Calipari plans to share the wealth
By Dan Wolken, Memphis Commercial Appeal
October 12, 2006
He had two forwards who would leave the University of Memphis and become the 16th and 17th picks in the NBA Draft. He had a point guard with his own Web site. And he had a freshman guard who started 25 games and made Conference USA's all-rookie team. So it was both a validation of coach John Calipari's offensive system and a testament to the Tigers' depth last season that none of those players led Memphis in minutes played. Rather, it was then-freshman Antonio Anderson who edged Rodney Carney -- 1,030 minutes to 1,027 -- despite starting just more than half the games.
This season, it's possible nobody will reach Anderson's freshman average of 27.8 minutes per game. That's because, as the Tigers gear up for the official start of practice Friday at Memphis Madness, it appears that as many as 12 players could conceivably lay claim to significant playing time. "It's just like last year's team," sophomore guard Chris Douglas-Roberts said. "I ain't gonna say we're gonna be better this early, but we've got the potential to be better than last year because everybody can play. About twelve guys can come in and play big minutes."
While that kind of logjam could potentially be a recipe for discontent and jealousy, it wasn't last season.
Part of the reason was the Tigers' 33-4 record. But just as significant was Calipari installing a new up-tempo offensive system that requires so much energy, being on the floor for more minutes per game than Anderson or Carney were last season would be nearly impossible.
"If, say, two or three of my best players can play 30 minutes or more at the pace we play, they'll play that," Calipari said. "I just haven't found anybody that can.
"The NBA is not looking at rebounding, scoring. They're looking at that per minute. So they looked at Shawne Williams' 23 minutes a game ... but what he did in those 23 minutes got him drafted 17th after one season. Our guys now understand and trust the fact, the NBA isn't saying, 'OK, who's got the most minutes?' They don't care who's got minutes. They want to know if you can play. And the pace and the level of our game and the way we're playing and who we play against kind of, it shakes it out."
Though Calipari said he doesn't think this team on the surface will be as talented or as deep as last year -- "We lost four of our top 10 guys," Calipari said -- Memphis enters this season seemingly with a lot of interchangeable parts.
In addition to the six returning players who ate up significant minutes last year, there are five newcomers who could play their way into the mix. Plus, senior Jeremy Hunt will factor in after returning from last season's suspension.
"It's real competitive," Anderson said. "It's always going to be competitive when you've got guys your size who can do the same thing you can do.
"The funny thing is, none of us was even mad (last year) we didn't start. None of us was selfish. That's what made things better. It was just like that. Hopefully, with these guys coming in, coach will get that same feeling he had last year with us, knowing he won't lose the beat if he subs somebody in or doesn't start somebody. Hopefully we can get that same thing going."