Pitt sophomore DeJuan Blair
Pitt sophomore center DeJuan Blair promised Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon that he would practice with the team Wednesday and be ready to play in the Legends Classic Friday and Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
True to his word, DeJuan Blair, who sat out Tuesday's game against Belmont at the Petersen Events Center due to swelling in his right knee, went through a full practice without any problems and will leave Pittsburgh today for New Jersey. An X-ray taken Wednesday confirmed what a previous MRI showed that there was no damage to his knee.
"It was a surprise to all of us,'' Dixon said, "because he hadn't had anything like this happen for three years. There was some inflammation in the knee, but there was no pain. He wanted to play (against Belmont), but we erred on the side of caution. We have very conservative trainers.''
Blair had reconstructive surgery on both knees while at Schenley High School in Pittsburgh, but he had not had any problems since then. Dixon believed the issue was not significant, and the medical tests proved that.
The 6-foot-7, 265-pound Blair leads Pitt with 17.5 points and 13.5 rebounds per game with a double-double in three of the for games he has played so far. Sam Young also averages 17.5 points per game to go with 5.2 rebounds.
"He means a lot to our team, and we'll be glad to get him back,'' Young said.
Senior forward Tyrell Biggs averages eight points and 4.6 rebonds per game, while the other two starters are senior point guard Levance Fields (13.6 points) -- who has 38 assists and just five turnovers in five games -- and junior two-guard Jermaine Dixon with 7.8 points per game.
The top subs so far are freshmen Ashton Gibbs (5-for-11 from 3-point range), Travon Woodall (13 assists in 54 minutes) and Nasir Robinson (53.8-percent shooting, nine assists).
No. 4 Pitt (5-0) plays Texas Tech (5-0) in the Legends Classic Friday at approximately 7:30 p.m. following the Washington State-Mississippi State game. The first-day losers and winners meet Saturday at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m., respectively. Texas Tech is coached by Pat Knight, son of college basketball coaching legend Bobby Knight.
This is the first meeting for Pitt against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders, like their high-scoring football brethren, lit-up the scoreboard Nov. 20 with an incredible 167 points against East Central University from Ada, Okla. The ECU Tigers scored 115 points in that game.
Pitt is no stranger to the New Jersey-New York area. In fact, it's like the Panthers' second home, as they are 9-1 in the region in recent games. Also, over the past seven seasons, Pitt has tallied a 26-9 record in the New Jersey-New York area. Those contests include games played in Madison Square Garden, Continental Airlines Arena and at St. John's, Seton Hall and Rutgers.
Four Panthers -- Biggs (Nanuet, N.Y./Don Bosco Prep, N.J.), Fields (Brooklyn, N.Y./Xaverian H.S.), Gibbs (Scotch Plains, N.J./Seton Hall Prep) and Woodall (Brooklyn, N.Y./St. Anthony H.S.) -- are natives of the region. Current assistant coach, former Pitt player and "Legend'' Brandin Knight is an East Orange, N.J. native.
This is the ninth consecutive year that the Pitt men's basketball team begins a season with a 5-0 start. The Panthers defeated Belmont 74-60 Tuesday, as senior forward Young scored a career-high and Petersen Events Center record with 33 points on 13-for-17 shooting. With an 86-60 win against Indiana (Pa.) in the previous game last Saturday, Pitt claimed its 100th victory at the Pete and is 101-10 all-time now at the arena.
Pitt has also defeated Akron (86-67), Miami, Ohio (82-53) and Fairleigh Dickinson (86-63) this season. Through its first five games, Pitt has outscored the opposition by a 22.2-point margin and outrebounded its opponents by a plus-8.4 advantage. The Panthers are also converting 54.1 percent (157-290) of their field-goal attempts and limiting opponents to 36.2-percent shooting.
HDNet will provide live television coverage of all four Legends Classic games. Michael Reghi will serve as play-by-play announcer joined by Jim Spanarkel and Seth Davis (color commentary). Scott Ferrier will produce. HDNet is the first hi-definition national television network. The channel is available throughout the United States on Bright House Networks, DirectTV, Charter Communications, Comcast, Insight Communications, Mediacom, Time Warner, NCTC affiliated cable systems, Verizon Fios, Bell Express Vu, Star Choice, Shaw and Cogeco. The channel is not carried by Pittsburgh's Comcast Cable network.