Sophomore leaders go to bat for Cooper
By Dan Wolken
November 28, 2006
Through all the events of this young University of Memphis basketball season -- good, bad or otherwise -- it's been fairly obvious that sophomores Robert Dozier, Antonio Anderson and Chris Douglas-Roberts have emerged as the team's core leadership group.
The most recent beneficiary of that was sophomore center Kareem Cooper, who returned to practice Saturday after a 26-day suspension for violating team rules.
Had that trio not gone to bat for Cooper in a meeting at coach John Calipari's house, his future might still be in limbo.
"Everybody makes mistakes," Anderson said Monday, the first day Memphis allowed players to talk publicly about the situation. "He apologized to the team, and we felt as teammates and as his best friends that everybody deserves a second chance. We went to coach's house and talked to the staff and told them we feel that we should give him a chance, even if he doesn't play at all this year."
Though Memphis hasn't let Cooper talk to the media yet, Douglas-Roberts said he was confident that Cooper had purged himself of the attitude issues that played a role in the suspension.
"He's a good dude, he just made a couple mistakes," Douglas-Roberts said. "We need him back. He's a big body, he's got skill around the basket, and he can rebound. It's the best decision with him being back on the team, on and off the court."
Memphis fell two spots in Monday's new Associated Press poll, from No. 12 to No. 14. The Tigers came in at No. 17 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.
Georgia Tech, the only team that has beaten 3-1 Memphis, is ranked 21st in the AP and 24th in the ESPN poll.
Memphis was No. 26 in Monday's RPI ratings, according to Ken Pomeroy's calculations, though the RPI is fairly irrelevant this early in the season (for instance, Texas-Arlington is No. 5). Conference USA foe UAB is No. 27, despite losses to Washington State and Wyoming.
This week's issue of Sports Illustrated includes a lengthy feature story on point guard Derrick Rose, the Tigers' top recruit who signed his letter of intent earlier this month.
The story, written by George Dohrmann, is the centerpiece of the magazine's high school basketball preview and details how Rose's three older brothers have spent the past few years sheltering him from the pitfalls that claimed the lives and careers of previous Chicago-area phenoms.