Pitt Basketball: Could Gary McGhee Be the Key To Pitt's Success?

Matt ShetlerCorrespondent IDecember 30, 2010

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 27:  Gary McGhee #52 of the Pittsburgh Panthers drives the baseline against the Connecticut Huskies at Petersen Events Center on December 27, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Pittsburgh defeated Connecticut 78-64.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Here's one I never thought I would write.  Especially after watching Pitt center Gary McGhee play early in his career.

Actually, at that time, I wrote once that McGhee was possibly the worst player in the nation playing for a Division-I program.

Watching his early days in a Panthers uniform backing up DeJuan Blair, you would have been hard pressed to make an argument against me. McGhee was a guy who had bad foot work, was always out of position defensively and had no offensive game to speak of.

Not anymore.  In fact, McGhee may be the most important piece on the No. 6 team in the nation.

Now you may think that's crazy, but take into account that you know what you are going to get from Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown on most nights.

Whatever Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon gets from the likes of McGhee and Nasir Robinson on a nightly basis he will gladly take.

McGhee has improved so much since his freshman season.  He still doesn't have much of an offensive low post game to speak of, but McGhee knows his role and he's playing at as high of a level as he ever has.

His job is simple.  Rebound and play defense and he's doing it very well at the moment.

McGhee is a big reason the Panthers are the second leading rebounding team in the nation. He's the Panthers leading rebounder at 7.1 per game.  That's not an eye popping number by any means, but McGhee has done the little things on both ends of the floor.  He's also the Panthers leading shot-blocker.

He's also chipped in a modest six points per game.  Again, it's not a number that jumps off the page, but if you would have asked Dixon three years ago if he would take six points and seven boards a night from McGhee and he would have said absolutely.

Had you said that to me three years ago, I would have told you that you were nuts.

McGhee has made the transition from a kid that looked severely out of place to a guy that belongs on the floor against some of the best in the Big East.

One thing I definitely never thought I would write is that McGhee would be a major piece of any success that the Panthers could have.

If he keeps improving the way he has, he may just prove me wrong.