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November 16, 2010The Pitt men's basketball team earned preseason rankings as high as No. 4 largely on the strength of four returning starters returning from a team that went 25-9 a year ago. Now the Panthers are poised to get one of those starters on the court for the first time this season.
Junior power forward Nasir Robinson practiced with the team on Tuesday after missing both of Pitt's exhibition games and all three regular season games. Robinson underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee on October 27th.
"Nasir practiced today for about a half an hour," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said Tuesday. "We'd love to have him out there with his energy, so we'll see how he feels tomorrow, see if he can go tomorrow in practice and see how it goes.
(There were) no problems from today's practice and doing some skill (work) and shooting yesterday."
Pitt (3-0) is off until Thursday, when the Panthers will face Maryland for a 7 p.m. tipoff in the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer at Madison Square Garden. The winner of that game will face the winner of Thursday night's late game - Texas vs. Illinois - at 7 p.m. on Friday, and the losers of the two Thursday games will play at 4 p.m. on Friday.
That means Pitt will be playing games on back-to-back days for the only time this season until the Big East Tournament in March. Dixon didn't rule out the possibility of Robinson playing this week, but said on Tuesday that no decision has been made.
"We have to see how he feels after contact," Dixon said. "You never know how they're going to respond. There is always the possibility of swelling once you go and exert it to another level. So we'll see how he feels.
"With any kid being out this long, you have to go day by day and see how he feels."
Robinson (6'5" 220) did not miss a game due to injury in his first two seasons at Pitt. He started all 34 games at power forward last season, averaging 6.6. points and 5.6 rebounds per game. His standout performance came against Louisville on January 16th, when he scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
In place of Robinson, redshirt freshman Talib Zanna started both exhibition games and the three regular season games. In those three games, he has averaged 8.0 points and a team-leading 8.3 rebounds per game. He just missed on double-doubles in two games, recording nine points and 11 rebounds against Rhode Island and 13 points and nine rebounds against North Florida.
Sophomore J.J. Richardson has also logged minutes at power forward, as has redshirt freshman Lamar Patterson, who has shifted between small forward and power forward.
"I think they've done well," Dixon said. "We've had three different guys at that spot, and they've done well. They've done some good things and they've done some things that they can improve on. But they are all young, two freshmen and a sophomore.
"There's been some good things, no question, but I think we've got room to improve."
While Pitt has shown a fairly remarkable amount of depth so far this season and some numbers at power forward - redshirt senior Gilbert Brown could also play the position - Dixon is still anxious to get one of his returning starters back.
"I think you want your best players out there and you want your guys to be at full strength whenever they can. Ask anybody and they want all their players available and ready to go, their best players ready to play."
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