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Friday, March 23, 2007

CDR's Ankle Improves, May Play Against A&M

Douglas-Roberts' ankle improves; may play tonight

By Dan Wolken
March 22, 2007

SAN ANTONIO -- He has spent hours on tables and in swimming pools, taken X-rays and MRIs, received massages and medicines.

He has been the subject of Internet prayer chains, gotten more than 300 e-mails from people he doesn't even know and experienced a gamut of emotions from denial to guilt.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, owner of the most famous left ankle in Memphis, has done all he can to play in tonight's South Regional semifinal against Texas A&M.
But will it be enough to truly make this a Sweet 16?

"The way he's been treating his ankle, getting ready for it, hopefully it all pays off for him," sophomore teammate Antonio Anderson said. "He deserves it. He's battled all year. Hopefully the man upstairs looks out for us and him and gives us what we want and what he wants, which is for him to play."

After practically round-the-clock treatment to get Douglas-Roberts healthy enough to suit up tonight, the University of Memphis is down to hope. But in a city famous for last stands, Douglas-Roberts on Wednesday said he would not give up on playing again this season.

Indeed, the Tigers' leading scorer participated in a private practice Wednesday morning and later sounded hopeful that he would be ready to face Texas A&M.

"I'm not 100 (percent); not 80," Douglas-Roberts said. "But by (today), I'll be great. It's a game-time decision. I don't want anybody to go out on a limb and say, he's in or he's out. I just want to leave it as a game-time decision."

If Douglas-Roberts can play effectively, it would be a minor miracle given how dire his injury appeared when he fell to the floor with 8:11 remaining in Sunday's 78-62 victory over Nevada.

Douglas-Roberts, who had to be carried into the locker room by two teammates, immediately began a comprehensive treatment plan that brought him far enough along to practice Wednesday.

Though the team purposely didn't release details of his workout, team officials privately expressed encouragement about his progress.

"I went light today," Douglas-Roberts said. "My lateral (movement) felt good. I was able to jump up and down, but coach didn't want me doing stuff that I was trying to do.

"There's not really too much more I can do, but I'm going to keep working on it, trying to strengthen it and loosen it up. By (today), we'll know what we're going to do with it."

Douglas-Roberts did offer that this left ankle sprain is not as bad as the right high ankle sprain that forced him to miss three games in January.

"I've been playing with pain throughout the year," Douglas-Roberts said. "I'm not fearful of it. This is the last of the last."

In a perfect world, the Tigers would sit Douglas-Roberts out tonight, then have him return that much stronger for the Elite Eight on Saturday. One problem: They may not get there without him.

Despite Memphis' pulling through the final minutes of the Nevada game, Douglas-Roberts is probably the only Tiger capable of matching Texas A&M star Acie Law point for point.

And his 15.4 points per game and 54-percent field-goal shooting could determine whether Memphis makes it to the Elite Eight.

On the other hand, the Tigers have gotten this far without big games from either senior Jeremy Hunt or freshman Doneal Mack, who would absorb Douglas-Roberts' minutes. If either one gets hot from 3-point range, it could soften the blow.

"That's what we've been doing all year long, covering for each other," Hunt said. "We're going to make a couple of adjustments if he doesn't play, but hopefully he can. If he doesn't, we'll have to step up and prove we can win without him."

Mack, who struggled to find his shooting touch early in the season, began to emerge as a factor when Douglas-Roberts was injured in January. He could very well be called upon to do the same tonight.

"I don't care if I start," Mack said. "I just want to do what it takes for our team to win. If Chris doesn't play, we're going to have other people step up. My confidence has been at an all-time high right now since I've been shooting the ball well and defending well, and Cal wants me to go play my role, and that's what I'll do."

Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie said, "We haven't spent one second talking about (Douglas-Roberts)." He also said he hoped Memphis would be at full strength.

"We're not going to let it become a distraction for us, and I know they won't let it become a distraction for them," Gillispie said. "If he plays, it adds everything for them and it definitely hurts us, but it's not like they don't have other great players."

The Tigers hope it won't be their last opportunity to show the country how many great players they have.

-- Dan Wolken: 529-2365

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