MVP Talib Zanna dominates in pro-am title game


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Pitt senior Talib Zanna took home the MVP award and the championship trophy on the final night of the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am Wednesday at the Greentree Sportsplex.

Zanna scored 37 points and grabbed 16 rebounds as his PGT Trucking team beat The Lair, 108-101, to cap a stellar summer for this 6-foot-9 native of Nigeria.

Zanna, who averaged 9.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a junior last season, averaged 31 points per game in the summer league.

"It means a lot," Zanna said of earning the MVP. "I've been putting in a lot of time."

Zanna's team featured four Pitt players for the championship because his usual summer league teammates from Robert Morris could not make it Wednesday night. The Lair had four Duquesne players and three from West Virginia.

The tone of the game was reminiscent of some Pitt-Duquesne games from yesteryear. Zanna and Ovie Soko were called for technical fouls after a shoving match in the second half. Overall, there were four technicals in the game that marked a continuation of a summer-long rivalry between the Panthers and Dukes.

"It was a good competition," Zanna said. "We play them every year. They were talking a lot of stuff during the summer."

Both teams beat higher-seeded teams in the semifinals Tuesday night to advance to the championship. James Robinson added 24 points and seven assists for the Pitt team while Jeremiah Jones of Duquesne led the Duquesne/West Virginia team with 28 points. Soko had 20.

Zanna's team trailed by five with 5:31 remaining, but used some big plays from Zanna and Robinson to pull away.

"We knew it would be competitive," Robinson said. "After they beat the alumni team [in the semifinals], we knew they had a talented group over there at Duquesne. Whether we're playing at our gym or over at their gym, it's always competitive. It's a lot of fun. There are no hard feelings."

In addition to Zanna, other members of the all-league team include Soko and Derrick Colter of Duquesne, Lucky Jones of Robert Morris, Nolan Cressler of Cornell, and alumni Lance Jeter and Chevy Troutman.

Zanna will enter his senior season at Pitt as one of two returning seniors. He was third on the team in scoring as a junior, but his production tailed off after the Panthers entered Big East Conference play. One of Zanna's goals this summer was to get bigger and stronger in hopes of being a better player late in the season.

"I feel like last year we were pushed around a little bit," Zanna said. "We can't let people come into Petersen Events Center and push us around."

Robinson said Zanna's leadership this summer has set a positive tone as the Panthers prepare for their first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference

"Talib is one of if not the hardest worker on the team," Robinson said.

"His leadership and his work ethic is why he's so valuable to our team. Last year, when people were saying he was going through his so-called slump he was in the gym 24/7 working on his game. He's gone about his business the same way this summer. I'm looking for a big year from him this season."

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Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com and Twitter @rayfitt1. First Published July 25, 2013 4:00 AM


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