GILBERT HOPES TO BECOME PITT’S FUTURE MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE
By Lauren Kirschman
When asked what he wanted to bring to the floor for Pittsburgh this season, incoming freshman Malcolm Gilbert said “a really big defensive presence.”
And since he’s entering a program that consistently focuses on excelling defensively, Gilbert should fit in just fine.
The 6-foot-11, 215-center joins the Panther frontcourt along with classmate and 6-foot-9 McDonald’s All-American Khem Birch.
The two add size to a Pitt roster that already holds 6-foot-9 forwards Talib Zanna and Dante Taylor. Gilbert said the team wants to use that size to its advantage.
“The guys and I were talking about we got trees now,” Gilbert said. “We just want to clog up the middle and just swat everything.”
He added that even with a focus on defense, his game has improved offensively.
“I’m trying to work on my dribbling so that I can face the basket more,” he said. “I’ve also got a great touch on my jump shot, so I’m trying to utilize that more.”
On the first night of the summer league, Gilbert went up against Zanna inside, finishing with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
“It felt good,” Gilbert said. “The pace is definitely quicker than high school so I’m adjusting and getting used to it.”
He finished with three points and five rebounds on Wednesday, struggling offensively but performing well on the defensive end.
Gilbert said head coach Jamie Dixon’s history of developing players drew him to the Pitt program.
“Even after the NBA or if players don’t make it there, it sets them up for life and things like that,” he said. “There’s always options. I like how Jamie Dixon takes care of his players, like [assistant coach] Brandin [Knight] for example.”
He said the current members of the team are also taking care of the incoming freshmen by showing the new players around Pitt’s campus.
Like classmate John Johnson, Gilbert said he’s experienced some difficult navigating the city.
“I have a pretty good sense of direction,” he said. “But when I’m weak and I don’t know where something is, I go to him [Johnson] and when he doesn’t know where something is, he goes to me.”
Former Panther and student assistant Austin Wallace is helping the incoming players find their way around as well.
“All the guys are helping to show us around,” Gilbert said. “[Wallace] is a real cool guy, a great guy. Down to Earth.”
Gilbert said he knew some of Pitt’s players before the summer league began, such as senior Nasir Robinson and redshirt sophomore Lamar Patterson, but he’s enjoying developing relationships with the rest of his teammates.
“It’s cool being with the guys. They’re funny and they think I’m funny, too,” he said with a laugh.
He added that the league is helping to build trust and chemistry between players.
“Those are important things,” he said. “That will definitely help in the fall.”