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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tiger hopes to fatten minutes after losing weight

Tiger hopes to fatten minutes after losing weight
Calipari delivered ultimatum; Bailey delivered
By Dan Wolken
Tuesday, October 16, 2007

At various points during his freshman season at the University of Memphis, Hashim Bailey wondered whether another program would fit him better. A program where he wouldn't be mere practice fodder for potential all-Americans. A program that wouldn't require him to drastically change his eating and workout habits. A program where he could play.

So Bailey went home to New Jersey this past summer with an ultimatum: Get in shape, or don't bother coming back.

The resulting transformation has been astounding. "Big City," the nickname Bailey has answered to since prep school, isn't quite so big anymore.

More than 30 pounds lighter than he was at the end of last season, the 6-11 Bailey has been one of the Tigers' most improved players during the preseason, possibly positioning himself for a regular role on arguably the nation's most talented team.

"I'm at 270 pounds," Bailey said.

And the last time he weighed so little?

"I don't really know," he said. "I think the eighth grade."

So far, the difference is translating on the court, where Bailey has shown increased speed and agility and proven to be a legitimately tough matchup in the post for starter Joey Dorsey.

"He took what I told him, he took it back home, and he's reaping the rewards now," said Richard Hogans, the Tigers' director of performance enhancement. "He ate the right foods and didn't overeat, and he took that and ran with it. He's looking good."

Bailey's transformation, he admits, was not easy. He was not used to waking up at 7 a.m. every morning, lifting weights, running on a treadmill for 30 minutes, then coming back at night for a second round of running on the basketball court. And he certainly wasn't used to micromanaging his diet, cutting out greasy foods and living on grilled chicken breasts and salads.

"I didn't even know if I could do it," Bailey said, "but I pushed through it."

In reality, it was Bailey's only option. When Bailey first arrived on campus, coach John Calipari told him he would not play for Memphis at 300 pounds. Calipari kept that promise, using Bailey for a total of 28 minutes over nine games last season. Though Bailey didn't like his place at the very end of the bench, it was made clear to him that he wouldn't have a place at all unless he showed dedication to losing the weight.

"I'm so proud of him because I kind of laid the law down with him," coach John Calipari said. "And he goes and loses 40 pounds, and you watch him, he's working as hard as anybody we have. He's working as hard as he possibly can work, and all the sudden, you've got a 6-11 guy who can have a presence in the game."

Though it remains to be seen where Bailey might fit into an already crowded rotation, he said he's confident that he made the right decision to stay at Memphis rather than transfer, as guard Tre'Von Willis did after barely playing as a freshman.

"I was thinking about it, in the back of my mind, during the season," Bailey said. "But I never chose to go another direction because I really like Coach Cal. He pushed me to the maximum ability I should be at. He's giving me a lot of confidence that I can do something this year to help the team. I'm glad I'm still here. I think I'm going to be good the next few years I'm here."

And how does he know? Bailey can measure his progress every day against Dorsey, who dominated him last year. Now, the matchup appears more even.

"Man, it's crazy," Dorsey said. "He can keep up with the team, and he's helping us a lot. Banging with him is like no other person I play against, for real. He's aggressive. He plays hard, and it's great that he lost the weight. I'm happy for him."

Reach Dan Wolken at 529-2365; read his blogs on Tiger basketball at TheMemphisEdge.com.

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