ROBINSON TWP — The Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am Tournament is back. The city tradition, which took a one-year hiatus in 2015 returned to Montour High School Wednesday night, and it’s re-established itself as the go-to spot for Pittsburgh’s Division-I basketball players to knock some of the summer rust off.
The majority of the rosters from Pitt, Duquesne and Robert Morris were in attendance, and both gyms were packed with fans trying to get a look at some of the new faces in Pittsburgh basketball.
Here are some takeaways from the PBC Pro-Am Opener:
• Pitt freshman point guard Justice Kithcart is impressive. He’s not tall — listed by the Panthers at 6-foot-1 and that might be generous — but he’s extremely physical for a smaller player, and frequently went over and around bigger players on the way to the hoop.
“Ever since I’ve been young I watched Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose — guys that attack the basket recklessly. I watched all those good point guards, the way they take contact, are physical at the him and have a different array of layups and finishing moves at the rim. I like to seek out contact and finish.”
One of the other things that stood out is his willingness — maybe even preference — to go to his non-dominant left side, something that caught more than one defender flat-footed.
“I like finishing with my left a lot,” he said. “My dad is left-handed, so that might play a role into it. It throws people off because I can go hard right and then cross back over to the left and finish to the left. It just makes my game a lot better.”
• Not to be outdone, on the other floor, sophomore Damon Wilson elicited a response from the crowd with a nasty fake that sent Jonathan Milligan tumbling to his backside. I asked Wilson if it might come up again in workouts this week.
“That’s my bro, but probably. Definitely,” Wilson laughed. “He knows not to reach, so I don’t know why he was doing that anyways.”
I’ll have more on Wilson, Kithcart and the position battle at point guard later this week.
• It was my first time seeing Pitt center Rozelle Nix play (semi) competitive basketball. I’ll be honest, I’ve wondered how well the nearly 300-pound big man would be able to get up and down the floor, but he didn’t look out of place at all. If he can provide some value in the paint and take some defensive pressure off Michael Young, that will go a long way for the Panthers.
• I caught up with former Pitt point guard James Robinson. He said he just got in town and is excited to check out the new Panthers, particularly guards Kithcart, Milligan and Wilson.
Robinson said he has already gotten a few offers to play in Europe, but he’s holding out for an offer closer to home. He was not invited to the NBA’s Summer League.
• Freshman Duquesne wing Isiaha Mike looked good. He showed uncommon poise with the basketball for a 6-foot-8 player. He’ll need to work on his defense. The Dukes could really use an infusion of talent after a disappointing season and several departures. It’ll be interesting to see how much responsibility Jim Ferry heaps on the young Canadian.
• Former Pitt walk-on Aron Nwankwo was an unannounced addition to the HBS roster. He dominated in the paint against the Pitt duo of Jamel Artis and Corey Manigault and Lincoln Park’s Elijah Minnie. … Robert Morris forward Aaron Tate did not play. He missed almost all of the 2015-16 season with a series of leg injuries.