Jerseys change as quickly as hair styles
By Don Wolken
June 24, 2007
It's a numbers game at the University of Memphis this year, in more ways than one.
When Jeremy Hunt and Clyde Wade graduated from the program, two highly sought-after jersey numbers became available: No. 5 and No. 0, respectively.
It didn't take long for the remaining Tigers to jump on them as former No. 12 Antonio Anderson immediately claimed Hunt's No. 5 and Shawn Taggart took No. 0.
But they aren't the only players switching numbers for 2007-08. After wearing No. 32 for three years, forward Joey Dorsey will wear No. 3 as a senior, taking the number worn by Tre'Von Willis last year and Chris Douglas-Roberts the year before that. Walk-on guard Chance McGrady is going from No. 55 to No. 31.
Meanwhile, incoming freshman guard Jeff Robinson will wear 32, Dorsey's former number. Freshman point guard Derrick Rose will wear No. 23.
At Simeon High School in Chicago, Rose wore No. 25 to honor Ben Wilson, a star player at the school who was murdered in 1984. But 25 is one of the eight numbers retired by Memphis as it was last worn by Penny Hardaway.
Though Rose did not ask to wear No. 25, Hardaway offered to let him wear it, according to team manager Bryan Settle. The school, however, would not approve a number being unretired so Rose will wear No. 23.
Asked about the number issue, Rose was nonplussed.
"I'll wear whatever number they give me," he said.
For Anderson, going to No. 5 is a welcome change as it was the number he wore before coming to Memphis, where it was already occupied by Hunt.
"Twelve was never my number," Anderson said.
Thirteen was Taggart's number in high school, but when he came to Memphis, he found out it was retired in honor of Forest Arnold. Though he didn't play last season due to NCAA transfer rules, Taggart was No. 10 on the official team roster.
Presented with the opportunity to wear No. 0 for his Memphis debut, Taggart couldn't pass it up.
"Because I wasn't supposed to amount to nothing," Taggart said.
According to whom?
"The people who hated me back home. It's a tribute to them."
While one former Memphis player has found a new college destination, another is in the process of looking for one.
Willis has settled on UNLV, which was his second choice coming out of high school. The Fresno, Calif., product also considered Hawaii and Pepperdine but committed shortly after visiting Las Vegas.
"I felt comfortable with everything. It's a perfect fit for me," Willis told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "I felt like it was the right thing, and I had to do what's best for me."
Center Kareem Cooper, meanwhile, will probably end up transferring to a program led by a former Memphis assistant. But it won't necessarily be the one you think.
Though Cooper was in El Paso this week visiting UTEP and second-year head coach Tony Barbee, don't be surprised if he ends up at Lamar with Steve Roccaforte.
Despite some media outlets inferring that Cooper's transfer to UTEP is a done deal, multiple sources close to the Memphis program maintain that Barbee has not decided whether to accept Cooper.
If UTEP is Cooper's destination, Memphis coach John Calipari confirmed he would sign a waiver of the Conference USA rule requiring players transferring within the league to sit out two years. Thus, Cooper would be eligible in 2008-09.
Hunt said he's not sweating the outcome of Thursday's NBA Draft. Whether or not he gets picked, Hunt believes he'll have plenty of opportunities to impress NBA teams in a summer league or training camp.
"I only have positive thoughts if I do or don't get drafted," Hunt said. "Even in the worst-case scenario, it's not over with."
Though plenty of teams saw Hunt at the NBA pre-draft camp in Orlando, he's also done a private workout with Dallas and has one scheduled for Wednesday in Charlotte.
He said the L.A. Clippers also have shown interest in scheduling a workout this week.
"I probably won't know what to expect until the night before or the day of," Hunt said. "I'm never worried, never frustrated, never get down on myself. I just keep working."
Christian Watford, who could be a key figure in Memphis' recruiting plans a year from now, was on campus this weekend for an unofficial visit.
Watford, a 6-7 forward from Trussville, Ala., is the 24th-ranked player in the class of 2009, according to Rivals.com. Though Watford is an elite prospect in his own right, he's also good friends with Birmingham phenom DeMarcus Cousins, a 6-9 forward ranked third by Rivals in the 2009 class.
Memphis has been mentioned in connection with several top players for 2009, including Xavier Henry (No. 2), Cousins, Derrick Favors (No. 5), Lance Stephenson (No. 7), Briarcrest's Leslie McDonald (No. 11), Watford and Richard Howell (No. 26), who was on campus last weekend for the Memphis elite camp.
Last chance to camp
The John Calipari Summer Basketball School concludes this week with the Rod Strickland and Friends camp Monday through Thursday. Strickland, the Tigers' director of student-athlete development and a 17-year NBA veteran, will lead the camp for ages 7 through 18 at the Finch Center on Spottswood and Echles. Spots are available for walk-up campers.
The camp includes a scheduled guest appearance by New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul.
The cost is $225 with a $25 discount for players who have signed up for a previous camp this year.
To reach reporter Dan Wolken, call 529-2365