With the addition of a 6’10” center from Colorado, the first year of being fully eligible for the post season, the UNO Mavericks men’s basketball team will be one of the biggest teams in the Summit League.
Okay, so height is not everything, but it does not hurt most of the time. South Dakota State and North Dakota State have been able to be dominant the last couple of years with their balanced attack of controlling the paint with their front court while being able to shoot the ball and play strong perimeter defense with their back courts. The Mavs are starting to get more and more of that balance as they are still growing. We are also still in transfer and late commitments period, so anything could happen to the Mavs roster, or to any Summit League team still. You still have to be excited about the signing of a guy like Zach Pirog. ESPN’s recruiting database, which could basically be summed up in three words “It really sucks,” has only taken the time to rate a few of the recruits that UNO has had over the last couple of years, Nick Billingsley in 2013 and Jalen Jones in 2014, neither of them ended up at UNO. I am not saying that to anger you or scare the crap out of you, just saying that anything can happen. Either way, I hope that Pirog is completely committed to the Mavs.
It is still unclear if Pirog will redshirt or not, Derrin Hansen has a history of redshirting bigger guys, but you know, we are kind of in a new era here, so we will have to wait an see. It is going to be interesting to see what unfolds with the Mavs front court with the loss of Mike Rostampour. Jake White can hopefully be more healthy in his senior year, Tre’Shawn Thurman is already a star, and Rylan Murry and Daniel Meyer showed moments of potential during their freshmen year. Now you are going to add Pirog (and walk on 6’8″ Ben Kositzke from Millard West) to that group, Thurman and Murry also both have the potential to play the 3, so at times the Mavs could have a very big lineup on the court like when North Dakota State did when they won the 2014 Summit League tournament.
So what do you think when you watch this video? With it starting with a minute and a half of his shot blocking ability, I immediately get excited of the potential. He is not just blocking his defender, he is blocking anything that comes at him. Take notice of how well he moves and shifts on defense. Pirog next to Thurman on the court at the same time has to get you a little excited. That combo on defense will provide so much rim protection. They will basically form a gate around the paint and make it extremely difficult for teams to get easy baskets. When we get a chance to get Pirog and Thurman on the court at the same time, I am going to coin it as “The Devil’s Gate.” It is a cattle term. We are the Mavericks. It sounds scary. Deal with it.
Another thing to take notice is how well he moves without the ball, his footwork is great. Yes I know it is a highlight reel, and I have no idea who the opposing players are, but he still gets to the ball with ease and spins around his defender extremely well. There are also a few highlights of him making some 15-18 foot jump shots, which can be extremely beneficial to a offense. I have always thought it was a great addition to a team’s offense, honestly it helps when anyone on the team can make mid range shots, but extremely helpful when a big man can do it. It keeps the opposing team’s defense honest and it can mess up their plans if they love to play a zone and hate to draw their post player out of the lane. John Karhoff had that mid range weapon and it was a big help for the Mavs in his senior season. Mike Rostampour and Jake White both had a decent mid range game, but it did not really seem like it was something the Mavs were really counting on this past season, those two spent more time in the post than Karhoff did. It was a different team though (obviously), Karhoff had Rostampour and Matt Hagerbaumer to bang down low and grab his potential misses so it seemed like there was more confidence in giving Karhoff the green light for that.
I was in Denver this last weekend and staying near the Pepsi Center and by coincidence the Colorado high school all star game was going on. I only had a little time to go, so I could not stay for the entire time, but Pirog was quick for a post player and ran the floor very well. Seemed like a healthy guy, but thought maybe he needed to put on some muscle for the next level, and really what high school athlete does not need to put on some more muscle for college? In a game that featured 3 other players that would be in division one next season, and maybe a few more, Pirog was able to put up 8 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocks.
Per Verbal Commits, Pirog had other offers from: Air Force, Yale, Columbia, Albany, Lafayette, Holy Cross, Tennessee Tech, Northern Colorado, and Liberty. Along with JT Gibson also getting a good amount of offers, UNO is finally getting to the point where they are winning recruiting battles, probably directly related to the reclassifying period coming to an end and a brand new arena, but dang it feels good to finally see. Early in the transition phase, I would see UNO going up against other schools for kids and I would just instantly write them off and I was right for writing them off 100% of the time. I was still in that mode before the start of this season. I saw Pirog had some other offers and took some other visits, had some great length, and I instantly went to the old, Oh He’s Not Coming Here mentality. When I saw Pirog committed to UNO, that was the moment it finally hit me that this transition phrase was coming to an end.
Per MaxPreps, Pirog averaged 14.6 ppg, 10.5 rpg, and 3.4 blocks per game his senior year and led his team to the the state championship game, where he had 4 points and 9 rebounds against a team that featured a Wyoming commit and a junior center who holds offers from Pac 12, Big 12, and SEC schools. With Pirog, Gibson, Tra-Deon Hollins, Zach Jackson, and walk on Ben Kositzke, you have to find yourself wondering if UNO picked up their best recruiting class yet.
Welcome to the Mav family…I just hope he and Rylan Murry can get along…
Here is some reading material