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Pitt’s Tim O’Toole Preparing Young Bigs for ACC’s Toughness



Pitt basketball's Jorge and Guillermo Diaz-Graham with Federiko Federiko

PITTSBURGH — Throughout Pitt basketball’s open practice on Friday, you could hear a “whack” — as Pitt guard Greg Elliott put it — coming from underneath the basket.

The “whack” was coming from the blocking pad held by Pitt associate head coach Tim O’Toole, who primarily works with the bigs. Whether these forwards were working on boxing out or on finishing at the rim, the high-energy coach would give all he could in a loud smack with the pad against their body, their hands, and anywhere else that could potentially alter their work.

“I’m on one end, the bigs on the other end, and we’re probably down there shooting, and all you hear is a crazy ‘whack,’ and you’re like, what’s going on?” Elliott said after practice. “But whatever he’s doing with them, it’s working. It was a point where you could see them get pushed around on the rebound. But now they treat everybody like it’s T.O. with the pad. They are hitting first.”

Pitt associate head Coach Tim O’Toole.

The bigs on the other end of the smacks on Friday were Federiko Federiko, Jorge Diaz-Graham, and Guillermo Diaz-Graham. Although Jorge has been described as a guard, a perimeter player by Jeff Capel, he was working in with the forwards on Friday and toughening himself up through O’Toole’s drills.

Aside from John Hugley — Pitt’s physical, all-ACC caliber big man — the Panthers only have these three players standing at least 6-foot-8. However, none of them weigh more than 220 pounds. Two of them, the Diaz-Graham twins, are freshman, and one, Federiko, is a sophomore coming from the junior college ranks. Not to mention, all three of these reserve bigs are international players. Jorge and Guillermo hail from the Canary Islands in Spain, and Federiko comes from Helsinki, Finland. However, since arriving on campus, the three have bonded off the court and have become more physical inside on the court.

“I feel like that’s great for us, because we know they’re not as physical or as big as John is,” Elliott continued. “But if they go out there with the mentality that they’re going to hit first, it’s only going to help us.”

For the past few weeks, Hugley has been sidelined with a knee injury, and O’Toole has had his hands full preparing the young guys for the level of physicality that they will face in the ACC. Although Hugley is expected to be back ready to go for game No. 1 on Nov. 7, the young forwards will still have to fill in down low at one point or another this season.

In Pitt’s recent exhibition win over Clarion, Federiko posted a double-double, dropping ten points and grabbing ten rebounds. Jorge added six points and four rebounds, while Guillermo — or “G” as the team calls him, posted four points and four boards.

The Panthers have one more exhibition on Nov. 2 against Edinboro prior to the Nov. 7 season opener against UT Martin.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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