|No practice makes perfect? Pitt hopes Fields learns from misstep|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 07 November 2007 10:37|
This is not the way a college basketball coach wants one of his top players to prepare for a season.
Pitt's Jamie Dixon, unhappy with Fields' behavior and the impact it might have on his perennially nationally ranked team, weighed numerous options for punishing one of his two returning starters.
Dixon finally decided the best method of getting Fields' attention was to take away what he loved most: basketball.
For more than two weeks, Fields could not attend workouts or play pickup games with his teammates. He got onto the Petersen Events Center floor only by showing up late in the evening and working out on his own.
``It was hard, it really was,'' Fields said. ``I love to play and compete. It was hard for me to be around my teammates and not play. That was painful.''
The punishment could be interpreted as more than lenient, since Dixon could have suspended Fields for a certain number of games. To Dixon, the disciplinary action was more than enough because it forced Fields to focus on what he should be doing off the court.
Fields originally faced four charges, but those were reduced to a single charge of simple assault. He was placed on probation for nine months and ordered to enroll in a program for first-time offenders. He also must perform 50 hours of community service work and pay about $750 in court costs.
Fields' record will be wiped clean if he gets into no further trouble. Dixon hasn't said what he would do if Fields takes another misstep.
``He learned from it,'' Dixon said. ``It's been tough for him to sit out as much as he has. A lot of people called it excessive. But I think he's learned something from the experience.''
Fields apologized publicly when preseason practice started last month, no doubt aware he received far more attention - all of it negative - from the incident than he would have for a strong game during the season.
``I wish it never happened,'' he said. ``I live and learn. It hurt me not being around my teammates for so many days due to the school's discipline. I think I grew from it.''
Fields is being counted upon to oversee a remaking of Pitt's offense once the No. 22 Panthers' season starts Nov. 9 against Houston Baptist. The Panthers will be more guard-oriented than they were the last two seasons, when their offense revolved around 7-footer Aaron Gray.
Fields, Ronald Ramon, Keith Benjamin and freshman Bradley Wanamaker will divide time at guard, though Fields and Ramon are expected to play the most minutes. Fields averaged 9.2 points last season as Pitt finished 29-8 and reached the round of 16 during its seventh consecutive NCAA appearance.
The Panthers are not as experienced inside, with 6-10 Levon Kendall also gone, but power forward Sam Young is expected to raise his 7.2 scoring average of last season. Small forward Mike Cook is the leading returning scorer at 10.5 points.
The key to Pitt's season could be how quickly 6-7 freshman DeJuan Blair of Pittsburgh's Schenley High gets comfortable making the move from high school state champion to major college basketball. He is Pitt's top recruit and has looked dominating at times during preseason practice.
Redshirt freshman Gilbert Brown, a 6-6 swingman, also figures to make an immediate contribution.
``We have a lot of talent this year, a lot of athletes,'' Fields said. ``I expect to be pushing the ball up and down the court. We're still going to be a strong defensive team and our offense will run off that, but we're going to be moving the ball around more than we did last year when we mostly dumped it inside to Aaron.''
Pitt opens the season the same way it did last season, playing three games in three days and four in a week's time during a tournament at the Petersen Events Center.
The Panthers take on Washington, Oklahoma State, No. 13 Duke and Dayton during their 13 games before Big East play begins Jan. 6 at Villanova.