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Monday, November 13, 2006

Joey Dorsey's Toe Injury a Worry as Season Opens Thursday

A Big Question

Dorsey's toe injury has Tigers worried as team prepares for opener vs. Jackson State this week

By Dan Wolken
November 13, 2006

Joey Dorsey sat upright against the wall of the Finch Center training room after a scrimmage Sunday night, his legs stretched out and a bag of ice wrapped around his right foot.

It's become a familiar routine the past several days: Practice, pain, ice and the inevitable swelling in his big toe, followed by hope that he'll be better in the morning.

For now, it's the best the 6-9 University of Memphis center can do, trying to nurse along his sprained toe while preparing for the No. 14-ranked Tigers' season opener Thursday against Jackson State.

"I'm trying to play through it," Dorsey said. "I just need rest, and to keep icing it down. I'm getting a lot better."

Despite Memphis' depth, any limitation for Dorsey looms as a potentially serious situation. With sophomore Kareem Cooper suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules and freshman backup Pierre Niles not yet ready to play starter's minutes because he's just coming back from knee surgery, Dorsey's health is of utmost importance for the Tigers.

He initially suffered the injury during a Nov. 3 practice, sat out the next day and has participated in about 60 percent -- that's coach John Calipari's estimate -- of Memphis' drills since then.

Dorsey has undergone two MRIs, which revealed nothing except a sprain. And though the natural instinct would be to rest Dorsey for a solid week and get him completely healthy, the Memphis training staff told Calipari that wasn't the case.

"It's a mild sprain, but it's in your toe and he feels it," Calipari said. "When I need him out there scrimmaging, he's out there. But he's stopping a lot because he's not practicing.

"At some point, you have to come back and there's going to be pain initially with it. When he starts to come back there's going to be pain and swelling and you just slowly bring him back through that, let him feel the pain. And he needed to take an anti-inflammatory, which he wasn't taking, so he's doing that for a couple weeks."

Saturday and Sunday, Dorsey spent the first portion of both practices on a stationary bike or a treadmill to keep the joint loose. Dorsey then jumped in for the scrimmage segments, wearing a custom-made orthodic in his shoe that adds cushion.

Though he played effectively and appeared to be moving well, the next step will be how his foot responds Tuesday when the Tigers return to practice after a day off.

Assuming Dorsey is able to play Thursday, he'll quickly face another big hurdle: Playing three games in three days at the EA Sports Maui Invitational, which begins a week from today.

"I'm worried because I don't know how my foot is going to react to the Jackson State game and then I'm not going to have much rest in Maui," Dorsey said. "I'll have to keep playing through it, and I'm going to play because I know my team needs me."

Nobody disputes that.

The Tigers played without Dorsey in their exhibition game last Monday against Christian Brothers. Early in the game, it was clear they missed his rebounding, his energy and his physical intimidation.

"When he's not there, we kind of miss that a little bit," junior forward Robert Dozier said. "We need him out there at all times. His presence is amazing for our team. For what his injury is, it seems like he's playing well."

-- Dan Wolken: 529-2365

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