Daunting task lies ahead for Calipari, Memphis
SAN ANTONIO — Memphis made it to the Final Four this year for the first time since 1985.
But are the Tigers, like their fabulous freshman point guard Derrick Rose, one and done?
The rebuilding job facing coach John Calipari is formidable, as he will likely lose Rose, along with 6-7 junior guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, to the NBA.
Rose, the 6-3, 205-pounder who has been compared to NBA All-Star Jason Kidd, is expected to go as high as the second overall pick in the draft. Douglas-Roberts is projected to go in the middle of the first round. And Memphis' best inside player, Joey Dorsey, is a senior.
Without Rose and Douglas-Roberts, who combined for 53 of the Tigers' 78 points in a semifinal win vs. UCLA, Memphis will have to find a lot of offense from somebody.
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Without the 6-9, 265-pound Dorsey, who hauled in 15 rebounds and put the clamps on UCLA All-American Kevin Love, the Tigers will lack inside muscle.
So, Memphis will pretty much start over in the 2008-09 season.
That's the risk of taking a recruit as talented as Rose. He might take you to the promised land, as Carmelo Anthony did with Syracuse in his freshman year in 2003. And then, like Anthony, he's gone to the NBA.
Calipari can live with that.
"If they leave early, I'm ecstatic for them," he says. "The guys at Memphis know. I'm not going to hold a kid back. I made the statement, 'If you want to do what's right for you and your family, you should consider leaving. If you want to do what's right for me and my family, you probably should stay.' You try to look out for them.
"If you're a first-round pick, I'm not sure it's very intelligent (to stay in school). It seems to me the history says the longer you stay, they're finding more kinks in your armor. It doesn't mean I don't want kids to graduate. I do. But if a kid is a first-round pick, my recommendation will be, 'You need to go for it. I ask that you come back and finish up. We'll help you with courses in the summer. We'll do our thing. But you probably should do this.' "
The Tigers' hopes of continuing to thrive in Calipari's dribble-drive offense might rest on what happens with two significant recruiting decisions still to be made.
Memphis is in the running for one of the top incoming freshmen in the country, 6-5 point guard Tyreke Evans of Aston, Pa., the MVP of the recent McDonald's All-American high school game.
Evans was one of just two undecided players in the McDonald's game. He finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
Evans would move right into Rose's spot and be a good fit for the Memphis offense.
So would 6-8 forward Devin Ebanks, a highly rated recruit from Oakdale, Conn., who is still considering playing for Memphis.
Getting both of them into the Memphis fold would be an impressive coup and would build excitement for another powerhouse team. Without them, a strong tournament team next year is a little harder to envision.
Likely returning are two starters, junior forward Robert Dozier and junior guard Antonio Anderson, who were key contributors to the Tigers' tournament run. Dozier averaged 9.1 points and 6.7 rebounds this season and is capable of a lot more, Calipari says. Anderson was the Tigers' top perimeter defender and also averaged 8.5 points.
Also returning are two experienced sophomore guards in Doneal Mack (7.1 ppg) and Willie Kemp (5.2 ppg).
Two recruits have committed to joining the program: 6-10 forward Angel Garcia of East Chicago, Ind., and 6-8 forward Matt Simpkins of Patterson, N.C.
Neither is rated as highly as Evans or Ebanks, but they are both among the top 50 prospects nationally, according to Rivals.com.