Pitt basketball: Dixon gets OLSH guard; assistant leaves

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It was Cam Johnson’s Easter feast. Ham, rice — and a basketball scholarship from Pitt.

Johnson, a senior guard at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School in Moon, surprised many Monday when he signed a letter of intent with Pitt. The signing came only one day after Pitt offered Johnson a scholarship.

Pitt had showed interest in Johnson for a while, but only started recruiting him recently. Coach Jamie Dixon offered a scholarship after watching Johnson work out and play Sunday at OLSH, not long before Johnson had Easter dinner.

Johnson (6 feet 7) certainly could be called a late bloomer, growing 5 inches in a year. More colleges became interested as Johnson grew. Still, although Stanford, Virginia and Boston College recently showed interest, he was offered scholarships mostly by mid-major schools. He visited Marist, Bryant and Toledo in the fall. He visited Penn and Rice after this past season when Johnson was the WPIAL’s second-leading scorer at 26.8 points a game.

“We probably surprised everyone with this [signing], but to be honest he surprised us with how much he grew and we really didn’t even start recruiting him until late in his senior year,” said Dixon. “We certainly will have to get him into the weight room, get him bigger, get him physically stronger. But he is a kid that I think a lot of coaches are going to be kicking themselves and saying, ‘I wish we would have grabbed him,’ and we are lucky to be the team that got him.”

Johnson is tall and slender and played point guard for OLSH. But said he can play point, shooting guard or small forward in college. He is a good shooter who came to OLSH as a junior after transferring from Moon. He played quarterback in football as a junior at OLSH, but did not play football as a senior.

“It’s not like I feel like I have something to prove [at Pitt],” said Johnson. “But it’s like I knew all along that I could play at that level. I really don’t care what people say about not having offers from the biggest schools. I had ACC schools recruit me. Virginia was talking to me for a while and Notre Dame and Stanford, too. I feel like I can play at that level. People don’t know me as well as I know myself, and as well as coach Dixon knows me.”

Johnson’s father, Gil, is a former Pitt player, and Cameron said he has wanted to play for Pitt as long as he can remember. He is the third WPIAL player in this recruiting class. The others are Hampton’s Ryan Luther and former Beaver Falls player Sheldon Jeter, who played as a freshman at the University of Vanderbilt before deciding to leave. Also, Lincoln Park sophomore Maverick Rowan accepted a scholarship from Pitt before this past season.

“Once I put on more weight and get in the weight room more often, I feel like I can be right where I need to be,” said Johnson.

Also, Pitt signed 6-9 center Tyrone Haughton of Iowa Western Community College. Haughton averaged only 3.9 points, but is known for his defensive talent. He had a school-record 185 blocks in two seasons at Iowa Western, a junior college.

Assistant leaves again

Assistant coach Barry Rohrssen is departing the program for a second time after accepting a job at Kentucky as an assistant coach under his longtime friend John Calipari.

The move is not a surprise as Rohrssen was considered the top candidate to fill the job after former Pitt player Orlando Antigua left a few weeks ago.

Dixon said that he will miss Rohrssen, who is considered an ace recruiter, but the program will move forward and is in great shape.

“We lose assistants almost every year. He is, I think, the seventh guy we’ve lost, so it is just a part of the business and you deal with it,” Dixon said. “But we have had a lot of great assistants here, guys who have been great recruiters, and I’m looking forward to going out and finding someone who fits with our staff needs and helps us continue to build this program.”

Rohrssen, who came to Pitt before this past season from the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League where he was working as an assistant coach, worked at Pitt from 1999-2006 then became the head coach at Manhattan. He was fired after the 2010-11 season.

He was brought back to Pitt in order to help give the program’s recruiting a boost. Rohrssen has said numerous times he loves Pittsburgh, but the lure of Kentucky and the chance to work with Calipari were too much to turn down.

With Rohrssen’s departure, Dixon appointed director of basketball operations Brian Regan as a temporary replacement for off-campus recruiting duties. Regan will be permitted to join the staff and recruit off-campus for the final week of recruiting.

Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh. Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise. First Published April 21, 2014 9:17 PM

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