PITTSBURGH — Ryan Luther is going to play a lot of minutes for Pitt this season.
That’s not exactly breaking news, as Luther is the only returning regular on a team that features 11 newcomers. Beyond Luther, returning shooting guard Jonathan Milligan and graduate transfer wing Monty Boykins are the only other players with NCAA Division I experience.
Head coach Kevin Stallings said last season that he prefers to utilize a nine-man rotation. The three experienced players are virtual locks. To get from three to nine, Stallings is going to have to use some inexperienced players, and he talked about the ones that have stood out after Pitt’s open practice on Thursday.
Here’s a breakdown of the players likely to see significant playing time when the Panthers open the regular season November 10 at Navy.
No. 0 G/F Jared Wilson-Frame • Junior, 6-5, 220
Wilson-Frame is a guy that looks bigger than he’s listed, and that’s a good thing, because he’s going to be asked to do a lot physically while replacing Cameron Johnson in Pitt’s starting five.
While Wilson-Frame doesn’t have Johnson’s smooth stroke from 3-point range, he’s more comfortable putting the ball on the floor and is a more aggressive defender.
Coming over as a transfer from Northwest Florida State, a junior college, Stallings said that Wilson-Frame have some bad habits that need to be broken, but Stallings believes that he’ll be able to do so.
N0. 5 PG Marcus Carr • Freshman, 6-1, 185
There wasn’t a trip down the floor for the first team in Pitt’s practice that didn’t involve Marcus Carr handling the ball.
Carr, a true freshman from Toronto by way of Montverde Academy in Florida, will start at point guard, and if practice reps are any indication, he might play all 40 minutes some nights.
Car has the ball handling skills, passing ability and defensive awareness to be a quality distributor and minutes-eater. It remains to be seen if he’ll develop into a top scoring threat on his own.
Perhaps more importantly than his basketball skills, Carr has emerged as a leader of the large freshman class, and seems comfortable directing older, more experienced players as a point guard.
No. 1 SG Parker Stewart • Freshman, 6-5, 190
Stewart, a freshman out of Union City, Tennessee, seems primed to take over the shooting guard spot vacated by the graduation of Chris Jones. But Stewart brings a very different skill set compared to the defense-oriented Jones.
A catch-and-shoot, 3-point threat, Stewart is probably the best natural shooter of this year’s class. But he’s not a one-dimensional player, either. Stallings was complementary of his defensive efforts, as well, and that’s why he seems to have earned a spot in the starting five.
No 21 PF/C Terrell Brown • Freshman, 6-10, 240
The closest thing Pitt will have to a true center, Brown is still a very raw player, but Stallings said that Brown has made great strides since first arriving on campus.
Brown was working out with the first team on Thursday. Stallings said that he’d like to use a four-man rotation on the inside. Even with Luther expected to log a lot of minutes, there should be plenty of time to go around for Brown and the other young bigs.
No. 23 SF Shamiel Stevenson • Freshman, 6-6, 230
Perhaps the best pure athlete of the incoming freshmen, Stevenson has a chance to be an impact player on the wing or as a small forward inside.
Stallings said that the Panthers may play small at times and Stevenson as a small forward might be a good option for that type of lineup. Wherever he plays, he should provide rebounding and good instincts on the rush for a bigger player.
No. 15 PF Kene Chukwuka • Sophomore, 6-9, 215
A Swedish junior college transfer, Chukwuka seems likely to settle in as part of the rotation at forward for the Panthers. At 6 foot nine and just 215 pounds, his challenge will be having the physicality to play at the number five spot. If he can’t, his opportunity four minutes may be limited.