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Federiko Federiko’s Screen-Setting Continues to Power Panthers’ Offense



PITTSBURGH — Heading into the season, Federiko Federiko couldn’t have expected that he would hold such a big role on Pitt’s team in just his first year of Division One basketball.

However, after Panthers’ big man John Hugley suffered a knee injury several weeks before the season, Federiko was thrown right into the starting five spot with loads of responsibility for the team. Fast forward to now, and the Finnish big man has started 16 games for the Panthers, who sit at 14-7 (7-3 ACC) heading into a massive home game against No. 20 Miami on Saturday afternoon.

“I have learned a lot,” he said on Friday. “It’s a tough conference with tough players. For me, growing my game, probably getting some more weight, some more muscle so I can hang with bigger players.”

Federiko has been described as a “rim-runner” by head coach Jeff Capel throughout the season. At 6-foot-11, 220 pounds, his speed, elite conditioning, and length has allowed him to play a quality role in every game for the Panthers this season at the five spot. While he doesn’t create much offense with the ball in his hands, he does create offense when he is throwing down lobs, cutting to the basket, and perhaps most importantly, when he is setting high ball screens.

“Just get as many people on me so my teammates get free,” Federiko said about his role. “Just trying to draw players on me or roll and get a basket. I’m looking for my teammates or a basket.”

“It’s a huge part,” Greg Elliott said about Federiko’s screen-setting in Pitt’s offense. “If you really think about our plays, we do motion here and there, and then, at the end of the day, Fede’s coming to set a ball screen, or ‘G’ [Guillermo Diaz-Graham] is coming to set a ball screen. So, I feel like, if everybody knows we’re getting ready to set a ball screen, but you don’t know who’s getting ready to get the ball after that, that’s where your problems start. If Fede rolls as hard as he can to the basket, and we know he can catch the basketball, so it’s not like we’re not looking for him, so he’s rolls to the basket. He’s trying to get at least two people, at least one person to come towards him which is going to open up the back side for me, Nike, whoever it is.”

Federiko’s screen-setting has set up countless threes for the Panthers throughout the season, including some huge shots in Pitt’s recent record-setting shooting night in the win over Wake Forest. In that game, Federiko had two points, nine rebounds, and two assists on his stat line, and he does not worry one bit about his lower scoring numbers.

“I’m in a good spot,” he said with a smile. “With a team like this, I don’t really need to do that [create his own offense] a lot. I’ve got shooters, so I feel like I’m in a good spot.”

Last game, Pitt set a program record with 18 three pointers made, as Blake Hinson poured in eight of his own, Elliott knocked down six, Nelly Cummings hit three, and Nike Sibande added one.

“It just comes down to doing your job,” Elliott went on. “When Fede is doing his job, which is on offense setting screens and rolling, and on defense, making sure everything, he’s the one that really quarterbacks our defense. He makes sure that nothing gets into our paint, and if it does get into our paint, he’s not letting it get to the rim. I feel like Fede’s job has been to do what he has been doing, and he’s been doing it at a high level.”

Federiko and the Panthers take on No. 20 Miami on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center. The Panthers are looking to improve their record to 8-3 in conference play and pick up their fourth Quad 1 win of the season. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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