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Thursday, September 30, 2010
Pittsburgh lands big-time recruit

By Eamonn Brennan

For all of Jamie Dixon's success at Pittsburgh, he hasn't built his teams with the sort of elite one-and-done players that have excelled elsewhere. Dixon's teams have more of a homemade feel; they're filled with good, and oftentimes great, players, but players that will stick around for two or three years before they try the NBA draft. Given Dixon's success, it's a proven and effective strategy.

Still, everyone loves the big-time recruit, and if you can get him, you'd be a fool not to take him. So it is with the young man that might be Dixon's highest-profile recruit ever, and who decided to verbally commit to Pittsburgh Wednesday night. Khem Birch is going to be a Panther.

Who is Khem Birch? He's the No. 2-ranked player, and the top-ranked player at his position, power forward, in the class of 2012. ESPNU's evaluation describes him as an "off the charts athlete that can charge the game on the defensive end of the floor with his ability to block shots and rebound." Birch is raw -- he needs to improve his offensive game and rely less on athleticism to be a defensive stopper -- but he's already drawing favorable comparisons to Kenyon Martin. That is lofty territory for a high school junior.

There is still plenty of time for Birch to develop, and it's always hard to say what a team will look like two years in advance, but if recent trends hold, the 2012 Panthers will be a tough, defensive-oriented and veteran team, just like always. Only by then, they'll have a one-and-done talent patrolling the paint.

Pitt fans, try to keep your salivary glands in check. Two years is a long time away. We don't want you to get dehydrated.