The past 12 years of Pittsburgh Panthers basketball has been pretty outstanding. Ranking in the top ten in both winning percentage and total wins, Pitt basketball is something that is a known force to be reckoned with.
Starting in the early 2000s with Brandin Knight leading the team, Ben Howland coached the annually mediocre University of Pittsburgh basketball program to Big East prominence.
When Jamie Dixon took over the reigns, the sky was the limit.
Since then, great players such as Sam Young, Dejuan Blair and Levance Fields have taken the court at the Petersen Events Center in search of a National Championship. While that title has evaded the Panthers, Big East Regular Season and Tournament Titles have come here and there, along with a few No. 1 rankings and No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
These are my top 15 Pittsburgh Panther basketball players since the year 2000.
In only one season at Pitt after transferring from ECU, Mike Cook helped the Panthers get to the Big East Tournament Championship Game and also the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
Spending two seasons as a double-digit scorer, Jaron Brown was a huge part of Pitt's rise to prominence. He split time in the backcourt with three others on the list: Brandin Knight, Carl Krauser and Julius Page.
Averaging in double digits for the first time in his career this season, Nasir Robinson was a huge part in Pitt's No. 1 rankings during the past few seasons with his defensive skills and toughness on the inside.
Despite his lack of size at the power forward position, Nas has played solid in the middle for the past two years. He is a vocal leader and plays an emotional game.
After averaging over 10 points and seven rebounds as a freshman, Chris Taft improved his scoring to 13.4 points per game in his sophomore season with the Panthers. He left for the NBA after that season, helping the Panthers continue their rise to national prominence.
Although he was only in double digits in points per game during his junior and senior seasons, Gilbert Brown was well known for his ability to both shoot and get to the basket.
He has had a flurry of highlight dunks at Pitt and did a great job at filling the extremely large shoes of Sam Young. He was a huge part of Pitt's No. 1 ranking last season as well as the season prior.
Earning substantial playing time in his sophomore season, Brad Wanamaker managed to average over 10 points per game in his junior and senior seasons. He was the well-known vocal leader and floor general following up the great leadership ability of Levance Fields.
Consistently, he has found ways to get to the hoop and draw fouls while also maintaining the ability to shoot the outside jumper and find open teammates. Wanamaker was a big-time playmaker.
Contributing heavily in three seasons as a Panther, Chevy blossomed as a senior, averaging over 15 points per game and eight rebounds. He was an anchor in the frontcourt and played solid defense.
An emotional leader on the floor, Troutman was a big part in Pitt becoming a household name during the early 2000s.
Hovering around 12 points per game his entire career, Julius Page was the side-car to both Brandin Knight and Carl Krauser during his tenure at Pitt.
He had an incredible leaping ability and set the standard for athletic ability at the shooting guard/small forward position at Pittsburgh. Page even competed in the collegiate slam dunk contest.
After averaging less than two points per game in his freshman season and less than five points the following year, Gray jumped to nearly 14 points per game as a junior and senior.
He also averaged double-digit rebounds both seasons, earning him the Big East Most Improved Player award and an NBA contract.
Gray was a rebounding machine and had great touch around the hoop.
With a career average of about 10 points per contest, Levance Fields was the clear leader and floor general on the Panthers.
Once he was given the starting spot at the point guard position, Fields' leadership abilities were never questioned. He hit one of the biggest shots in Pitt history at Madison Square Garden in a win against the Duke Blue Devils. His moxy and guts were what made him such an incredible player.
A lethal three-point shooter, Ashton Gibbs has averaged more than 16 points per game since the beginning of his sophomore season.
Taking advantage of the open spots behind the arc, his shooting from long range has garnered him as one of the best deep-ball shooters in the country.
Although his numbers have dropped due to a change from shooting guard to point guard (because of the injury to Travon Woodall) during his senior season, Ashton still managed to put up some big numbers this past season.
With scoring numbers similar to Ashton's, Carl Krauser also began to make a huge impact as a sophomore. The point guard began averaging 15 points per game in 2003 and never seemed to let his foot off of the gas.
Playing with a reckless style, Krauser always seemed to get the job done. He filled a huge hole with Brandin Knight graduating, and helped Pitt further their success as a college basketball program.
He was the guy that had the ball in his hands late in the game and was also the one defending the other team's best guard. Hard-nosed and hard-working, Krauser is very close to being one of the greatest point guards in Pitt's history for his efforts as a Panther.
If you are a Pitt Basketball fan, then this guy is almost as good as it gets.
Knight is a legend across the fanbase and even has his number retired in the rafters at "The Pete." He was the first guy to really put this program on the map early in the decade.
A true point guard, he was almost the definition of the term. He is the all-time assist leader at Pitt and is now an assistant coach to Jamie Dixon. His work ethic and basketball IQ were truly stellar. Ultimately, Knight is recognized by people outside of the program as one of the best true point guards to play college basketball.
His scoring ability wasn't enough to propel him to a successful playing career at the next level, but his intelligence and ability to read the floor has given him a bright future as a coach. Look for Knight to get a head coaching job at some point, if he doesn't take over for Jamie Dixon when he is finished at Pitt.
In only two seasons with Pitt, Dejuan Blair left for the NBA after averaging nearly 16 points and 12 rebounds per game.
Although he was undersized at the power forward position when it came to height (6'7"), he was more than capable of throwing his weight around (literally) down low.
At 270 pounds, Blair was a force to be reckoned with inside the paint. Even some of the bigger centers and power forwards in the Big East at the time couldn't stop him when he got the ball in the low post. He had great moves and quick feet, paired with soft hands and an even softer touch around the rim.
Pair his inept scoring ability with his unbelievable rebounding skills, and we have one of the best players in Pittsburgh Panther basketball history.
The highest scoring Panther in recent memory, Sam Young averaged over 18 points per game as a junior and over 19 per game as a senior. He could shoot, drive, dunk, dish and defend.
At 6'6" and 220 pounds, Young was a big-bodied guy with crazy leaping ability. If he wasn't fooling defenders with his famous pump fakes right before banging a big shot from long range, he was driving to the hole and posterizing another defender.
He just always seemed to score a lot of points. If his shooting was off, he would drive and get fouled. If his shooting was on, well, good luck.
With Dejuan Blair, Levance Fields and Ashton Gibbs on the court at the same time as Young, this group was a favorite to make it to the Final Four in 2009, but their run was cut short by a Scottie Reynolds (Villanova) buzzer-beating layup in the Elite Eight.
Young has made it to the NBA as has made a name for himself as a high flyer. His scoring ability remains unmatched in a Pitt uniform, making him arguably the best player in the past decade.