Coach Roy Chipman is a man ahead of his time. Two years before Rand McNally chose Pittsburgh as the most livable city in America, Chipman had persuaded some of the country's best prep players to spend four years near the Golden Triangle. "We've never been armed before," says Chipman. "Now we are."

His biggest weapon is Charles (Mr. Fluid) Smith, whose playing style and long arms—41 inches—evoke comparisons with Sam Perkins. Smith led the Panthers with 15 points and 8.9 rebounds a game to earn Big East Freshman of the Year honors.

The Panthers are still a year away from making a run at the Big East title, but getting better. "These players aren't selfish," says Chipman. "It's just that they all came here used to getting the basketball and shooting it in big situations."

Exhibit A is sophomore guard Demetreus Gore, a former Mr. Basketball in Michigan who was second to Smith in scoring last season. But Gore shot only 41.8% and was nicknamed Freakazoid for his wild excursions to the hoop. Says Chipman: "Demetreus has to realize he doesn't get extra points for the degree of difficulty."

Pitt will be more controlled if junior guard Curtis Aiken becomes the assist-oriented point guard the Panthers need. At center, Tico Cooper, a 6'8", 225-pound junior college transfer, will be a welcome force, while freshman Jerome Lane's daring court sense will be on display at small forward. Chipman's thin bench will feature Darryl Shepherd, a pure-shooting 6'6" senior who can leap high enough to touch the rim with his forehead. Shepherd is the Panthers' most versatile player; before at least one home game, he'll play The Star-Spangled Banner on his saxophone.

ILLUSTRATIONMICHAEL DORET PHOTOJIM JUDKISThe Steel City bid golden opportunities for Gore and Smith.