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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Game Week For Tiger Basketball

By Dan Wolken

It's been a month exactly since Memphis Madness. And though watching practice is great, I've got to admit: I'm ready to see some games.

I think the Tigers' coaching staff was feeling the same way this weekend, especially once the scores of Friday and Saturday's games started rolling in. John Calipari told me he kind of wished Memphis had been able to schedule a game for the weekend or Monday, but it didn't happen.

Instead, the Tigers got some good work in Saturday and Sunday, scrimmaging both days.

A few of my impressions from the last big tune-up before Jackson State on Thursday:

-- PG Willie Kemp is really coming along nicely. He's starting to figure out how to create scoring opportunities for himself, and he had a handful of drives that were simply jaw-dropping. He's also shooting extremely well, probably better than anyone on the team right now. We'll see if that carries over to FedExForum, where the entire team has shoot poorly from the outside in two exhibition games.

-- As I wrote about in today's paper, C Joey Dorsey is still struggling a little bit with that sprained toe. He's playing through it, but there's still some pain and swelling. I don't think the Tigers will need a big effort from him to beat Jackson State, but certainly they will need him at full speed for Maui. At this point, his ability to play three games in three days out there is a question mark.

-- Calipari said he was going to work on some things Tuesday and Wednesday that put Dorsey and Pierre Niles on the floor at the same time. That hasn't been possible yet since they haven't been healthy at the same time. Niles is making progress, but he's clearly a step behind everyone else in his conditioning, which is to be expected since he missed nearly three weeks following minor knee surgery.

-- The biggest thing for Niles is to get in the mindset of going all-out, all the time. As Calipari said yesterday, Niles would be great in a football game right now because he can make one play, then rest for 30 seconds and make another. In basketball, especially the way Memphis plays, you've got to keep going. And on about the third or fourth trip up the floor, something breaks down for him. But he's really, really trying, and Calipari has been encouraged by his attitude.

-- The staff was extremely excited for Tony Barbee, who got his first victory as a head coach Friday night when his UTEP team beat Penn. That's a huge win for Barbee. Penn is the favorite to win the Ivy League and will probably win 20-plus games, which makes it a very good RPI win for Conference USA.

Posted in Tiger Basketball by Dan Wolken

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