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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Losing is Lost on Hard-Nosed Rose (and Other News)

Losing is lost on hard-nosed Rose

By Dan Wolken
June 17, 2007

In the months before point guard Derrick Rose arrived on the University of Memphis campus, there was a lot of conversation among Tiger fans about his athleticism, his quickness and his unselfishness, almost growing to mythic proportions.
But the one attribute Rose barely got credit for is his competitiveness.

Fast forward to Wednesday night, as the Tigers gathered at the Finch Center for a series of pickup games. In the final game of the night, the squad led by Rose fell behind, then made a mini-comeback but still needed a stop to get the ball back with a chance to tie.

They never got that chance because Chris Douglas-Roberts made a ridiculous 17-foot jumper with two people hanging on him to end the game. As players ran into the locker room, Rose took the basketball and slammed it off the glass, then stewed on the court for a couple minutes until he finally was able to cool his emotions.

If that's how Rose reacts to losing a pickup game, you can only imagine what he's like when something significant is on the line.

"I've seen him cry after losing an AAU game," coach John Calipari said. "It's amazing."

Though it's certainly natural for a player of Rose's ability to feel like he should win at everything he does, you almost wanted to pull him aside Wednesday and tell him, It's only a pickup game, kid.

Then again, his instincts -- even if they are a little overamped for a June pickup game -- will fit right in on a team that values competitiveness and toughness over just about any other attribute.

"He's a competitor," Antonio Anderson said. "You've got to learn that about the kid. He's young, he knows what he's coming into, and he's enjoying it with us. He loves playing. We all like that about him."

Welcome back

Forward Shawn Taggart didn't need a doctor to tell him he was ready to play basketball again.

"I cleared myself," said Taggart, a 6-11 Iowa State transfer who has finally recovered from ACL surgery last October.

Now, the next step for Taggart is regaining his stamina, which isn't easy given how limited his cardiovascular activity was for nearly eight months. Though Taggart said he is still shaking off rust, his play in early pickup games has been more than adequate given the circumstances of his injury.

"I came in last summer, and we all played together, so I already felt like I was part of the team," Taggart said. "But yeah, I'm out here to condition. Coach Cal says he doesn't care about (scoring) as long as I'm out here running as hard as I can. I'm trying to get my wind back."

Schedule talk

By adding a home game with Georgetown next season, Memphis can finally start to get some home-road balance into its non-conference schedule.

Last season, all of Memphis' marquee games -- Tennessee, Arizona and Gonzaga -- were on the road while the Cincinnati and Ole Miss games were at home. In 2007-08, Memphis will have Arizona, Tennessee, Gonzaga and Georgetown at home with only Cincinnati on the road.

But things will start to even out the year after that. In 2008-09, Memphis will play at Georgetown, at Gonzaga and presumably at Tennessee (if the schools agree to continue that series).

And though he declined to reveal specifics, Calipari said he's got two top-five programs lined up to start home-and-home series in 2008-09 -- both beginning at FedExForum -- in addition to home games with Cincinnati and Ole Miss.

Plus, Memphis will be in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando that season with teams like Maryland, Michigan State, Oklahoma State and Wichita State.

Sell, sell, sell

One of Calipari's biggest concerns is filling the upper deck at FedExForum, which had swaths of empty seats for most of last season. To that end, Memphis is going to announce in the coming weeks several initiatives to make upper-level seats more attractive.

"We're going to do some things upstairs to make that its own event," Calipari said. "There's going to be some high-dollar giveaways just in the upper deck. We're going to do some fun things to make this not only the game but an environment where families want to go. You can come to our games cheaper than going to a movie."

Contact Dan Wolken at 529-2365

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