the team's leading scorer, to come to college and put all the attention to playing defense is a tough one.
Young admits it's hard to accept that defense-first mentality. He does, however, see the bigger picture.
"It was tough at the beginning to come from high school, where the focus is on offense; score for your team, score to win," Young adds. "To come here, they put a lot of emphasis on defense, rebounding and how to be tough.
"In the beginning, it was tough. It was a tough transition for me and Jamel, but we're starting to see how it pays off."