I had a chance to catch up with Jamie Dixon Tuesday evening and here are some quick notes:
1) Former Panthers player Ontario Lett has been hired as a Graduate Assistant coach. Lett has a great personality, he has been coaching at the junior college that produced Rozelle Nix (Pensacola State JC) and Dixon said he will work primarily with the big men. So this should provide a nice boost for the coaching staff as Lett will be a good ambassador for the program and a good mentor for the players.
2) Four of the five incoming players are on campus and have enrolled in school – Nix, freshman Damon Wilson, Coppin State transfer guard Sterling Smith and Richmond transfer forward Alonzo Nelson-Ododa. All are ready to join the team, though Smith and Nelson-Ododa are injured and likely won’t be ready to play until later in the summer or early in the fall.
3) The fifth newcomer, transfer forward Rafael Maia, has not enrolled yet as there are some snags and some challenges that have come up. Dixon said he thinks they are all issues that can be worked through but as of right now he isn’t able to enroll. This would be a big blow for the Panthers as he is expected to be a serious candidate to start at center but again, there is still plenty of time to get the issues resolved.
4) Although it has not been officially signed and sealed, the Panthers are going to play Davidson in the Gotham Classic at Madison Square Garden in December. We also know they will play Gonzaga in Okinawa, Japan to open the season and they will play host to Purdue in the ACC-Big Ten challenge. Dixon had said he would like to add a road game in a home-and-home but the rest of the non-conference schedule won’t be released for a few more weeks.
5) The Panthers have three guys who are out, a fourth who isn’t here yet and three others who are on the mend from surgeries/procedures from right after the season. So that’s seven out of 13 scholarship players who aren’t ready to play right now. And that’s why there won’t be a Pro-Am League this summer. Yes, you read that correctly – the Pro-Am League that used to be held at Greentree and last summer was held at Montour high school will not take place this year. I spoke with John Giammarco about this last night as well and basically, without Pitt there is no league, at least one that is not nearly as big of a draw. The league lasted nine years but because of changes to the NCAA rules regarding rosters for such summer leagues and some other issues, it is likely not coming back. That’s a shame because I enjoyed this league and it was always exciting, but this isn’t a surprising development. I’ll have more on this in a full blown article for Thursday’s paper complete with quotes from Dixon and Giammarco.