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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Tiger Recruits (Rose, Robinson) Look Even Better

Tiger recruits look even better
Rose always solid, but Robinson improves

By Dan Wolken
May 27, 2007

From the moment he arrived at the University of Memphis more than seven years ago, John Calipari has assembled one talented recruiting class after another.
But here's a quirky fact: None of those classes has included two top-40 players who actually enrolled in school.

That's about to change.

When published its final player rankings for 2007, Memphis signee Jeff Robinson moved up to No. 36, giving the Tigers a second top-40 player to go alongside No. 3-ranked Derrick Rose.

Though recruiting rankings are subjective, can vary wildly from one publication to the next and are not always an indicator of college basketball success, it's interesting to compare Robinson and Rose with the two highest ranked players in previous Memphis classes:

In 2006, ranked Doneal Mack 47th and Willie Kemp 53rd. In 2005, Shawne Williams was 15th and Antonio Anderson was 56th. In 2004, Darius Washington was 23rd, and Joey Dorsey was just outside the top 150.

In 2003, Memphis signed Kendrick Perkins (No. 6) and Sean Banks (No. 32), but Perkins went to the NBA Draft instead of college. Nobody else in that class was ranked in the top 150.

Memphis signed Amare Stoudemire, the No. 1 player in the country, to headline the 2002 class. But the only ones who enrolled were a couple of sleepers named Jeremy Hunt and Rodney Carney.

Calipari's first recruiting class made a big splash with Dajuan Wagner, but there were no other top-50-type players alongside him.

While Rose has long been thought of among the four or five best players of his age group, Robinson wasn't viewed among the 2007 class elite until recently. In fact, the 6-5 New Jersey guard was a borderline top-100 prospect when Memphis recruited him last summer.

Since then, his stock has soared. Jerry Meyer, the lead recruiting analyst for Rivals, said Robinson didn't always play as hard and as disciplined as he should have during the AAU season last year when the initial rankings took shape.

But the work Robinson did during his senior season at St. Patrick's raised his profile immensely, and Meyer expects him to contribute right away at Memphis.

"I got to see St. Patrick's play live a few times, and they were on TV against O.J. Mayo's team, and we noticed he really disciplined his game," Meyer said. "I thought he refined his shooting ability. I really think he can shoot the 3-ball, and he's starting posting up more, rebounding stronger, doing things that a college team is going to need him to do.

"On top of that, he's a perfect fit for Memphis' style of play. He's sort of a mini-version of Carney. So we always knew Jeff had a big-time player inside of him, and I think it sort of blossomed during his high school season."

Golf tourney

The 2007 Larry Finch Benefit Golf Tournament will be held Friday at Galloway golf course. The entry fee is $125 per person and benefits the long-term illness fund formed by the Friends of Larry Finch Foundation.

The public is invited to participate in the four-man scramble, as are corporations, which can buy sponsorships for $3,000, $2,000 or $1,000.

More information can be obtained at The Web site details the immense financial needs incurred by the former Memphis player and coach, who lives in a long-term care facility while recovering from a stroke.

TV talk

Word out of the C-USA meetings last week was that its television package for men's basketball will once again include six games on ESPN and ESPN2 -- all of which will involve Memphis.

Plus, Memphis will be on ESPN/ESPN2 for two games in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic and against USC in the Jimmy V Classic. There's also a possibility the games at Ole Miss and Cincinnati could be picked up by ESPN or ESPN 2 as part of the SEC or Big East television package, respectively.

Speaking of ESPN exposure, that's the main reason Memphis-USC is a one-year, neutral site deal as opposed to a multi-year, home-and-home series.

Fox Sports Net has the television rights to Pac 10 basketball, which offers far less exposure than an ESPN game. Last season, Memphis made a long, expensive cross-country trip to play Arizona in a weeknight game that got relatively little national TV coverage. Don't expect that to happen again.

The schedule slots occupied by USC and Arizona will be replaced by marquee non-conference series in 2008-09. It's unlikely, however, that a Pac 10 team will be part of the equation.

Camping with Cal

Slots are still available for the John Calipari Basketball School, with four camps for ages 7 through 18.

The first camp from June 4-7 focuses on practice skills and work habits and costs $175. The second, Mike Miller's shooting camp, runs from June 11-13 and costs $175. The Elite Overnight camp is June 15-17 and is $185. From June 25-28, Rod Strickland will run a camp with appearances by NBA players for $225.

More information and registration can be obtained at or by calling 678-2346.

To reach reporter Dan Wolken, call 529-2365; e-mail:

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