Summer league hoops ready for playoffs
With the focus of Pittsburgh sports fans currently on the Pirates and their pursuit of the playoffs, it is easy to forget that there is an annual basketball event that is being played in Greentree.
The summer league pro-am at Greentree Sportsplex plays games weekly in June and July. This season the league is comprised of seven teams and passionate crowds. Pitt men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon says the players use the event to build chemistry and start preparations for the upcoming season.
“This is the summer and not too much is being done out here,” Dixon said with a smile. “Not too much passing going on around here. It’s the summer league.”
Here is a rundown of what happened during the regular season, as the playoffs start this week:
Lamar Patterson continues to impress
Pitt wing Lamar Patterson had his battle of inconsistencies during his sophomore season. During Pitt's CBI Tournament title, Patterson truly shined and was named MVP of the tournament.
In the pro-am, Patterson picked up right where he left off, leading his PGT Trucking team in scoring, and leading the entire league in both points and assists. He also saved his best for last in the season finale, scoring a tournament high 33 points in a 75-70 victory over UPMC.
Patterson remains humble despite the success.
“I’m just playing my game out there and it’s just working for me right now.”
Steve Adams wows fans with his potential
In the first night of the pro-am, there was no place to sit. Why? It was the first time fans had have the chance to see Adams, the highly regarded freshman Pitt recruit from New Zealand.
While Adams admits that his game is still ‘raw’, he says he is having fun.
“I just made sure I had fun playing the game,” Adams said. “I was just working on what coach [Pat] Sandle was telling me.”
The fans also are having fun as Adams is blocking shots from various angles, leading the league in rebounds per game and even drilling a 3-pointer at the crowd’s request when the outcome of a game had already been decided.
Another thing that excites Adams is close games, like the one that occurred when his PGT Trucking team played their second game of the league against SPK Law. Adams scored 15 points and had 13 rebounds in a 67-66 victory.
“It’s exciting as hell,” Adams said of close games. “You get pumped up but also you want to be sure you go out and do what you need to do.”
Cameron Wright, Durand Johnson most improved
The last we saw of Pitt's Wright was when he was a starter in the CBI, playing mainly for his defense. His offense was sloppy and he appeared overmatched on that side of the ball.
This summer is working on becoming more aggressive as well as improving his midrange shot.
“Being aggressive is a part of the game, and being confident is all I’m trying to do,” Wright said.
The result has been multiple 20-plus point performances for his team, UPMC. Wright has also been a spark plug chasing both his own and teammates' misses, but also making the extra pass to get a higher percentage shot.
Johnson, meanwhile, was a redshirt last season and sat and learned from watching the Panthers play.
“Just watching I learned a lot out there,” Johnson said. “It helped me learn how the game was going to be.”
Like Wright, Johnson has come out aggressive and averaged around 20 points for an otherwise struggling Steel City Tickets team.
Perry puts on a show for the fans
It’s not just the Robert Griffin III socks he wore that got attention, but Kendrick Perry’s overall game has propelled UPMC to the number one seed overall.
It also helps that he has the crowd on his side, thanks in large part to his highlight reel dunks.
Perry is a sophomore for Youngstown State, but has definitely been a fan favorite, and the sparkplug for his team.
“When you get a good crowd it’s always nice to put on a show,” Perry said. “I also know that plays like that ignite my defense. I just try to spark my team.”
The number one seed is GNC which compiled a record of 5-1.
Perry believes the unselfish nature of his team is the reason they earned the top seed.
“Nobody really cares who scores and whose name is being written up,” Perry said. “All of us are coming out and playing as a team.”
GNC has a first round bye.
The second seed is PGT Trucking which also finished 5-1 but lost to GNC thus earning the ranking.
In addition to Patterson and Adams, PGT features incoming Pitt freshman James Robinson, who can both pass and score with great success, and Trey Ziegler, the transfer who has impressed with his consistency.
Patterson believes his team’s chances of winning the championship are good.
“We have a good team, we have four of our own on one team and we’re playing well together and building chemistry,” Patterson said.
They will face seventh seeded SPK Law. SPK does have Talib Zanna and John Johnson, both Panthers players, but have found little success in the Pro Am.
The third seed is South Hills Audi. This team consists of players who have already played college basketball and include Chevon Troutman, John DeGroat and Gilbert Brown. They hope their experience will be enough to knock off their first round opponent Steel City Tickets. Chris Jones is an incoming freshman for the Panthers and he has impressed, but no one else, including Dante Taylor have been able to be a consistent force.
“We’re just trying to play smart basketball and not trying to force anything,” Troutman said. “We play off of each other.
Fourth seeded UPMC, led by Wright, will face the fifth seeded Oliverio’s Peppers. Oliverio’s is led by West Virginia's Jabarie Hinds for most of their games, despite a ‘minor’ ankle injury, and his status is unknown.
The winners of these matches will join GNC in the semifinals on Tuesday before the surviving teams play for the championship Wednesday night. The tipoff is set for 7:30 PM with admission being free.
To see the playoff seeding and schedule, click here.