Pitt wing Au’Diese Toney has developed nicely over his first two seasons in Pittsburgh as one of the top defenders at his position in the ACC.
But now as a junior, Toney is also showing off a much improved offensive game, having scored 20 points in each of Pitt’s first two games this season, the first time in his career he’s had back-to-back 20-point contests.
“Diese is probably one of the most improved players in the league,” point guard Xavier Johnson said after Pitt’s win over Drexel on Saturday. “He puts forth the effort every day.”
Toney showed signs of that offensive improvement in the second half of his sophomore season. After averaging 7.5 points per game as a freshman, Toney started relatively slowly on the offensive side of the ball last winter.
But he broke out in a big way down the stretch, starting with a career-best 27-point performance at Duke. He scored 15 against Miami, 15 at Florida State and 24 at NC State while averaging 12.3 points per game in the second half of the season.
“I think he’s gotten better,” head coach Jeff Capel said. “I know he’s worked on his game. You look at the second part of the conference season last year, offensively, he started to improve. Defensively, he’s always been pretty good in that area.”
Toney isn’t just scoring more often, he’s become a more efficient scorer as time has gone on. He shot 36% from the floor as a freshman, 46.1% last season and an absurd 68.2% through two games this season. From 3-point range, it’s the same story. He hit 24.6% from long range in 2018-19, 32.8% in 2019-20 and 44.4% so far this year.
The next step for Toney’s offensive game will be consistency. Even during his second-half breakout, he had some game where he disappeared offensively. Toney had six points against Georgia Tech, eight against Syracuse and four in Pitt’s season-ending loss to NC State.
He’s always played big minutes, but with Trey McGowens moving on in the offseason, he’s going to be a bigger part of Pitt’s offense this season, along with Johnson and Justin Champagnie.
“He’s played well the first well the first couple of game, he’s played well in practice, and we’re going to need that from him,” Capel said.