Kemp not upset about Rose starting
By MATTHEW BORENSTEIN Jackson(TN) Sun
MEMPHIS - Bolivar's Willie Kemp talked Derrick Rose, the player who took Kemp's spot in the starting lineup, into coming to Memphis, Tigers coach John Calipari said.
But there are no hard feelings between Kemp, a former Class AA Mr. Basketball award winner, and Rose, the nation's top point-guard recruit. In fact, it's just the opposite.
"They love each other," Calipari said.
Rose was the star of the night in his first college game on Monday when Memphis beat Tennessee-Martin, 102-71. Rose scored 17 points, had five assists in 25 minutes and made several highlight-reel plays.
Kemp, a sophomore who started every game except Senior Day last season, played 20 minutes and scored 10 points. He made 3 of 6 3-pointers, had three assists and was the first Tiger off the bench.
Calipari said he told Kemp on Monday morning that Rose would start.
"He said, 'I'm fine with that coach,'" Calipari said.
Coming off the bench is just a slight change in his role, Kemp said.
"It's nothing major," he said. "I don't care if I come off the bench or not. I just want to do one thing, and that's win."
Rose said he is learning plenty from Kemp, who was in his position one year ago.
"He was telling me how coach was on him and how they'll have my back because they know how it is when you first come in and play for Coach Cal," Rose said.
The relationship isn't focused just on basketball, either.
"He's one of the nicest teammates I've ever had," Rose said of Kemp. "Willie's so kind on the court and off the court. I'm learning so much stuff from him."
Rose also said he thinks he will take some of the pressure off Kemp, who averaged 21.4 minutes last year. Calipari said to expect Kemp to play about 20 minutes a game this season.
Kemp averaged 6.4 points and 2.2 assists per game last season. His senior year at Bolivar, he led the team to the state quarterfinals and averaged 18.8 points and 7.7 assists a game.
Kemp said he's feeling good entering his second season in Memphis. And just as he was unselfish recruiting his team's new starting point guard, he speaks of being unselfish in his role on the court.
"I've just got to come out and help my teammates out," Kemp said. "And help the freshman out."
Kemp didn't speak of individual goals, other than doing what point guards are supposed to do and help his teammates score.
"We're just looking to do one thing - make it to San Antonio and try to compete for the national championship," Kemp said.
- Matthew Borenstein, 425-9636