Pitts-nogled (verb): What happens when West Virginia power forward/center Kevin Pittsnogle hits a 3-pointer in your face, leaving you confused and astonished. -- From the online Urban Dictionary
MAITLAND -- Kevin Pittsnogle had a verb coined for the way he played in college, and now the former West Virginia standout hopes to write his own ticket to the NBA.
While leading the Mountaineers to the Elite Eight in 2005 and the Sweet 16 in 2006, Pittsnogle's teammates made up a term to describe what he did to opposing players. Soon after, the word became a college basketball phenomenon, and "Pittsnogled" started showing up on T-shirts, signs and even bumper stickers. The verb showcased his unique style of play, making him and his game well known to fans and NBA scouts everywhere. Rarely had a player with his size been able to shoot the ball so well.
But even with a place in the Urban Dictionary, the 6-foot-10 power forward/center with the sweet stroke was left on the board after NBA draft. He was passed over by coaches and general managers who had doubts if his style of play could work in the NBA like it did for Dallas Mavericks all-star Dirk Nowitzki.
"He definitely has a unique skill for somebody his size," said Erik Spoelstra, the Miami Heat's director of scouting. "To step behind the NBA 3-point line with legitimate range and shoot it like he does, that's definitely a skill that is useful in the NBA. He just needs to get into better shape and in better condition [in order to really appeal to teams as a free agent]."
Pittsnogle is confident that his game can fit into the NBA's style of play, but he admits he's not exactly like Nowitzki.
"I'm a different type of player," Pittsnogle said. "I'm more of a spot-up shooter right now, unless I develop into more of a Nowitzki-type. But right now I'm more of a shooter, and you can always use shooters in professional basketball."
In Orlando last week for the 2006 Pro Summer League and on the Heat's roster, Pittsnogle set out to prove his doubters wrong. However, it was a rough start for the NBA hopeful.
Through his first three games, he averaged 3.3 points and 2.0 rebounds in just 42 minutes. In those games, where the level of play was a big step up from the college game, Pittsnogle struggled in the paint and from the perimeter.
"The biggest change has been adapting to the style of offense because it's more of a one-on-one type of offensive style," Pittsnogle said. "I think playing here will definitely help me as a player. I got a lot better just in the one extra year I was in college, so hopefully I can improve in the next couple of years."
In his fourth summer-league game, against the Indiana Pacers, Pittsnogle looked more comfortable and started the first half with a 3 and then followed with two spectacular long-range shots.
The performance reminded many of his college years, when he averaged 13.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game in four seasons with the Mountaineers -- numbers that helped earn him spots on both the John Wooden All-American team and the All-Big East first team. Pittsnogle also finished as West Virginia's sixth all-time leading scorer with 1,708 points -- not to mention the famous word.
When an opposing player gets "Pittsnogled," he does everything he can to guard the sharp-shooting giant but still can't keep him from scoring.
New Jersey rookie Josh Boone, who played for the Connecticut Huskies, was "Pittsnogled" on a few occasions and describes the former Mountaineer as one of the most versatile players he's ever faced.
"You don't find too many 6-11 players that can shoot the ball the way he can," said Boone. "Last year, a lot of West Virginia's sets were made to get him open 3-pointers. When we played them, I let him have two wide-open shots and he hit both of them. That's frustrating for an opposing player. He just does a lot on the court. He can take you outside and shoot the ball, or he can take you in the post and jump-hook it."
While in Orlando, Pittsnogle joined some familiar faces. Not only are there six players from the Big East on the Heat's summer-league roster, but former West Virginia teammate Mike Gansey rejoins Pittsnogle in the lineup.
"Playing with Mike has helped me because I know somebody coming in," Pittsnogle said. "We talk all the time. He lets me know what's up and what I'm doing wrong, and I do the same for him. It's been great having him here."
Gansey, who already has signed a contract with the Heat, describes playing with Pittsnogle again as exciting and he remembers all the times his teammate knocked down 3s in big games.
"There were a lot of great moments, just having him out there on the court hitting all those 3s, because he opened up so many opportunities for the other players on the team," Gansey aid.
Their partnership, though, most likely will end in about another week when Pittsnogle takes his game to Dallas for a summer-league stint with the Mavericks. There, he hopes to make a final statement to attract the interest of an NBA team.
"In the NBA, you have to start over," Pittsnogle said. "You have to make a new name for yourself. You have to try harder because you can't take the things you've done in college and use them in the pros. Here, everyone is new again and so is the game."
With the start of the NBA season still a few months away, Pittsnogle isn't worried about signing with a team right now. Instead, he said he wants to refine his skills and improve his game so down the road he again can be the definition of an outstanding player.
Brentley Romine is a junior at Oviedo High School. His Institute mentor is Senior Desk Editor Ken Gladstone.