Hard-working Durand Johnson of Pitt lost for rest of the season

Pitt redshirt sophomore forward Durand Johnson is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and torn meniscus in his right knee that occurred in the second half of the Panthers' 80-65 victory against Wake Forest Saturday at Petersen Events Center.

Johnson will have knee surgery sometime within the next week at UPMC South Side Hospital and the surgery will be performed by assistant team physician Dr. Robin West and Dr. Steve Rabuck.

He will then have a 9-12-month rehabilitation process.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said that while losing Johnson does hurt the team, he feels terrible for Johnson who he said has worked extremely hard in the past year on his game in order to become a better all-around player.

"We are thoroughly heartbroken for Durand," Dixon said. "With his passion for the game and outstanding work ethic, Durand has contributed significantly to our success. He has made so much improvement in all facets of his game this year. I expect that same passion and work ethic to help Durand return at 100 percent next season."

Johnson took a pass from Talib Zanna with 5:30 to play in the game and drove the right side of the lane and appeared to twist his knee awkwardly when he landed.

A foul was called on the play and Johnson, who scored 11 points and grabbed three rebounds, hit both free throws to give the Panthers a 73-54 lead, but he left the floor after the second free throw did not return to the game.

After the game, Dixon said he was unaware of Johnson's status but found out Sunday morning the bad news.

Johnson was the sixth man and a sharp shooter from the 3-point line who brought instant offense and energy off the bench.

The Panthers are versatile and have several players capable of playing a couple of positions. It is likely freshman Chris Jones will be beneficiary of Johnson's loss, but Dixon has other options to mix and match his lineups.

A key component to compensate for the loss of Johnson is senior Lamar Patterson, who is one of the most versatile players in Division I.

Patterson is capable of playing shooting guard or small forward when Dixon goes to a more traditional or bigger lineup.

Often when Patterson goes to power forward for a smaller lineup, Johnson would play small forward, but that role likely will go to Jones, or perhaps even Cam Wright. Dixon could put both James Robinson and Josh Newkirk out there at guard.

Dixon said Patterson's versatility is a big reason the Panthers can create tough matchups for other teams and now, with Johnson out, it gives him the ability and flexibility to continue to put balanced lineups on the floor.

"[The ability to play more than one position] is good for Lamar. He is smart enough to do it and it allows us some personnel flexibility," Dixon said. "The good thing is with all the sets we run, the plays we run, we can run for him at different spots. It does allow us to do some things offensively and the obvious concern is rebounding and defense when you go with that lineup.

"It has been good at times, it enables us to do some different things and we're hard to zone in pretty much any lineup. But when we put Lamar in there as another shooter, it gives us another guy to pass and shoot and makes us hard to guard.

"That versatility with Lamar allows us to play Chris and Josh and James in there at the same time with Lamar, and we can also go big with him as well."

Johnson, who Dixon has praised in recent days for working his way into becoming much more than just a great shooter, already has redshirted so he would need a medical waiver in order to be granted an extra season.

"Durand has played really good defense for us, much improved from last year and Chris can play pretty good defense and he is improving as well," Dixon said before the season-ending loss. "[Johnson] is obviously playing really well, he has been a big part of what we are doing and he has made as many improvements this year as much as anybody.

"He has become a good defender and good decision maker and those things are hard to change that quickly, but he has really done a good job in those areas."

In 16 games played off the bench this season, Johnson ranked fourth on the team in scoring (8.8 ppg.) and second in 3-pointers made (22).

He averaged 3 rebounds in 19.8 minutes per game and converted 33.8 percent (22 of 65) of his 3-point attempts, hit 85.3 percent (29 of 34) of his free-throw attempts and dished out 23 assists and finished with 14 steals.

He reached double figure scoring in eight games and hit at least one 3-pointer in 10 games.

Jones played only nine minutes Saturday and had three points and three rebounds but he has seen his playing time increase some in recent games.

He is averaging 2.6 points in 5.9 minutes per game, but with Johnson out of the mix those numbers likely will increase.

Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1720 or Twitter @paulzeise.

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