After being granted a medical hardship waiver for the 2009-2010 season with an injured shoulder, Pittsburgh's Talib Zanna
shined early as a freshman, putting up season-highs of 14 points and 12 rebounds in a win over Maryland in Madison Square Garden in November. Unfortunately, the rest of Zanna's freshman season didn't go as well, as he earned inconsistent minutes in a crowded Panther frontcourt, playing sparingly through the Big East schedule, before sitting out the last seven games of the season with an injury to his right thumb.
Despite Zanna's lack of minutes and on-court production as a freshman, he still displayed enough potential to establish himself as a prospect down the road, most notably due to the physical tools that he brings to the table. The Nigerian big man has good size for the power forward position at 6'9, with a solid build and what appears to be a long wingspan. He couples that with an excellent motor and very good mobility for guy his size.
Offensively, Zanna is still a bit raw at this stage and played a very minor role last season, mainly only touching the ball on offensive rebounds and off of cuts around the basket, and hardly seeing any post touches. His athleticism and aggressive mentality help him finish at the rim, as he shot a solid 56% from the field last season, making the most of his opportunities. He also runs the floor hard on every possession, making himself available for easy baskets and put-backs.
He showed glimpses of being able to shoot mid-range jumpers, and looks to have decent touch, but he seems to lack confidence in his stroke, and still has work to do, as evidenced by the very poor 48% he shot from the free throw line as a freshman.
Defensively is where Zanna has excellent potential. He's big, strong, and long enough to defend in the post, and also possesses the mobility and lateral quickness to step out and defend some on the perimeter. Most importantly, he plays with outstanding intensity and effort and is playing for a coach in Jamie Dixon who is known for producing tough players who understand how to play on the defensive end, which should bode well for him down the road.
Zanna utilizes the same relentless energy to be a force on the boards, where he averaged 12.3 rebounds per forty minutes pace adjusted as a freshman for one of the best rebounding teams in the country.
This season could give a better indication's of Zanna's professional potential, but the extent of his playing time and role is uncertain. With the return of starter Nasir Robinson
and former McDonald's All American Dante Taylor
, as well as the addition of heralded freshman Khem Birch
, minutes at the four and five spots could once again for hard to come by for the 21 yeard old sophomore.
Pittsburgh should once again be one of the top teams in the Big East, and Zanna's physical attributes and energy will make him an intriguing player to watch. While a breakout sophomore season may not necessarily be in the cards, NBA scouts will likely be keeping an eye on Zanna's development over the course of his time in Pittsburgh.