PITTSBURGH (AP) -Sam Young was one of college basketball's most improved players last season, as evidenced by a scoring average that jumped more than 10 points per game from his sophomore season.
Many college coaches wouldn't consider a position switch with a player coming off so good a season. Pitt coach Jamie Dixon is experimenting with such a move for the 6-foot-6 Young, partly to make better use of his outside shooting ability.
Young is working at small forward rather than power forward during preseason practice, a switch that may allow him to regularly step behind college basketball's deeper 3-point line - now 20 feet, 9 inches, or a foot farther back than last season.
The Panthers' outside shooting has been an ongoing problem despite their run of seven consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. Surprisingly, Young was the best deep shooter among their starters last season, a rarity for an inside player.
percent (28-of-101) and shooting guard Ronald Ramon's 37.2 percent (67-of-180). Keith Benjamin shot 37 percent (51-of-138). Both Ramon and Benjamin have used up their eligibility.
``I'm 100 percent ready to play any position they need me to play,'' said Young, who led Pitt to a 27-10 record, the Big East Conference tournament title and the NCAA round of 16.
Young doesn't think the deeper 3-point line will affect his shooting.
``Not even a little bit,'' he said. ``As soon as we found out it was going to be changed, coach Dixon got a new (line) put on our court. We've been shooting with it ever since. I think we're all just as comfortable with it as before.''
Not that Pitt looked all that at ease with the shorter line. The Panthers' 33.5 percentage beyond the arc ranked only 12th in the 16-team conference and was the worst among the Big East's top teams.
As evidence of those long-range shooting problems, Gilbert Brown may start the season as the shooting guard, despite his 24.4 shooting percent from 3-point range. The Panthers' best outside shooter may be Ashton Gibbs, a 6-foot-2 freshman who shot 48.1 percent while making 113 3-pointers as a first-team all-state player at Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey.
bounds while winning the outstanding player award at the Big East tournament.
Opposing defenses must adjust if Young steps outside a bit more, and he thinks that may be an advantage to him.
``Shooting off the dribble and just dribbling the ball in general is going to be a lot different from what anybody's used to with me,'' Young said. ``I spent a lot of time and a lot of sweat on my ballhandling drills and shooting off the dribble. I expect that to really improve. My defense and my ballhandling are the two areas I picked to work on the most.''
One potential benefit from the deeper 3-point line for a Pitt team that has never shot particularly well behind it: There might be more space inside for 6-7 center DeJuan Blair, who averaged 11.6 points and 9.1 rebounds as a freshman.
``I don't want to miss as many shots as I did in the paint last year, so I'm working on some dunks,'' Blair said. ``I think I've developed a shot, but we'll see about that. I worked real hard on my game around the basket.''
Pitt plays exhibition games Sunday against Seton Hill and the following Sunday against La Roche before opening the season Nov. 14 against Fairleigh Dickinson.

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