The Pitt men's basketball team had its first practice Friday and Saturday entertained a crowd of 4,000 at Stage AE with "Morning Madness," its version of "Midnight Madness."
The Panthers had some fun on a makeshift court inside the amphitheater with player introductions, a game of "Family Feud" and a dunk competition judged by former Panthers Gilbert Brown and Charles Smith.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said the event was a success.
"We wanted to do something and do it around the [Pitt-Virginia] football game," Dixon said of the decision to do a morning event this year. "And it was packed; we couldn't get any more people in here. But we want to do different things, keep people guessing and we wanted to have some fun with it."
The dunk contest, won by walk-on forward Aron Nwankwo, produced plenty of misses, mostly because the court was not a real gym floor.
"We won't be playing any games here, let's put it that way," Dixon said.
Freshman guard Josh Newkirk added: "This was just something fun for the fans and we just wanted to put on a little show for [them]. But the floor wasn't the best floor and the stage was little, but I think we did the best with what we had."
Friday was the team's first practice and Dixon said he was encouraged by what he saw, especially from the guards. He said there are six players -- Chris Jones, Newkirk, James Robinson, Durand Johnson, Cameron Wright and Lamar Patterson -- who will battle for playing time at the guard spots.
He said of that group, Jones, a redshirt freshman, had the strongest start.
"I thought Chris Jones played well, he played really well," Dixon said. "I think he is going to be a good player, [and] I think we are going to get better perimeter play because of the experience. We are very flexible there."
Dixon said those six players will compete for time at shooting guard, though Newkirk and Robinson will primarily play point guard while Patterson will mostly be at small forward.
"Practice was very different from high school -- that's for sure," Newkirk said. "It was very intense and I am trying to learn a lot; it was good."
Dixon said the only player not fully participating in practice is junior college transfer Joseph Uchebo, who is coming off a knee injury but is cleared to do some skill work and light drills.
Although the Morning Madness event was a showcase for the fans, it was also part of a recruiting weekend for Pitt.
The coaching staff had two players on official visits -- former Beaver Falls standout and Vanderbilt transfer Sheldon Jeter, and 6-foot-8 high school senior Josh Martin from the Seattle area.
Jeter's father later confirmed to the Post-Gazette that his son had committed to the Panthers.
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter: @paulzeise. First Published September 29, 2013 4:00 AM