This statement could be premature, but the addition of freshman point guard James Robinson could be the most important roster change for Jamie Dixon and the Pittsburgh Panthers. A true floor general, Robinson could be asked to occasionally — maybe even frequently — start in place of Tray Woodall, who still is not fully recovered from his offseason sports hernia surgery.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Woodall’s persistent discomfort on Monday night. So far, the fifth-year senior has not missed any workouts but he has been limited in strength and conditioning exercises because of the injury that plagued him last year.
Without Woodall in 2011-12, Pitt endured a devastating seven-game skid, which coincided with the first six games of Big East play. He didn’t score a point in his return, a loss to Louisville, but he subsequently averaged 18.5 points and 6.8 assists as the Panthers won their next four games.
Woodall was relatively inconsistent from then on, but his abdominal injury continued to nag him.
The general hope around Pitt was for Woodall to be fully healthy by this time. If he returned to his pre-injury form, Pitt would be a potentially solid team with the additions of Robinson, Steven Adams and Trey Zeigler. But Woodall’s health would be key.
Whether or not Woodall is at full strength come November, Pitt has the pieces to beat above-average teams. Robinson might be asked to mature at a faster rate, though, and Zeigler could be asked to take more of a leadership role.
Nonetheless, the Panthers won’t realize their full potential with Woodall hampered by injury. Dixon simply cannot replace his fifth-year senior’s experience and talent.
As of now, the discomfort does not sound too serious, considering he has been able to participate in workouts. However, given how much the nagging injury limited Woodall last year, Pitt has reason to be concerned.