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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Dozier Begins To Tap Into Huge Potential

Dozier begins to tap into huge potential

By Jim Masilak
January 7, 2007

John Calipari didn't mince words when assessing Robert Dozier's effort in the University of Memphis' victory over Cincinnati last Thursday.

"He played like we expected him to play," the Tigers' coach said. "It's the first time all year, to be honest."

Calipari's frustration with his outrageously talented but maddeningly ineffective sophomore forward had been growing with each ineffectual performance for the No. 22 Tigers (11-3).

Through the first 13 games of the season, Dozier struggled to produce the sort of impact performances expected of a player dripping with NBA potential.

While he entered last Thursday's game averaging 11.1 points and six rebounds per game, Dozier was a virtual no-show in losses to nationally ranked opponents like Arizona (two points) and Georgia Tech (none).

In Calipari's estimation, Dozier was all too willing to settle for jumpers instead of using his slashing ability and wingspan to get to the basket. As much as he struggled offensively, his defense suffered even more.

"I may have got a little overconfident," Dozier said of his uneven play during the first two months of the season.

Then came the UofM's week-long break for the new year, when the 6-9, 215-pounder from Lithonia, Ga., rediscovered himself both on the court and in the weight room.

While Dozier said he had been feeling physically weak in recent games, and that it had played a factor in his struggles, the opportunity to pump some iron coincided with a new approach from his coach.

Calipari's exaltation? To keep it simple.

"What I told Robert Dozier before the game was, 'All I want is four offensive rebounds and three blocks. Don't worry about anything else,'" Calipari said. "Instead of chasing three rabbits, just chase one."

It certainly seemed to work against the Bearcats.

Looking as carefree and playing as naturally as he has all season, Dozier scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 21 minutes before fouling out.

"Coach just made it real simple for him. He told him to get offensive rebounds and get a couple blocked shots," sophomore guard Chris Douglas-Roberts said. "He didn't say anything about offense. ... Once the defense comes around, the offense will come."

Dozier exceeded his coach's quota by grabbing five offensive rebounds and attacked the basket with renewed vigor.

"That's what he's been working on. He broke out of his little slump, and he's got to keep playing that way," sophomore guard Antonio Anderson said.

"He never argued with the coaches or anything. He just played through it and got better and it showed (against Cincinnati)."

Dozier said the Tigers' two-a-day practices during their mini-break, combined with some intensive weight-room sessions, had him feeling more robust than he had all season. He said it underlined the need to continue to add strength to his lithe frame.

"The practices were hell, and battling (forwards) Joey (Dorsey) and Kareem (Cooper) every day, it helped a lot," Dozier said. "When I finally got in a game, stuff came a lot easier."

Strength, or the lack thereof, hasn't been the only thing holding Dozier back in the early going.

Douglas-Roberts suspects Dozier may have initially put too much pressure on himself to replace NBA first-round draft choice Shawne Williams in the Tigers' lineup, adversely affecting his game in the process.

"I think Rob was thinking about taking Shawne's place instead of playing the way he plays," Douglas-Roberts said. "He's been really worrying about filling Shawne's shoes, but he and Shawne have two totally different games.

"He had to find his game and he found it. He played like a star (Thursday)."

While Dozier disagreed with that assessment, Calipari gave it some credence.

"That could be," he said. "But if that's the case, go back to being Rob. Fall in love with you."

-- Jim Masilak: 529-2311


Next for No. 22 Tigers

Opponent: Houston

When, where: Thursday, 8 p.m., at Houston


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