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Monday, April 23, 2007

No Summer Vacation for Tigers

No summer vacation for Tigers

By Dan Wolken, Memphis Commercial Appeal
April 22, 2007

The University of Memphis won't hold an official basketball practice for nearly six months, which means this is Richard Hogans' time of year.

And Hogans, the Tigers' director of performance enhancement, hopes his offseason is a busy one.

Though it's becoming more common, Memphis is still one of relatively few programs with a strength and conditioning coach who only works with the basketball team. Coach John Calipari does not require his players to train with Hogans during the summer, but those that don't take advantage do so at their own risk.

"I want to help them all," Hogans, a former UofM football player, said this week. "They're not mandatory workouts, but if you want to win games ..."

For a handful of players who came out of the 2006-07 season either overweight, underweight or injured, there is plenty of incentive to spend a good chunk of their summer in the weight room. With playing time at a premium next year -- Memphis could legitimately go 11 or 12 deep -- only the strong will survive a cutthroat competition for minutes.

Here are some of the players Hogans hopes to see a lot of over the next few months:

Pierre Niles: The 6-8 forward got down to 278 pounds before injuring his knee in the preseason. Now, Niles is weighing in at 315. If he doesn't drop the weight, Niles will be doomed to another season wasting his vast potential on the bench.

"It's going to be easy if he puts his mind to it, but it's all up to Pierre," Hogans said. "I can only give him the guidelines. ... I think he's there. Last year he wasn't there. He wasn't even trying to hear me, but now his mind is starting go, 'Wait, they're serious, I can't play like this. Cal ain't gonna let me play like this so I have to get in shape.'"

Robert Dozier: Though Dozier looked like an NBA player at times in the NCAA Tournament, he got pushed around down low most of the season. The 6-9 Dozier can't afford a repeat of last summer, when he bulked up to 220 pounds but then went home. He weighed in at 205 when he came back, irritating the Memphis coaching staff.

"I want to get him up to 220 or 225, good solid weight," Hogans said. "His frame can hold it. I think that will give him a little more confidence in the post and just make him a little tougher. "

Kareem Cooper: The skilled big man never got in shape last season, weighing as much as 310 pounds (he played at 270 during the 2005-06 season). The coaching staff has tried to cure Cooper of what appears to be a lazy streak, but so far the results have not been there.

"It could be crazy for Kareem," Hogans said. "He's the strongest guy on our team. When he was seriously in here, he was tearing some stuff up."

Shawn Taggart: After spending his transfer season rehabbing a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, the 6-10 Taggart is finally ready for some serious work. The year off gave him an opportunity to work on his upper body strength, which is a good head start.

"Tag is going to be nice," Hogans said. "He's been grinding and getting in here and doing what he needs to do. He's looking good, he's running good. That's another guy who really needs to get his stuff done this summer."

Hunt hoping

Jeremy Hunt's name isn't showing up on many mock drafts, at least not yet.

But Hunt believes he still has an opportunity to get picked somewhere in the NBA Draft, and the former Tiger will apparently get an opportunity to prove he belongs. Though the official list of participants for the May 29 NBA pre-draft camp won't be distributed until early next month, Hunt said he's already gotten an invitation to Orlando, where he'll get a chance to improve his draft stock against most of the top prospects.

"Worst-case scenario," Hunt said, "I don't get drafted, I try to get on somebody's summer league team, get invited to camp and we'll go from there. That's the worst case."

Whether or not Hunt gets drafted, his performance last season ensured he'll make money playing basketball somewhere in the world. After what turned out to be a year-long suspension from the program for off-court issues, Hunt returned as a fifth-year senior and was the Tigers' second-leading scorer at 14.1 points per game.

Though various injuries over the years have robbed the 6-5 guard from Craigmont High of some of his explosiveness, Hunt showed last season he has true NBA range on his jump shot. He made 89 3-pointers, nearly twice as many as any other Memphis player, many of them coming from well beyond the college 3-point line.

The other factor helping Hunt is his performance on the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. In Memphis' Sweet 16 victory over Texas A&M, Hunt had 19 points in 26 minutes on 6-of-12 shooting. He was even better against Ohio State in the Elite Eight, scoring 26 points in 35 minutes and making 5-of-11 from 3-point range.

"To go out with a bang like that, that really helped me," Hunt said.

Hunt has not yet hired an agent, but he's likely to sign with Memphis-based Tim Jumper.

Golf tournament

The Memphis Rebounders are now taking entries through May 11 for the John Calipari Golf Classic on May 17 at The Club at North Creek in Southaven. The format is a four-man scramble, and the registration fee is $150 per person.

Proceeds benefit the Rebounders' Walk of Fame project. Contact Bob Kennedy at for more information.

Etc: Ryan Miller, who worked on Memphis' basketball operations staff from 2003-06, has joined Steve Alford's staff at New Mexico as an assistant coach. Miller, the brother of Grizzlies guard Mike Miller, was an assistant last season at Pepperdine. ... Incoming freshmen Derrick Rose and Jeff Robinson got to team up Saturday for the Jordan All American Game in New York. Both of them played on the "Yellow" team, which was coached by Kevin Boyle, Robinson's coach at St. Patrick's High in Elizabeth, N.J.

To reach Tiger basketball reporter Dan Wolken, call 529-2365

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