Pittsburgh Panthers Basketball: Team of the 2000's
The Pittsburgh Panthers ended the misery of the 1990's with a return to dominance in the 2000's.
Behind the leadership of coach Ben Howland, the Pitt Panthers became a premier college basketball program. His successor, Jamie Dixon, has continued the winning tradition.
As with most successful programs, Panthers fans have witnessed incredibly-gifted players over the past decade.
However, six men and one coach stand out amongst the pack. They are the Pittsburgh Panthers Team of the 2000's.
Center: DeJuan Blair
Following up on a tremendous freshman year, Blair's 2008-2009 season was the best of any Pitt player during the decade. At only 6'7", the big man utilized his freakishly-long arms to grab nearly every offensive rebound in sight.
DeJuan Blair averaged a game line of 14 points, 11 rebounds and one block in his two-year career. He was also the first Pitt player since 1957 to earn First Team All-America honors.
Currently, Blair is in his second season with the San Antonio Spurs, who selected him in the second round of the NBA Draft.
Power Forward: Chevon Troutman
Like DeJuan Blair, Troutman made the most of his 6'7" frame.
Chevy was a four-year player that rarely missed a shot. Throughout his career, Troutman was 63 percent from the floor. In the 2002-2003 season, he made 135 of his 188 shots for a field goal percentage of 72 percent!
While Brandin Knight and Chris Taft took most of the credit for Pitt's success in the early years of the decade, the most valuable player on the team was arguably Mr. Troutman.
Small Forward: Sam Young
The small forward position was generally occupied by one of Pitt's role players throughout the 2000s; however, Sam Young blossomed into the team's leading scorer.
The most memorable attribute of Sam Young was his pump fake. He would quickly rise to shoot with the ball held high, while leaving the very tip of his shoes still on the ground. Then, he would quickly pull the ball back down as he dashed toward the hoop for one of his highlight-reel dunks.
By his senior year, Young had perfected the move to the point where defenders were nearly helpless against it.
Following his final year at Pitt, Young was drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round, where he still plays.
Shooting Guard: Ronald Ramon
While Ramon ended his career with a disappointing senior season, he was one of the best three-point shooters in the Big East during the 2000's.
Point guard responsibilities were covered by Carl Krauser and Levance Fields during Ramon's tenure, but he proved capable of running the offense when called upon.
If this Team of the Decade needed a last second three-pointer, this is the guy to take that shot.
Point Guard: Carl Krauser
Pitt was privileged to have three star point guards during the 2000's: Brandin Knight, Carl Krauser and Levance Fields.
Knight was the face of Pitt's transformation into a legitimate program, but his game was weak in several areas—three-point shooting, turnovers and free-throw shooting.
Fields was the best pure point guard of the three, with a high assist/turnover ratio, but Krauser was the best all-around player of the three. Krauser's love of the highlight pass inflated his turnover totals; however, he was a superior scorer and rebounder to both Fields and Knight.
As well, Krauser was never afraid to take the game into his own hands down the stretch.
Sixth Man: Aaron Gray
There are numerous qualified candidates for the sixth man spot on this squad. However, Aaron Gray would add the most to this team.
Since the starters for this Team of the Decade lacks anyone taller than 6'7", Gray would add a seven-footer off the bench. As well, he was the best overall player remaining.
After spending two years behind Chris Taft, Gray instantly emerged as a superstar in his junior season with 14 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. As well, he was the best player on the 2006-2007 Panthers team that made it to the Sweet Sixteen before losing to Ben Howland's UCLA squad.
Gray was among four Pitt players to be drafted by an NBA team during the 2000's. The other three were Blair and Young, as well as Chris Taft.
Coach: Ben Howland
After struggling through the '90s with more losing seasons than winning, Ben Howland took over the reigns for Pitt in the 1999-2000 season.
In just his second season, Coach Howland's team improved from 13 to 19 wins and made it to the Big East Championship game. He followed this up in the 2002-2003 season with yet another trip to the Big East Championship game, a Sweet Sixteen game, and 29 wins.
The best performance of Howland's tenure came in his fourth and final season: 28 wins, a No. 2 ranking during the season, a Big East Championship victory over Connecticut, and a visit to the Sweet Sixteen.
After leaving Pitt, Howland moved to a stagnating UCLA program and led them to three Final Four appearances.