Dorsey determined to prove doubters wrong, this time at the NBA level
By Ronald Tillery
Memphis Commercial Appeal
Sunday, June 1, 2008
ORLANDO -- It may as well be his wallet, keys or watch.
The chip on Joey Dorsey's shoulder.
He never leaves home without the mind-set that people must be proven wrong.
For former Memphis player Joey Dorsey, "It's just being focused from here on out and trying to prove a lot of people that's doubting me wrong."
That chip grew larger when the 6-9 former University of Memphis power forward arrived at the NBA's Pre-Draft Camp last week.
"I came here to play against the guys ahead of me (in mock drafts)," Dorsey said. "Once I got down here, I didn't see those guys on the list. So I was a little (upset)."
The talent-starved games at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex didn't extinguish Dorsey's competitive fire. He spent the better part of the week captivating the camp's audience, which was filled with league executives, coaches and scouts.
If anything, Dorsey did for his draft stock in figurative terms what he was revered for physically with the national runner-up Tigers -- the 24-year-old more than held his ground.
There are several teams -- Grizzlies included -- near the end of the first round and at the top of the second that have made no secret of a desire to add frontcourt rebounding and toughness.
The solidly built Dorsey, who is projected by NBAdraft.net to go 32nd to Seattle in the draft June 26, didn't damage opinions of his game, by many accounts.
"Even though everybody knows what Joey is, this was the last time they'll see him play prior to the draft. So if you don't play well here, it doesn't create a positive impression," said Chris Wallace, general manager of the Grizzlies, who possibly could take Dorsey at No. 28. "It's not good to struggle in one of the last venues. We tend to focus in more on what you've done in the postseason in the NCAA tourney, pre-draft camp and individual team workouts."
Dorsey's first workout is scheduled with Orlando early this week. He'll visit Seattle, Cleveland and Memphis, too, without the preconditions that many agents require from teams.
For example, the Grizzlies are struggling to set up workouts with top prospects because many agents want a sterile environment. They don't want their clients to battle someone projected to go late (e.g., Dorsey) for fear the highly touted player will look bad.
"I want to go against everybody -- the Lopez brothers, Kevin Love, everybody that's in front of me," Dorsey said. "I want to go out there and show that I can play with those guys."
Dorsey's college teammate, Derrick Rose, believes teams are underrating his former enforcer.
"There were so many games where he just took over because of his defense," Rose said. "He can score a little bit, too. But it's really about his defense. As long as he's blocking shots and getting rebounds, he should be good in the NBA."
Dorsey's mission, however, is to shed the label of being one-dimensional. He wants to show an offensive game, something he didn't get to display as much as he would have liked in college, where the Tigers' offense revolved around Rose and fellow first-round-pick-in-waiting Chris Douglas-Roberts.
"I want to show everybody that I can play," Dorsey said. "A lot of people don't know I have offense because of the situation I was in at Memphis. I don't have to just sit on the block and wait for a lob. Now, I can show I have post moves and I can shoot the 15-footer. I can actually score and pass."
Former NBA great Patrick Ewing, an assistant with the Orlando Magic, doesn't want to see Dorsey try and reinvent himself. No coach is going to run plays for Dorsey, which is fine because the Baltimore native clearly has a niche that's defined in the NBA.
"He just has to hustle, scratch, claw and be physical," Ewing said. "There's always a job for a rebounder and someone who is going to do all of the dirty work -- a Dennis Rodman type. Then, he has to work on all of the other parts of his game: making shots, getting to the free throw line and making them. If he can improve in those areas, it'll pay off."
Free-throw shooting -- rather Dorsey's ineffectiveness at the line -- is what concerns former NBA center Jack Sikma, an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets.
"It would be nice if he could make a free throw," Sikma said, "because he's going to get fouled a lot with his aggressiveness."
Dorsey left Memphis with a .378 free throw percentage for his senior season. In his private workouts, Dorsey has spent countless hours working on low-post moves and honing a mid-range shot.
The payoff was noticeable at the Pre-Draft Camp once Dorsey settled down.
"The first drill I looked up and saw Larry Bird," Dorsey said, "and I went like 2-for-5."
Dorsey is intent on improving beyond the Bo Outlaw/Ben Wallace comparisons. He actually wants to be more like "best friend" Rudy Gay, who also hails from Baltimore and is an emerging star with the Grizzlies.
Just emerging from a rough environment to become successful in basketball would put Dorsey in the same class as Gay, who convinced Dorsey to share his agent, Lance Young.
Coming out of Douglass High, not many expected Dorsey to keep playing. People refer to his neighborhood as "Iraq," with cameras on many street corners, trying to capture drug-related activity. Dorsey was expected to be the first guy from Douglass to be kicked off a college team.
"I've proven them wrong," Dorsey said.
"Coming from Baltimore, it was so hard growing up. Staying in school was tough. Seeing people playing basketball and not go anywhere, I just wanted to go to a good college and be under a good coach. From there, Coach (John Calipari) stayed on me pretty hard.
"Memphis made me a better person. I grew up. I did a lot of things in the past, but everybody makes mistakes. I made mistakes and Memphis stayed by my side. That's why I love Memphis."
Some people might say he got too comfortable, walking with an air of invincibility in the Bluff City.
There was the incident of allegedly pouring water on a female student at Memphis, his role in what erupted into a brawl at the Plush Club on Beale Street, and having to be restrained amid taunts from UAB fans.
Dorsey acknowledged that character issues continue to follow him.
"Yeah, it comes up," Dorsey said. "The character that people portray of me is that I like to go out and get into trouble. But if people get to know me, they would know I'm a nice person."
Nice and reformed?
"No more clubs for me," Dorsey declared. "I definitely don't do the clubs any more. I've been so focused on working out two times a day. It's just being focused from here on out and trying to prove a lot of people that's doubting me wrong.
"I hope I'm in the first round. But it would be a dream just to get picked up in the draft wherever I land."
-- Ronald Tillery: 529-2353