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Monday, October 15, 2007

Memphis Madness - Slammin' debut, Freshman Rose dazzles with 'regular' dunk as Tigers tip off this promising season

Memphis Madness - Slammin' debut
Freshman Rose dazzles with 'regular' dunk as Tigers tip off this promising season
By Dan Wolken
Saturday, October 13, 2007

The lights went down, the highlights rolled, the banner went up and the crowd stood up to remember where the University of Memphis has been.

"It brought chills," coach John Calipari said.

Joey Dorsey flies to the basket for a dunk Friday during Memphis Madness at FedExForum. Freshman Derrick Rose, however, had the dunk of the night.

Derrick Rose grabs a rebound during Friday's festivities. The humble freshman got everyone's attention in the dunking portion of the event.

Then came the reminder of why an estimated 11,500 people came to FedExForum on Friday to watch a glorified scrimmage at Memphis Madness. It wasn't because of where the Tigers have been; it's the promise of where they might go.

And that promise was there for all to see in one show-stopping moment delivered by none other than freshman phenom Derrick Rose. With one ridiculously athletic, freakishly effortless move that brought a quick end to Friday night's dunk contest, it was obvious why the Tigers believe they have found the piece that could push them out of the Elite Eight and into a national title.

"He can do some crazy stuff," his brother, Reggie Rose, said.

"It was regular," Derrick Rose said.

"A regular dunk?" junior Chris Douglas-Roberts said.

To be clear, there was nothing regular about how Rose brought the house down Friday. After Calipari called Rose out on the floor to try just one dunk after Jeff Robinson and Doneal Mack had already competed in the dunk contest, Rose went to the three-point line and shot the ball off the backboard. In one fluid motion, Rose then tracked it down, cradled it below his knees, twisted his back to the basket, extended his arms behind his head and rocked the rim to perfection.

It was so good, senior Joey Dorsey, whose dunks made ESPN's "SportsCenter" practically every week last season, feigned a back injury so he wouldn't have to follow the freshman.

"Did you see my face? That's why I didn't want to get in there, man," Dorsey said. "I didn't want him and Jeff (Robinson) to show me up out there. He's a baby Harold Miner."

"Regular is something everybody can do," Douglas-Roberts said. "He's so humble, man. You have to be real athletic to do that. Real athletic. And he's one of the real athletic ones."

Though Rose's dunk stood out, it was one of many moments that made Friday night a joyous celebration of Memphis basketball before the real work begins this morning with two-a-day practices leading up to the Nov. 5 season opener against Tennessee-Martin.

With ESPNU cameras rolling, an all-star crop of recruits sitting courtside and basketball powerbroker William Wesley in the house, the evening began with player introductions, including long and loud ovations for Douglas-Roberts, Dorsey and point guard Andre Allen.

Highlights of Memphis' 2006-07 season played to the soundtrack of "One Shining Moment," the official NCAA Tournament anthem. The Tigers then raised their latest Elite Eight banner with streamers showering the crowd.

"It was real neat," Rose said. "It's the biggest crowd I've played in front of. It was a lifetime experience."

Then, sophomores Doneal Mack and Willie Kemp eked out a 22-19 victory over two visiting Chinese coaches in a 3-point shooting contest, with Mack draining 10 threes to lead the way.

Finally, the Tigers scrimmaged for 15 minutes without much defense, something that surely will change today when they get down to business at the Finch Center.

"Last year is over," Calipari said. "The banner is up, and now it's this year. The only thing I can tell you right now, you don't know where it's going, but it looks like it's going to be a lot of fun."

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