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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Wesley Witherspoon Visits Memphis, Will Make College Choice May 1st

Tigers make their case to Witherspoon
Standout forward would bring multiple skills to reloading U of M
By Dan Wolken
Saturday, April 26, 2008

When Wesley Witherspoon hears the University of Memphis' recruiting pitch this weekend, it won't be an entirely new experience.

In fact, the versatile 6-8 wing from Lilburn, Ga., already got the full-court press just a few days ago -- from none other than future Memphis guard Tyreke Evans during last Saturday's Jordan Brand Classic all-star game in New York.

"I felt like he was an assistant coach up there," Witherspoon said. "Every time I saw him, we talked about the Tigers."

If landing Evans was Step 1 in the Tigers' roster makeover this spring, Witherspoon would be a significant Step 2.

In Evans, Memphis secured the high-scoring guard it will need to get back in national championship contention next season. In Witherspoon, the Tigers would add a multi-skilled player who can defend four positions and even play point guard. Witherspoon compared his style to that of Detroit Pistons small forward Tayshaun Prince and said he could easily envision himself playing alongside Evans.

"I can score, but that's not what I do," Witherspoon said. "I think that would be a good combo, a nice 1-2 punch. I know he'll get the ball in the basket, and I know I would be able to get it to him."

Though Witherspoon talked hypothetically about playing for the Tigers, he said he is still undecided among Memphis, Texas and Virginia. Witherspoon has scheduled Thursday to announce his college choice, which will cause plenty of ripples in college basketball given that he was ranked No. 34 nationally by in its most recent evaluation of this recruiting class.

Witherspoon is one of just four undecided players ranked in the top 50; Memphis is recruiting two of the other three in forward Devin Ebanks (No. 11) and forward Rashanti Harris (No. 41), though Harris will likely go to prep school next year.

Witherspoon would be the third top-50 player in this Memphis recruiting class, joining Evans (No. 6) and forward Angel Garcia (No. 47). The Tigers have also signed forward Matt Simpkins (No. 80).

Though he can't talk specifically about recruits who have not signed, coach John Calipari has been touting his class as potentially the nation's best. The understanding in that prediction, however, is that Witherspoon would be a part of it.

That's why Tiger basketball recruiting has been perhaps the biggest local sports topic in recent days -- a fact that Witherspoon apparently hadn't considered, as he was taken aback Friday afternoon when reporters were waiting at the airport to interview him.

"This has never happened before, seeing all these cameras," Witherspoon said. "You see this kind of stuff on TV and laugh about it at home. It's crazy. I would have put on my suit if I had known."

Memphis fans, however, won't care much about Witherspoon's attire as long as he can play. To that end, Witherspoon seems to be a good fit in the Tigers' dribble-drive motion offense.

Because Witherspoon was just 6-4 at the beginning of his sophomore year, he was never pigeonholed as a post player. Instead, he was able to work on his ballhandling, giving him the ability to play various positions in the backcourt.

With the Tigers losing Chris Douglas-Roberts and possibly Antonio Anderson, who put his name in the NBA draft this week to test the waters, Witherspoon would be a potential replacement.

He has the length and athleticism to produce the perimeter mismatches that were a trademark of Memphis' run to the NCAA championship game.

Witherspoon said he wasn't too concerned about which of Memphis' underclassmen would be back next year. Anderson and junior forward Robert Dozier -- who is also from Lilburn, Ga. -- will likely return to Memphis if they are not first-round draft picks.

"Playing time isn't really a factor for me because I know if I do what I have to do, I'll play wherever I go," Witherspoon said. "Really, it's where I fit in the best. Me and my mom will sit down and talk about it when I get home."

Reach Dan Wolken at 529-2365; read his blogs on the Tigers at

Meet Wesley Witherspoon

Size: 6-8, 185

Position: Forward

Hometown: Lilburn, Ga.

Class of 2008 rankings: -- No. 5 small forward, No. 34 overall; -- No. 12 small forward, No. 56 overall

Considering: Memphis, Colorado, Texas, Virginia


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