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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Jeff Goodman - In camp with coaching greats

In camp with coaching greats
Jeff Goodman

NASHVILLE - It's not a bad day when you can catch two of the most underrated coaches in the country.

First it was a chance to watch Memphis coach John Calipari and his talented Tigers team before heading down I-40 to catch Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings work with his young group and then toss batting practice to his son, Jacob.
Let's start with Memphis.

Calipari rarely had to raise his voice with his veteran team, featuring Antonio Anderson, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Joey Dorsey and Robert Dozier. In fact, the only guy that Calipari really got on at all was Iowa State transfer Shawn Taggert, who sat out last season and wasn't able to practice due to a right knee injury.

There were at least 50 people watching the practice, including the Chinese contingent of about 15 that has been in Memphis for the last 10 days or so and Minnesota Timberwolves GM Kevin McHale.

Anderson and CDR have both improved their perimeter shots significantly and that should be huge for the Tigers in their quest to win the national title this year. Anderson has also gained about 15 pounds (while Hashim "Big City" Bailey has dropped about 30 or so).

Dozier looked more assertive than in his first two years. He may have as much pro potential as anyone on the team not named Derrick Rose, but he has yet to break out.

Speaking of Rose, this kid is just plain ridiculous. There's really nothing he can't do and even his outside shot has improved. He's a smaller and more athletic version of Jason Kidd — strong, knows how to get his teammates involved and just wins games.

Rose was running with the second unit — Doneal Mack, Taggert, Bailey and freshman wing Jeff Robinson. That won't last for long as he'll soon supplant Willie Kemp and/or Andre Allen as the starting point guard.

After practice, I caught up with a few of the Tigers to get these tidbits:

Joey Dorsey said he's not going to change and will continue to say what's on his mind. Although it hasn't always worked out, it's refreshing.

Dorsey said he nearly quit the team his freshman season. "He was on me so hard. I didn't think he liked me," Dorsey said of Calipari. "I broke down and had to leave practice. It's all mental with coach."

Antonio Anderson played center at Maine Central Institute and had offers from Maine, Western Carolina and Richmond before a summer with the New England Playaz got him the exposure he needed. "There was a time when I thought I should have stuck to football," said the 6-foot-5 junior guard.

Rose said it's going to take some adjusting to the fact that Calipari wants him to be aggressive "all the time." That's not necessarily something Rose is accustomed to. "I'm going to have to or I'm going to be on the bench," Rose said. "If I want to play, I've got to change."

Rose committed to Memphis after speaking to Calipari just twice.

Douglas-Roberts has received tons of praise from Calipari ("I can't imagine there are five better players than him in the country"). CDR said his focus has changed. "Everyone knows I can score. I'm focused on defense."

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