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Monday, August 13, 2007

Season Sellout at FedEx Forum Seems Within Reach

Season sellout seems within reach

By Dan Wolken
August 12, 2007

When the summer began, University of Memphis coach John Calipari was determined to sell out every season ticket in FedExForum. With the help of the Rebounders club and new president Harold Byrd, that vision has a chance of becoming reality.
Charged with helping sell out the upper deck, the Rebounders are hosting a special fundraiser Sept. 10. Any fan making a $500 donation will receive an invitation to the "Hightops Party" at Calipari's home, membership in the Rebounders club and four of the $100 season tickets in the upper reaches of FedExForum.

"I think people get a real charge of going over to coach Calipari's house, and this event is such a great value," Byrd said. "It will be a great party. We'll have great music and great food, and for the $500, you become a member of the Rebounders and get four tickets to watch the No. 1 ranked team in the country. I think it's one of the most exciting things that has gone on in the city in a long time."
The response has already been strong. Even though this event has barely been publicized -- the process of mailing 10,000 invitations is just underway -- Byrd said word of mouth has brought in 100 donations. Byrd said he's hoping for at least 300 people to attend the event, meaning 1,200 season tickets sold.

The most interesting aspect of the party is the mix of people it should attract, from new season ticket holders to large donors who simply want to show up for the party.

For the latter group, Byrd is working with Ken Bennett, director of Streets Ministries, to receive tickets from fans who want to make a donation and attend the party but will not personally use the seats.

"I've been really surprised at the number of people who are keeping the tickets for themselves," Byrd said. "But at the same time, coach Calipari is real sensitive to the younger demographics in our city who can't afford to go to the games. If someone becomes a member of the Rebounders, they can donate to the Streets Ministries, and Ken is going to make sure these tickets are used, not just the kids within his ministry, but if there's a surplus he'll make sure there are people who can't afford to go to the games who will be in those seats."

Classic confrontation

Derrick Rose, Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier were among the elite college players who were in New Orleans last week as counselors for the five-day adidas Basketball Experience, a tournament for American and international high schoolers.

After the tournament games, the college players scrimmaged against each other, which at one point put Anderson and Rose against each other as opposing point guards.

"Everybody was waiting for that," Anderson said.

And could Anderson stay with the lightning-quick Rose?

"No, I backed off him," Anderson said, laughing.

Rose might be the only player Anderson is backing off these days. The 6-foot-6 guard has clearly added muscle to his already stout frame, and ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb described Anderson as "a beast" in a column he penned after watching him in New Orleans.

Initially, Anderson was going to spend most of August at his home in the Boston area but decided to instead stay in Memphis and get some extra weeks of training before the school year starts at the end of the month.

Odds and ends

The basketball coaching staff, which has been working out of the Finch Center much of this summer due to renovations at the Athletic Office Building, is scheduled to move back into its updated offices this week. ... According to sources, St. George's guard Elliot Williams has scheduled an official visit to Memphis next month. Williams has spent a lot of time on the Memphis campus this summer already, playing pickup basketball with players on the current Tigers roster. Memphis could very well have word within the next two weeks from Puerto Rican power forward Angel Garcia, who is deciding between the Tigers, Indiana and Louisville. Garcia visited Memphis in June.

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