Friday, March 6, 2009

Pitt Panthers surprise Brandin Knight

As we head into the Big East clash of the year when U Conn comes to The Pete to take on the Pitt Panthers, I want to take a look into the past. As we get ready to see Blair vs. Thabeet Round 2, I wanna talk about how the Panthers made it to this stage in the first place.

If you were in attendance at the Pitt-Marquette game on Wednesday, then you got an added surprise of watching the Panthers retire the jersey of former point guard and current assistant coach Brandin Knight.

If you were surprised, then you weren't nearly as surprised as Knight, who had no clue it was coming. It was only two weeks ago I had suggested that the Panthers raise Knight's #20 to the rafters and I'm glad they did. A very classy move by the University of Pittsburgh.

Knight wasn't the best, but he is the guy to me that got the turnaround started. He was the first to buy in to the Howland (now Dixon) system. He was the first to buy into defense first, buy into team basketball over individual success. He left a legacy of great point guards at Pitt. he passed the torch to Carl Krauser (who I couldn't stand) and Krauser passed it to Levance Fields. Fields has Ashton Gibbs ready to carry the torch next season.

Knight was the first to make the Big East title game an annual date for the Panthers, as he got the team there 3 times (2001-2003). He won 2 Big East regular season titles in 2002 and 2003. Under Knight, Pitt reached the Sweet Sixteen both seasons. Knight capped it off by leading Pitt to their first Big East Tournament Championship in 2002-03. With Knight at the helm, Pitt nearly played .700 ball during his 4 years, compiling an 89-40 record.

A two-time All-American, Knight was also named Big East Co-Player of the year in 2001-02. That season he led the Panthers to a 29-6 record. Knight holds Panther school record for assists (785), career assist per game (6.2), steals (298), assists in a season (251 in 2001-02), and season minutes played (1,284 in 2001-02).

Knight's #20 is the fourth jersey to be retired by the Panthers. He joins Don Hennon, who played at Pitt from 1956-59, Billy Knight (1971-74), and Charles Smith (1984-88).

Knight was the first true leader, Pitt fans got to watch probably since the Sean Miller days. Knight had guts and heart and was a joy to watch play. Much of the success the Panthers are enjoying on the court these days is due to Brandin Knight, who really helped put Pitt back on the basketball map.

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