October 4, 2009

Dexter Pittman talks UT hoops and his 'Beast Mode'

Dexter Pittman provided fair warning on his Facebook before last year's Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City that he was about to transform. About to go from David Banner to the Hulk in the middle of UT's frontcourt. Sexy Dexy was about to become Down-and-Dirty Dexy.

ENTERING 'BEAST MODE'

"I just knew that for our team to go far and advance, we needed someone in the post to step up," Pittman told Orangebloods.com. "I knew I had a lot of potential for being a good post, so I was telling myself, 'Why am I selling myself short?' So I just turned it on and went into 'Beast Mode.'

"I just went into that kind of mode, focusing. I was talking to guys like Royal Ivey, Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge before the Big 12 Tournament and asked them what separated the pros from college, and they said, 'They bring it every night.' Well, that's what I had to do - bring it every night.

"I put on Facebook before the Big 12 Tournament, 'It's time to go into Beast Mode,' because Royal (Ivey) told me I just had to be a beast, just play and be strong. That's what I did."

A NEW MAN

After averaging just 9.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 14.7 minutes per game through the regular season, Pittman nearly doubled those numbers in the Big 12 Tournament, when he averaged 17.3 points, 11.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 28.7 minutes.

Pittman shot 66.7 percent from the field after averaging 61 percent in the season and showed up huge in UT's first-round NCAA Tournament victory over Minnesota (17 points on 7-of-12 shooting with 11 rebounds and a steal).

The team got away from Pittman in a second-round loss to Duke, when he finished 3-of-5 from the field for eight points with eight rebounds.

"Dexter showed he can really help us," said coach Rick Barnes, whose team opens practice in less than two weeks (Oct. 16) with the deepest roster Barnes has ever had.

COMING BACK

After the season, Pittman, like Damion James, had a decision to make. But Pittman said it was a no-brainer to return because he said he has so much to work on, including his school work. Pittman actually turned down invitations to Amare Stoudamire's camp and LeBron James' camp to take additional classes in summer school to finish his degree in May.

"I was saying to myself, 'I don't want to be in the NBA for two years and then head overseas or to the D-League,'" said Pittman, who is now closer to 275 pounds than his listed 290.

"I want to be in the NBA for 15, 16 or 17 years. For me to do that, I knew I had to come back to school and get better. It's just like life. If you know you have a certain amount of time, you don't want to waste it. I didn't want to waste my time."

If you want to get Pittman really fired up, get him talking about this year's team.

'BEST TEAM IN THE COUNTRY'

"We fill every position," he said. "I think we're the best team in the country on paper, to be honest. That's my opinion. I'm excited because it's like a video game that you can put a bunch of great players together. It's like an all-star team."
Pittman said the team will be completely different from last season - starting at the point guard position.

"It's going to be scary," Pittman said. "People don't know much about J'Covan (Brown), and he can play. Put him with Jai (Lucas) and everyone else. We're loaded there. We've got all the parts and tools we need. There's no excuses. If we don't make use of everything it's shame on us. But Coach Barnes won't let that happen."

NO LONGER FRESHMEN

Avery Bradley, Jordan Hamilton and Shawn Williams have been impressive in individual workouts, Pittman said.

"They're all good, and they all work hard," Pittman said. "We don't consider them freshmen, and we don't want them considering themselves as freshmen. We want them considering themselves as more than that."

Pittman wonders who opposing teams will double.

"It's going to be scary," Pittman said. "Some teams are going to have a tough time matching up with us defensively because we have big guards on the outside, big wings and then the posts on the inside. I'm excited because I know not many teams are going to be able to double-team me because we actually have shooters."

WORKING TO IMPROVE

Pittman spent the summer working on a lefty hook to go with his righty, worked on chasing after rebounds and hitting a 15-foot jump shot to be part of the team's pick-and-pop offense.

"Coach had me watching Yao Ming for the jump shot and the face-up game," Pittman said. "Coach believes for me to play on the next level, I have to have a pick-and-pop game. I'll need to shoot it from 15 feet. I didn't work as much on my pounding game inside because I know I have that. Whenever we're down one, I'm going to go to that. But I need to expand my range."

When asked how confident he was in that 15-footer, Pittman said, "Real confident. People are going to be shocked when they see me shooting from out there and it's falling."

THE DIRTY WORK

Barnes has already said he expects this team to be among the best rebounding teams he's ever had. Barnes wants players like Gary Johnson and Pittman to do a better job of chasing after rebounds this season, rather than boxing out one spot and hoping the ball comes to them.

"Rebounding is big for us this year because we're a big team," Pittman said. "Gary (Johnson), Damion (James), Jordan Hamilton, Shawn Williams, all of us, have to have a commitment that when the ball is in the air, we have to go get it."

MAJOR IMPACT

Everyone has been talking about the expected impact of shooting guard Avery Bradley and combo guard J'Covan Brown. Pittman said for good reason.

On Brown, Pittman said, "He's a tough player, and he's not going to back down from nobody. People think he's a bad kid because some of the things he's been through. But they don't know him like we do. He's going to be all right."

On Bradley, Pittman said, "He's a hard-nosed player, and he's going to bring it every night. He's strong. All of us are strong. We're kind of like the Michigan State teams of the past - tough, physical."

Ask Pittman to talk about the attitude of this year's team and he breaks out into a big smile.

"I feel the swag going around that we are going to throw the first punch every night instead of getting punched first like last year. Beast mode," Pittman said. "We're going to go out there and bully people around."



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