Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ex-Pitt Star Page Turns into Broadcaster Feels Right at Home after Playing on Team That Opened Up Petersen Events Center

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ex-Pitt Star Page Turns into Broadcaster Feels Right at Home after Playing on Team That Opened Up Petersen Events Center

Article excerpt

An hour or so before Petersen Events Center was set to play host to its 300th game last Thursday, the man who scored a team-high 17 points in the first game there 16 years ago sat in the first row of the largely empty arena, gazing out at the vast stretch of navy-blue seats.

"I might've scored the first basket here," Julius Page said with a smile.

Adorned in a gray cardigan, Page is years removed from the days when he took to the same court in a jersey and shorts, playing before a sold-out building for Pitt teams contending for conference and national championships.

Now 36 years old, his presence is a reminder of how quickly time can pass, but also of how that time can change in some of the most unexpected and fulfilling ways.

If one of the voices on some of Pitt's non-conference television broadcasts this season has sounded familiar, it's understandable.

It's the voice of Page, a mainstay of some of the most successful Panthers teams in their most successful era and one of the top 20 scorers in program history. If it's hard to listen to that same voice and not be entertained, well, that's understandable, too.

The same passion and authenticity that helped define Page as a player have made him something of a natural as a broadcaster.

"I really believe in people finding something they love to do and doing that because you only live once," Page said.

"That's why it seems like I'm having so much fun doing that because if I didn't enjoy doing it, I would turn it down, even if everybody was like 'You're on TV! That's cool!' If it didn't make me happy, I wouldn't do it."

His insights and contributions on broadcasts come from an engaging personality, but also a certain gravitas earned from a decorated playing career from 2000-04, when his tenacity and athleticism helped build Pitt into a national power under Ben Howland and kept it one under Jamie Dixon.

After college, he played professionally but eventually stepped away about a decade ago, in part to be closer to his young children. Page initially entered the business world and later moved on to coaching AAU basketball for about three years before his competitive nature admittedly made the experience more stressful than enjoyable.

Even as he pursued other ventures, media work became a fixture.

He started as a personality for a now-defunct local internet radio station before landing as a pre- and post-game show analyst on 93.7 The Fan shortly after the station obtained the rights to air Pitt games in 2010.

To this day, Page co-hosts a basketball podcast through The Fan with Andrew Fillipponi, with whom he did pregame shows for years.

Then, in early November, he got a call.

Jeff Hathhorn, with whom Page had worked at The Fan, was doing play-by-play work for Pitt's non-conference games airing on ACC Network Extra, an online platform through ESPN, and was looking for someone who could serve as a color commentator.

For several years, Curtis Aiken had worked the broadcasts and excelled in the role of the former player and recognizable face who could deftly dissect the game action. With Aiken now on the Panthers radio broadcasts, Page seemed like a natural replacement.

"It was really cool because I'm sure he was nervous, but that nervousness came out as positive energy, which is just what you want," Hathhorn said. "You want the game to flow. You want someone that's excited about being here. He did a great job of it."

In the five games he has done thus far, Page has provided a lively presence. There are moments that lack polish, as there would be for any relative novice, but in those instances when he is gripped by suspense or overcome with excitement, there's a relatability and sincerity to him.

Above all else, Page is himself. His sense of humor and energy come naturally, but they only blended into his broadcasting with repetition and experience.

The transition from player to analyst is seldom an easy one to navigate, and Page encountered his own troubles. …

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