Big 12 Campus Correspondent
After spending much of his first two years on the bench watching former Longhorn-standouts and current NBA stars Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin, Texas center Dexter Pittman is finally getting his chance to shine.
The 6-10 junior from Rosenberg, Texas, has solidified his status as one of the Big 12’s most dominant big men this season.
It has been a long road for Pittman, who only averaged six minutes his first two seasons. When he first arrived in Austin in the summer of 2006, he looked more like a football recruit, tipping the scales at 366 pounds.
The Texas trainers and coaching staff quickly changed Pittman’s way of life, which was extremely difficult for a guy who said that in high school he never drove past McDonald’s without stopping. Pittman changed his diet and training habits and went from an overweight athlete to “Sexy Dexy.”
“I just started pushing myself more and working harder and started to see the dream,” Pittman said.
The dream Pittman began to see didn’t include some of his favorite foods, including ice cream.
“I stopped eating a lot of carbs and junk foods and sweets,” Pittman said. “I learned that you’ve got to be dedicated to get where you want to be.”
The dedication has certainly paid off as Pittman went from 388 pounds in high school to 295 less than 10 months later. His waist size dropped from 52 inches to 40.
"I think the coaching staff knew he had the chance to be a special player just by the way he moved with the weight that he had on when we recruited him," strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright said during Pittman’s freshman year.
Pittman, who is averaging nearly nine points a game, was already aware that he was capable of putting points on the board, but what he has worked on the most is being aggressive on the defensive end.
“I really didn’t try to go after the ball like I have in the past because I wasn’t in that good of shape,” Pittman said. “I was just an offensive player in the past, but now I am going after rebounds and getting the ball.”
Coach Rick Barnes has been pleased with Pittman’s performance.
“Dexter has worked really hard to be effective on the defensive end,” Barnes said. “He went through a tough time but worked really hard to come back and help this team.”
As a freshman, the most minutes Pittman played in a game was 12. He now feels that he is capable of effectively playing 18 to 20 minutes per game.
“Anyone could go out and play forty minutes but it’s about what they do when they are out there,” Pittman said.
Since his increase in playing time, Pittman’s stats have been on the rise as well. He has had eight games in which he has scored in double figures including a career-high 25 points in a loss to Missouri earlier this month.
No longer are just the eyes of Texas upon Pittman, but rather Big 12 opponents have been looking at Pittman as he has been improving. Opposing coaches have been putting much more attention on the UT-big man, who is leading the Longhorns in field goal percentage and steadily improving at the free throw line.
“Dexter is a guy who we need and our team knows that so he just needs to continue doing what he has been doing and keep his best basketball ahead of him,” Barnes said.
The Longhorns have been relying on Pittman’s play in the paint, and the junior has been willing to accept the responsibility.
“I am a big part of this team now,” Pittman said. “I am not a role player anymore. I’m just a player now.”