PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — I fully expect to be watching football tonight and have my game interrupted for a black screen and a talking voice.
It will be part of the emergency broadcast alert system, and I’ll hear “A 6-foot-9, 240-pound power forward from the University of Pittsburgh has been reported missing for three games. If you have any idea of his whereabouts, please contact the nearest authorities.”
Three games does not determine a season, not even close. But three games can give you an idea of a player and where he’s improved and where he still has work to do.
Through three games, Pitt power forward Dante Taylor has been missing in action, and his performances in each game suggests Pitt fans will continue to wonder if this McDonald’s All American is all he was hyped up to be coming out of high school.
Against Albany, Rider and Long Beach State, I expected Taylor to dominate. It’s his first year as a starter now that center Gary McGhee has graduated, and I expected him to finally live up to his own hype and come out with dominant stretches of play.
I figured that the non-conference slate for Taylor would be a given — he’d score, rebound and defend and have us all forgetting about McGhee rather quickly. I figured conference play would be the true test for Taylor, playing in the most physical conference in the country.
Sadly, he hasn’t been able to do any of those things against mid-major schools at home, and Pitt fans are left to worry about what the rest of the season will bring.
So far, Taylor has averaged 5.7 points per game and 4.7 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field in roughly 23 minutes a game. So many Pitt players in the past have had a significant spike in production from freshman to sophomore or sophomore to junior years.
Looking back on Taylor’s first two seasons, it’s clearly not looking like that will be the case.
Sophomore year: 15.1 min/game, 5.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 62% fg
Freshman year: 13.9 min/game, 4.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 58% fg
There are more problems than just his stats, too. Taylor has found himself in foul trouble, further taxing his teammates.
Talib Zanna has averaged 16 mintues a game. As a sophomore, that’s probably a bit more than Dixon would like, considering Zanna averaged under 12 a year ago. He played 20 minutes against Long Beach State on Wednesday as Taylor was out of the game with foul trouble.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon even had to summon freshman Malcolm Gilbert, who has been recovering from a fractured finger, Wednesday night to try and find a spark in the post.
In that game, Pitt was outrebounded by the 49ers, 26-25. For a team that rarely if ever has that happen, it’s shocking to see it happen at the hands of a Big West opponent.
Pitt’s identity, a physical rebounding team, has vanished and it’s up to Taylor to get it back. There’s too much youth and inexperience behind him to perform so poorly.
Gilbert and Khem Birch are true freshmen. Zanna is a sophomore. As a junior, Taylor has to do more.
He has his chance and the next three games can re-write the first three. Taylor has the stage and opportunity to prove to us all what he was brought to Pitt to do.
I mean, heck, his season started so well. The first Pitt points of the year were a Taylor dunk.
If he can pick up his game, Nasir Robinson will have a partner down low and the Panthers can have yet another dominant post presence.
If he can’t, he’ll be a lightning rod for criticism once again and Pitt will struggle.