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Friday, May 23, 2008

Anderson returning to U of M

Anderson returning to U of M
Guard withdraws name from NBA draft
By Dan Wolken
Originally published 03:11 p.m., May 23, 2008

University of Memphis guard Antonio Anderson withdrew his name from the NBA Draft on Friday morning and announced he would return to school for his senior season.

Anderson, who led the Tigers in minutes played each of the last three years, said his decision was easy once he learned he would not be picked in the first round of the draft, which guarantees an NBA contract.

“I got feedback that I’d go second round, and I wasn’t comfortable with that,” said Anderson, who averaged 8.6 points and 3.4 assists last season. “Coming back here for another year, I can get better in every aspect of my game and try to win some more ballgames and have fun again, have another great year and see where it can take me.”

Anderson’s return ensures the Tigers will have enough quality depth in the backcourt next season to make a long NCAA Tournament run, despite the loss of guards Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts to the NBA. Anderson projects to start alongside junior Willie Kemp and incoming freshman star Tyreke Evans, with junior Doneal Mack, sophomore Jeff Robinson and incoming freshman Wesley Witherspoon also in the mix.

With Anderson pulling out of the draft before the team leaves Sunday for a week-long trip to China, just one player — forward Robert Dozier — remains in limbo. Coach John Calipari said Friday he has been setting up individual workouts for Dozier once the team returns on June 2.

Like Anderson, Dozier does not project as a first-round pick but might ultimately decide to stay in the draft anyway.

“My suggestion is to explore it to the end and here’s why: I only want him to come back if he wants to be the player of the year in the country, if he has that desire,” Calipari said. “If it’s like, ‘Man I wish …’ then don’t come back. Go about your business, do what you have to do. I want him to thoroughly explore.”

Anderson, who is just 25 credits short of graduation, said he hopes Dozier decides to come back but won’t pressure him.

“Rob is his own person,” Anderson said. “I want the best for Rob whether he stays or comes back. I want him to come back so he can help me out, but it’s up to him. It’s his decision. If he goes for it, he goes for it. If he comes back, I’ll be happy, as well. I’m with him regardless.”

Two main factors that played into Anderson’s decision could probably be applied to Dozier’s, as well.

Whereas Dozier and Anderson were complimentary players on past Memphis teams — neither has averaged double figures in scoring for a season — both would have the opportunity to take on expanded roles as seniors.

Plus, next year’s draft projects to be far weaker in terms of underclassmen, giving them better opportunities to be selected in the first round.

“As stocked as the draft is and a lot of freshmen coming out, it’s pushing a lot of guys back,” Anderson said. “I’m not going to make a mistake that would impact me for the rest of my life.”

Regardless of Dozier’s decision, the Tigers are now close to finalizing their roster for next season. The other possible addition is 6-7 forward Emmanuel Negedu, who was released by Arizona from his letter of intent this week. Negedu was recruited to Arizona by Josh Pastner, who joined the Memphis coaching staff last week.

Negedu is looking at Memphis, Indiana, Georgia Tech and Tennessee, but it’s unlikely any decision will be made before the Tigers return from China, especially since this is a dead period in recruiting.

Either way, junior forward Shawn Taggart said he was excited about the roster going forward, especially with Anderson back in the fold.

“That’s a big deal,” Taggart said. “I’m happy he came back. He’s one of my closest friends, and he’s a great player. … We’re going to be very good.”

— Dan Wolken: 529-2365

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