Calipari's Recruits to Watch FedEx Forum Fest
October 11, 2006
John Calipari isn't concerned about how his University of Memphis basketball team looks Friday night at Memphis Madness, the season's first official basketball practice. But Calipari is worried about how the city of Memphis looks. How the program looks. How FedExForum looks.
Specifically, how all those things look to the handful of top-level recruits Memphis will be hosting this weekend, including highly rated Chicago point guard Derrick Rose. Though NCAA rules prohibit Calipari from commenting on unsigned recruits, a source with knowledge of the situation told The Commercial Appeal that Rose, the No. 3-ranked high school senior in the country by Rivals scouting service, is scheduled to attend Memphis Madness.
Also expected to attend are St. George's junior Elliot Williams, a 6-4 guard ranked by Rivals as the No. 63 player nationally in the class of 2008 and a slew of other local players Memphis is recruiting for 2008 and 2009.
According to Rivals.com, Xavier Henry, a 6-6 guard from Oklahoma City ranked No. 9 among sophomores, will also be at the event.
In other words, there's more at stake Friday than one practice out of many before the Tigers' Nov. 2 exhibition game against LeMoyne-Owen.
"Our city, everybody talks about this being a college basketball town," Calipari said. "Well, in Lexington it's sold out. At Connecticut it's sold out. You talk about Arizona, there's 19,000 there. I believe this is a college town, but on events like this when you're holding it at 7:30 (p.m.), you need to have people swamping the place, especially when we all bring in recruits for this.
"Whether it's seniors, juniors or sophomores, we're going to have probably seven or eight kids here that are the best in their class."
Though Calipari said it was "a little unrealistic" to fill up FedExForum, he believes it's a worthy goal -- especially when admission is free and the festivities will begin at 7:30 p.m., unlike years past in which practice wasn't allowed to begin until midnight.
Having a big turnout would also, in Calipari's estimation, help recruiting.
"One of the kids coming in, somebody said it's (between) Kansas, North Carolina and us," Calipari said. "That's where we should be. Now, when they walk into their buildings for these kinds of things, what does it look like? What does it look like in our building?"
The atmosphere Friday should be festive, with an autograph session and dunk contest that will be judged by three celebrities with Memphis ties: Craig Brewer, director of "Hustle & Flow," wrestling legend Jerry Lawler and Grizzlies forward Mike Miller.
A more serious practice will take place Thursday beginning at 2:30 p.m. at Finch Center, and it's open to the public.
The NCAA allows coaches to work with their teams for 10 hours before the official start of practice, which Calipari has broken up into five two-hour sessions.
The last of those sessions will be Thursday.
Contact Dan Wolken, Memphis Commercial Appeal at 901-529-2365