Lamar Patterson Key to Pittburgh’s SuccessPosted by Jason Prziborowski on December 9th, 2013
The Pittsburgh Panthers, a team comprised almost entirely of underclassmen, werent supposed to take the ACC by storm in its first year. Clearly the prognosticators didn’t realize what one of Pitt’s lone seniors was doing this offseason. Lamar Patterson, a fifth-year senior known mostly for his sharpshooting ability coming off the bench, wanted to make himself into a better athlete and a more complete player. Through the first nine games of the 2013-14 season, Patterson’s hard work is paying off. He is now averaging 16.2 points per game (on 49 percent shooting), a remarkable six points per game higher than any other season in his collegiate career. And he’s proving to not just be a scorer, either. His teammates have been feeling the love as he is stuffing the stat sheet by dishing out five assists per game and grabbing five boards per game this season. That’s the kind of all-around production that Jamie Dixon will need from him this season if the Panthers are to reach their ultimate goals.
His athleticism is evident in his more aggressive style of play. Patterson is taking the ball to the basket and regularly getting to the free throw line. He has made twice as many free throws per game (3.8) than at any point in his career, and he ranks among the top 500 players in America in fouls drawn per 40 minutes (5.2). In past seasons, he had relied on his shooting so much that an off night here or there would greatly impact his effectiveness. That shouldn’t happen as much if Patterson continues to leverage his shooting threat to work with his athleticism to get to the basket. On Friday night against Loyola Marymount, Patterson struggled for most of the game with his jumper but didn’t let that stop him from scoring. He recorded four points at the charity stripe, and put in back-to-back layups in the second half to put the game out of reach, propelling the host Panthers to an 85-68 win.
Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins called Patterson a “winner” after he torched the Cardinal for 24 points (nine of which came from the line) on 60 percent shooting earlier this season. Dawkins remarked that he wants to see how players react to big stages. Last year, Patterson’s performance in those marquee match-ups was mixed. He filled it up early in the year against Michigan at Madison Square Garden. He had his best game against Marquette. He didn’t fare nearly as well against Georgetown, Notre Dame, and the Panthers’ first game against Syracuse. This year Patterson has shown up for the big games, pouring it on against Stanford and Texas Tech at the Legends Classic. I noticed at times against LMU that Patterson had a tendency to sometimes blend into the background, especially in the second half. And although this early December home contest wouldn’t be considered a big stage by any means, the difference between big-time players and the rest is in consistency, something that hasn’t been Patterson’s best friend in the past. Patterson will need to remain consistent in his production throughout the year if he is going to take Pitt deep into March for the first time in his career.
Although Pitt is off to a surprisingly strong 9-0 start and is inching its way up the national polls, the Panthers’ schedule has been relatively weak with Stanford the toughest team it has played. That will change soon enough, as former Big East foe Cincinnati matches up with the Panthers next Tuesday and ACC play begins right after the new year. How Pittsburgh’s season turns out may depend on whether Patterson steps up to the big stage or the back stage. At this point, he certainly looks ready for the starring role; but only time will tell if he can sustain it.