ROBINSON TWP — So far, Pitt’s incoming class of 2016 includes just one forward: 6-foot-9 Corey Manigault.
The Panthers have a trio of seniors at the position: Jamel Artis, Sheldon Jeter and Michael Young, who combined to score 1251 points last season and are Pitt’s three highest-scoring returning players.
In summer workouts, it’s quickly become a case of one student, many, many teachers.
“Jamel, Mike, Sheldon, all of them, they’re teaching me and showing me the right way,” Manigault said. “Once, they made mistakes. They’ve made sure I don’t make the same mistakes as they did. They’re trying to push me in the right direction.”
Manigault admitted that he has some work to do before being able to translate his game from high-school big man to ACC power forward.
“At this level, everybody’s physical, everybody’s crashing the glass more, everybody is the man where they come from,” he said. “So it’s just making that adjustment of not being the biggest guy on the floor anymore. That’s something new.
“It’s a whole new level. Every one is stronger, faster, can get to the rim better. There’s just a whole other step. I just need to adjust and take my game to where the team is at, keep pushing and keep improving.”
In particular, Artis has taken time to take Manigault under his wing. In addition to facing one another in the team’s workouts, the two are on the same PBC Pro-Am team this summer. Artis said it’s taken him back to his time as a freshman.
“I looked up to (Lamar Patterson),” Artis recalled. “Me and him went at it every day in practice. I had to wait my turn. Now, I think all that hard work is paying off. That’s thanks to Lamar.” Four years later, Artis is the man dispensing advice and dishing out punishment (physical and otherwise) to a young up-and-comer.
“It’s kinda cool to be looked at (that way),” he said. I waited my turn. I have to make something out of it right now. … We still have some up-and-coming big men that we have to get right and get in shape. They’re getting there. We’re working hard in the offseason. I have a lot of trust (in them).”
Of course, there is another new leader that Manigault is adjusting to: head coach Kevin Stallings. So far, that’s been an easy adjustment.
“I like him a lot,” Manigault said. “He pushes us to the limit and he only wants us to get better. He never wants us to take a step back. That’s a good thing. I like that in a coach. I want him to keep pushing me no matter what.”
One of the themes echoed by Artis, Manigault and others is that Stallings’ system is all about playing to the individual strengths of the players.
“Basically, whatever we do best, he’ll let us do best to help the team win,” Manigault said. For him, that includes “creating mismatches in and outside, just being big and handling the ball well, rebounding and defending.”
As a freshman at a position with three seniors, the floor might be hard for Manigault to find at times this season. That’s something he’s aware of and has embraced, and he said he feels “comfortable” in his role.
“Playing every day with these guys has made me more comfortable every day,” Manigault said. “That’s another good thing. They’re teaching me things. … (I’m just) competing every day playing, trying to get on the floor and help the team win.”