Last year, as Pittsburgh surprised much of the Big East, the country learned the name of the gutsy junior guard for the Panthers, Carl Krauser. After an early tournament exit, the exciting 6-foot-1, 200-pound Krauser was tempted by the lure of NBA money, but wisely chose to return for his final season in navy and gold after playing poorly in Chicago and learning that he is more likely to go undrafted than be a 1st round pick.
Krauser is a bruising combo guard, more likely to scrap for a rebound -- he averages almost 5 on the season -- or pick your pocket than he is to finesse dribble his way into the lane or dazzle with a crossover. Hard-nosed and energetic, the Pitt senior has thus far posted nearly identical numbers to last season, but without the upperclassmen as his supporting cast he enjoyed a year ago. He always seems to come up big in the biggest games, often in the clutch, most recently in a win at home over a ranked Syracuse squad.
In that game, Krauser scored a career-high 32 points on 8-for-13 shooting and an eye-popping 13 of 14 free throws. More importantly, Krauser was the spark that helped them overcome a pesky Syracuse zone and some tired legs on the way to a Pittsburgh win. Krauser helped energize his teammates in the second frame by fighting for loose balls with his typical reckless abandon and turning a series of Syracuse miscues into easy points. In short, it was just the sort of gritty performance that Pitt fans have grown accustomed to, and Big East opponents have learned to hate.
As a pro prospect, Krauser doesn't wow anyone with his size (he measured out at just 6-1 in Chicago), body or shooting, but he does do a lot of things well. Krauser is a defensive hawk and rebound force, averaging over 4 rebounds and a shade under 2 steals a game, though numbers alone don't do justice to his tenacity and disruptive effect, especially in the half court. In addition, the senior guard leads the Panthers in scoring (16.8) and assists (4.5), not to mention effort, leadership and clutch shooting.
The biggest knock on the sturdy Krauser is that while he's a good shooter (40% on threes), he's not an NBA shooting guard, and while he's a good floor leader, he's not jet-quick enough on the drive or supremely accurate as a passer. Again, lots of things well, nothing mind-boggling. Moving off the ball this season has made Pitt a better team, but it doesnt necessarily say much about Krausers ability to make teammates better. Being 25 years old in May doesnt say much about his potential to improve dramatically either. That said, plenty of successful pro guards have learned what they needed to learn to overcome obstacles -- Charlie Bell and Maurice Williams in Milwaukee, for example.
Krauser is a second-round pick at best at this stage, if he's even drafted. But he's a winner with upside and a nose for the ball, something that can -- and often does -- transcend raw skill, athletic ability and size. Look for Krauser to try and prove his worth through summer league or training camp or go to Europe will he teams will live with his flaws and relish his ability to put the ball in the basket.