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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Memphis Reportedly Says No to Home and Home With Old Dominion

Andy Katz Blog

Andy Katz is a senior college basketball writer for He started working for in 1998, leaving a 10-year newspaper career in 1999 to join full-time. In addition to covering college basketball on a daily basis through his "Daily Word" and breaking news for the site, Katz is a reporter for ESPN's studio and remote coverage of college basketball and the NBA draft. Katz is also one of the hosts of the December-March Saturday "Gameday" program on ESPN Radio.

• When Memphis coach John Calipari was looking for a game, he had his staff call up Old Dominion. The Monarchs were willing to play, but not without a return. The Tigers said no thanks. This is nothing new for ODU coach Blaine Taylor. Each year he holds out one game at the end of the summer and sometimes into September to lure in desperate coaches looking to fill a game. In recent years, he has picked up DePaul, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Georgetown. The Georgetown series started with a shocking upset at Georgetown during the Hoyas' Final Four season two years ago. "John Thompson [III] said to me that was the significant game all year because we had to learn from it," Taylor said of the Georgetown coach. "We do this because everyone needs a game, and as the cast of characters dries up, the guaranteed amounts get so large and some of the schools get priced out of games."

Taylor said the Monarchs had a deal in principle to play a home-and-home with South Carolina, but that recently was pulled. The Monarchs are expected to fill their schedule with a home-and-home starting at Duquesne. ODU is also playing Richmond and UAB and going to Charlotte and Marshall for a A-10/Conference USA hybrid nonconference schedule. That's not bad for a Colonial Athletic Association team.

Taylor said he won't play one-way games without a return. He said after the win over Georgetown, the Monarchs called 10 Big East schools but were told no. "They shy away from us and quite honestly are afraid of us," Taylor said. "Everyone wants home games and sometimes they run out of patience, and that's why we hold a game late."

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Syracuse Orange Get A Date With Memphis Tigers

Orange Get A Date With Memphis Tigers
Story Published: Sep 8, 2008 at 10:43 PM EDT
By WTVH Sports

SYRACUSE, NY – Syracuse will make its first-ever trip to play at Memphis when the Orange square off with the Tigers on Saturday, Dec. 20, at 6:00 p.m. in the Fed Ex Forum. The contest pits SU against Memphis, last year’s national runnerup.

The showdown will be broadcast live on ESPN.

Syracuse and Memphis have met only two times before, splitting the games 1-1. In 2002, the teams squared off at Madison Square Garden in the NABC Classic and the Tigers snatched the win, 70-63. Two years later, the teams battled it out again during the annual Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament, this time with the Orange coming out on top, 77-62.

Memphis was 38-2 overall and advanced to the 2008 NCAA championship game. The Tigers lost to Kansas in overtime, 75-68. Memphis took home the Conference USA crown with a 16-0 regular-season league mark and captured the conference tournament, as well. The Tigers return seniors Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier, both of whom are on pace to join the Tiger’s 1,000-point club this season.

Henry Enrolls At Memphis, Joins Tiger Basketball Program

Henry Enrolls At Memphis, Joins Tiger Basketball Program

The 6-foot-3 guard comes to Memphis after three seasons of professional baseball.

John Calipari announced the addition of C.J. Henry to the Tiger basketnall program Thursday.

Aug. 28, 2008

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - C.J. Henry, a 6-3, 205-pound guard, took his first classes at the University of Memphis Thursday and joins the Tiger basketball program as a freshman for the 2008-09 campaign. Henry starts his collegiate career after spending the last three years playing professional baseball.

"I'm happy that a player of C.J.'s caliber would choose to play for our program and pursue his college degree at the University of Memphis," said Tiger head coach John Calipari. "I'm anxious to see where C.J. is with his conditioning. He is an exciting addition to our team."

Prior to his stint in professional baseball, Henry was a basketball standout at Putnam City High School for head coach A.D. Burtschi from 2002-05. In his career, Henry scored over 1,500 points and finished his prep playing days as the school's second all-time leading scorer. He is second on Putnam City's all-time scoring list to Alvan Adams, who went to a 13-year NBA career with the Phoenix Suns.

As a senior in 2004-05, Henry helped lead the Pirates to a 25-2 overall record and the Oklahoma Class 6A Tournament semifinals. He averaged 23.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.4 steals, while shooting 58 percent from the field, 36 percent from the arc and 80 percent from the free throw line. Henry earned All-State, Super 5 and Daily Oklahoman Big All-City Team honors, and also was named the Metro Athletic Conference Most Outstanding Player for a second-straight year.

In his junior campaign in 2003-04, Henry averaged 22.4 points, 6.1 boards and 4.4 assists as the Pirates finished runner-up in the Oklahoma Class 6A Tournament. Henry was named to the Oklahoma Class 6A All-Tournament Team, and was also selected the Metro Athletic Conference Most Outstanding Player. Henry earned All-State Underclassmen recognition for a second-consecutive season.

As a sophomore, Henry averaged 19.9 points and helped Putnam City to a runner-up finish in the Oklahoma state tournament. He received All-State Underclassmen distinction. Henry played on the varsity squad as a freshman and averaged 9.4 points in 2002-03. The Pirates won the Oklahoma Class 6A title that season.

On the diamond, Henry hit .481 with 13 home runs, 51 RBI and 21 stolen bases his senior season in 2005. He was named to the 2005 EA SPORTS Baseball All-America team as an infielder, and also was selected to 2005 Louisville Slugger's preseason high school All-America baseball first team as a shortstop. A year earlier, Henry was picked to play in the 2004 AFLAC All-American Baseball Classic, which was held at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, Md., in August 2004.

In the summer of 2005, Henry was a first-round pick (overall No. 17) of the New York Yankees in the MLB Amateur Draft. Henry made pro debut with the Gulf Coast League Yankees and hit .249 in 48 games. His professional career also had him play with the Charleston RiverDogs and Lakewood BlueClaws.

Changes to Tiger Staff - Rod Strickland Promoted, Additions of Lamont Peterson, Bilal Batley and Jason Walberg

Strickland Named Tiger Basketball Director Of Operations
Peterson, Batley, Walberg joins Calipari staff.

Rod Strickland has been promoted to Director of Basketball Operations.

Aug. 26, 2008

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - After hiring two new assistant coaches in the early portion of the summer, University of Memphis head coach John Calipari announced Tuesday that he has finished rounding out his staff for the 2008-09 season. Rod Strickland has been elevated to Director of Basketball Operations, while Lamont Peterson, Bilal Batley and Jason Walberg all are additions to the staff.

Peterson's position is the program's Administrative Assistant, while Batley is Assistant Director of Operations/Manager and Walberg is Assistant to the Recruiting Coordinator/Manager. All three are non-benefit, eight-month appointments.

The changes occurred this past spring after Chuck Martin and Derek Kellogg took head coaching positions at Marist and UMass, respectively. Tyrone Weeks (Tigers' Director of Basketball Operations for 2007-08) joined Chuck Martin's staff as an assistant coach, and Andy Allison (Assistant Director of Basketball Operations) and Shyrone Chatman (Assistant to the Recruiting Coordinator) moved to Amherst, Mass., to be on Kellogg's basketball operations staff.

"I'm ecstatic for Rod, and he deserves this promotion," said Calipari. "Rod has been with us through our last two successful runs we've had, and it's good for the program to have that stability and continuity.

"Lamont, Bilal and Jason each brings something different to the program. Lamont gives us maturity, while Bilal and Jason both bring a high energy and high-work capacity to their two spots."

Strickland, who joined the Memphis basketball family in the summer of 2006, was promoted to Director of Basketball Operations from his previous position as Director of Student-Athlete Development. In his new role, Strickland is in charge in several "behind-the-scenes" areas for the Tiger program, among them monitoring the student-athletes' academic progress, assisting with travel plans and coordinating recruits' on-campus visits.

Strickland's time with the Tiger program has been quite a successful ride. During his two years on the Memphis bench, the Tigers posted an amazing 71-6 record (.922 winning percentage), won back-to-back Conference USA regular season and tournament titles and reached the 2007 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight and 2008 NCAA Tournament championship game. The 71 wins are the second-most by a program in NCAA Division I basketball over a two-year span (Montana State won 72 games from 1928-29).

This past year, Memphis set an NCAA Division I record and a school mark for victories in a single season with 38 wins (38-2 record). The Tigers swept the Conference USA regular season and tournament titles and won the NCAA Tournament South Region crown en route to the NCAA Tournament championship game. Memphis' run to the Final Four was the program's first since 1985 and the NCAA title game appearance was its first since 1973.

Peterson joins the Memphis basketball program after working the last three years as Director of Discipline at American Christian School in Philadelphia, Pa. He also worked with the strength and conditioning program at American Christian. Outside of his duties at the school, Peterson served as a personal trainer, working with several Philadelphia area athletes such as Kyle Lowery (Villanova University/NBA's Memphis Grizzlies), Sean Singletary (University of Virginia/NBA's Sacramento Kings), Crystal Langhorne (University of Maryland/WNBA's Washington Mystics), Mustafa Shakur (University of Arizona), Wayne Ellington (University of North Carolina), Gerald Henderson (Duke University) and Tyreke Evans (University of Memphis).

This past summer, Peterson served as an assistant coach for the United States team in the 2008 Junior World Championships in Douai, France. The U.S. squad won silver at the tournament.

Batley takes over the spot as Assistant Director of Basketball Operations/Manager, while also continuing graduate studies toward a master's degree in Sports and Leisure Commerce. A 2007 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Batley comes to Memphis after a year as a graduate manager at Indiana University. Prior to Indiana, the Houston, Texas, native served as a student manager at Oklahoma for two seasons and as a student assistant at Navarro College for three years.

For seven summers, Batley worked as an assistant coach/personal assistant at the John Lucas Pre-Draft Camp in Houston.

Walberg comes to Memphis as the Assistant to the Recruiting Coordinator/Manager after completing his collegiate playing career at Pepperdine last season. In two seasons in Malibu, Walberg averaged 9.8 points, 2.6 assists and 2.1 rebounds. He played in 22 career games for the Waves and started seven. Before transferring to Pepperdine, the Fresno, Calif., native spent two years (2004-05, 2005-06) at Saint Mary's.

In the 2004-05 campaign, Walberg played in all 34 games and made 20 starts. He averaged 4.2 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists in helping lead the Gaels to the NCAA Tournament. Walberg played only four minutes of Saint Mary's NCAA Tournament first-round game versus Southern Illinois, suffering a knee injury that forced him to redshirt the 2005-06 season. Earlier in the 2004-05 season, Walberg scored 11 points in an 81-66 loss to Memphis in the Coaches vs. Cancer semifinal in New York City.

Walberg earned his bachelor's degree in Communications from Saint Mary's in 2006 and his master's degree in Educational Technology from Pepperdine in 2007.

The Tigers' grand-opening to the 2008-09 season - Memphis Madness - is scheduled for Oct. 17 at FedExForum.

Jeff Goodman's Almost Positive Comments on C.J. Henry (We still know he hates Memphis)

Back to school: MLB prospect joining Memphis
by Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for He can be reached at or check out his blog, Good 'N Plenty.

C.J. Henry packed up his belongings at his Tampa, Fla., apartment early Sunday morning while watching a tape of his younger brother, Xavier, dominate an AAU basketball game last month. C.J. proceeded to jump into his blue Range Rover and make a pair of phone calls to the two coaches who roamed the sidelines in last April's national title game — Kansas' Bill Self and John Calipari of Memphis.

C.J. Henry was a 2005 first-round pick of the New York Yankees. His career on the diamond hasn't exactly gone according to plan after George Steinbrenner threw a $1.6 million signing bonus his way out of high school. Vision problems, struggles at the plate and numerous injuries have taken their toll on the former two-sport star.

"It's always been in my head," Henry said about contemplating playing college basketball. "But I just got serious about it. I thought about it when I was watching my brother play and then I thought about it the entire ride home."

That's when he called Self and Calipari to gauge their interest.

Less than 24 hours later, Henry had decided to enroll at Memphis and play basketball this season for the Tigers.

It's a no-risk, high-reward situation for Calipari. Henry, per the terms of the contract he signed out of high school, will have his education paid for by the Yankees. Thus, Memphis won't even have to utilize a scholarship while getting a potential impact guy, a player who was heavily recruited by the likes of Kansas, Memphis, Texas and others out of Putnam City High in Oklahoma.

In addition, the Tigers may have gained the inside track to one of the nation's elite unsigned players.

Xavier Henry.

Xavier (pronounced ZAV-ee-yay) is the younger brother of C.J. and is's No. 4 player in the Class of 2009. His co-leaders are Memphis and Kansas.

"It can't hurt," Putnam City coach A.D. Burtschi said of Memphis' chances to land Xavier now that C.J. will play for the Tigers.

"But I don't have any doubt that Xavier is going to make his own decision," Burtschi added. "This isn't a package deal at all, but both of them are smart enough to realize there's going to be speculation."

Burtschi coached C.J. for four years in high school and is entering his fourth year with Xavier.

"He has his own thing and I have mine," C.J. Henry said. "He's going to pick the place that's best for him. If we end up playing together, it would be fun and exciting. I asked him before I committed to Memphis and he said he didn't care."

Henry made the 24-hour trek from Tampa to his home in Oklahoma City on his own. When he returned in the middle of the afternoon, no one was home. However, he met with his entire family around dinnertime and then also spoke with his father, mother and Xavier individually.

Henry had committed to play basketball at Kansas, where both of his parents went to school, prior to the MLB Draft. However, that changed after he was taken 17th overall by the Yankees. He was traded to Philadelphia in a deal that brought Bobby Abreu to New York, but was later released by the Phillies and re-signed by the Yankees last offseason.

This season, he suffered a sprained neck in a freak outfield collision and also sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in his knee in an indecisive slide into home plate. He was hitting .234 in 20 games this season in Single-A ball.

The 22-year-old said he intends to continue to play baseball in the summers, but sounds like someone whose future is more likely in the NBA than playing alongside Alex Rodriguez in the Bronx.

"My game will speak for itself," C.J. Henry said. "My talent level is high and I can play. My ultimate goal is to play in the NBA."

Calipari, who actually coached Henry's father, Carl, when he was an assistant at Kansas, isn't allowed to comment on his newest addition until he is enrolled. Henry said he was flying to Memphis today and would sign up for classes either today or tomorrow.

However, one high-major assistant coach who recruited Henry before he opted to go the baseball route was shocked to hear the news that he was set to play for Memphis.

"I loved him," the coach said. "He's a big guard who can score the ball. He's explosive and can really shoot it. He's more of a combo guard, but I think he can play the point. Because of his size and athleticism, I think he can play right away."

Henry, now at 6-foot-3½ and 220 pounds, may have the opportunity once he sheds a few pounds and gets back into basketball shape. He said the last time he and Xavier played one-on-one was last year and it was also the first time he had ever lost to his younger brother.

"Once I get in basketball shape, I'll show people what I'm capable of," Henry said.

Henry's claim is that he's more of a point guard and he also said Calipari assured him he'd have a chance to compete for the starting point guard position, which appears wide-open but has no shortage of candidates. Willie Kemp backed up Derrick Rose last season, but will be pushed by talented freshman combo guard Tyreke Evans and junior college transfer Roburt Sallie.

"I chose Memphis because of the coach, the personnel and the opportunity to win a national championship," C.J. Henry said. "It was the best situation for me."

The Tigers certainly aren't complaining.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Dickie V's Preseason Top 40 (Tigers #13)

Dickie V's Preseason Top 40
By Dick Vitale
August 29, 2008

The summer is almost over, so it is time to get cracking on my preseason list of the nation's Top 40 teams. Check out teams Nos. 11-40 below and check back Sept. 8 when I'll reveal my preseason Top 10.


11. Purdue. Matt Painter's team snuck up on a lot of people last season. With Robbie Hummel leading the way, the Boilermakers have high hopes.

12. Marquette. Tom Crean is gone but Buzz Williams has the top-flight trio of Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews back.

13. Memphis. No Derrick Rose, no Chris Douglas-Roberts, no problem. John Calipari has a lot of talent returning plus several standout recruits.

14. Tennessee. Bruce Pearl will rely on Tyler Smith inside to key his SEC challenger.

15. Georgetown. Adding Greg Monroe up front will make this a team to keep an eye on in the rugged Big East.

16. Villanova. Jay Wright has his key players returning, led by Scottie Reynolds.

17. Florida. Billy Donovan's Gators will return to the big dance, keyed by Nick Calathes.

18. Arizona State. James Harden will be one of the premier players in the Pac-10. The Sun Devils will go from surprise team to conference challenger.

19. Davidson. Stephen Curry will carry this team to another big season. Forget about the Cinderella tag this season.

20. Virginia Tech. Seth Greenberg's team fell short of the big dance last season. That won't be an issue this time around.

21. Miami-Florida. Jack McClinton is one of the best players that America has not heard enough about. Frank Haith does a fine job with the Hurricanes.

22. Wisconsin. Bo Ryan will always have the Badgers in the hunt in the Big Ten.

23. Arizona. The return of Chase Budinger makes Lute Olson very happy. If Brandon Jennings didn't go to Europe, this would be a top 10 team.

24. Kentucky. When Patrick Patterson is healthy, watch out. Billy Gillispie's club will be returning to prominence.

25. Kansas. Bill Self lost five players to the NBA draft. He has a young but talented team that should still make noise.

26. Syracuse. In a different league, the Orange would be a contender. In the Big East, it is so, so tough …

27. Oklahoma. I know people are talking about football down in Norman. Jeff Capel's club, led by Blake Griffin, will give fans something else to cheer about.

28. West Virginia. Bob Huggins will have his team battling, scrapping and clawing again.

29. Wake Forest. This young team is talented. You will hear a lot from super sophs Jeff Teague and James Johnson.

30. Baylor. Scott Drew has rebuilt this program in a short time. Remember the name LaceDarius Dunn!

31. USC. Even without O.J. Mayo, the Trojans will be a tough team. Taj Gibson and company will not be an easy touch.

32. Clemson. Oliver Purnell lost a lot of senior talent, but K.C. Rivers is back.

33. St. Mary's. As long as Mr. Mills comes back to school, this team will make noise in the WCC.

34. Alabama. If Mark Gottfried gets back a healthy Ronald Steele, the Tide can reverse last season's misfortune.

35. UNLV. Lon Kruger has won 91 games in his four seasons with the Runnin' Rebels.

36. Mississippi State. If Jamont Gordon had stayed in school, this team would be in the top 20.

37. UAB. Robert Vaden is back. He flirted with the NBA draft but withdrew before the deadline.

38. Ohio State. A lot will depend on the big diaper dandy, B.J. Mullens. Thad Matta is a flat-out winner, my friends.

39. San Diego. Last season was not a fluke … just ask Connecticut.

40. Xavier. Sean Miller's team lost a lot of talent, but the newcomers will make a difference.

Great Article on the Pre-Season Tigers (trust me, read the whole thing)

How I Spent My Gustav Evacuation
by Aggrey Sam

I never really went on trips for Labor Day as a kid, but I always have fond memories of it, as I began school later that week. It was the end of my summer, meaning I got my back-to-school gear, went to cookouts and tried to pack as much fun as possible into the three-day weekend. In college, it was straight because I knew I had no class that Monday, which gave me more time to get to know the new, um, talent on campus, or as I did my last year, go out of town. As an adult, I still enjoyed it, just because it was a day off work, but I rarely did anything special, besides eat good or get some kids in the gym. This year was different, as I spent my time, as my man Kev put it, “runnin from Gus like a scared lil bitch.”

Being a relative newcomer to New Orleans (i.e., I wasn’t here for Katrina), when I heard about Hurricane Gustav, I wasn’t sure what to do. To people who aren’t from a hurricane-prone region, that probably sounds dumb as hell, but when several sane people around you (who did experience Katrina) are saying they’re going to weather out the storm, staying put seems a little more logical. In fact, as of a week ago today, it was business as usual in the city. Driving around on Friday night, I saw Bourbon Street was popping, the bars were full and people seemed generally unconcerned. Still, I packed the majority of my stuff, loaded it into the Ford Escape and on early Saturday morning, I filled up the tank and set out for Memphis.

As soon as I got on I-10 (the major interstate in New Orleans), I knew that this thing was real. Sure, a lot of the traffic was because the LSU football season opener (Geaux Tigers!) in Baton Rouge was pushed up to 10 a.m., but a lot of the vehicles on the road contained families with animals, their belongings and people in a general state of evacuation. It took me about two hours to get out of the general vicinity of New Orleans, but once I got on I-55 North, it was smooth sailing to Memphis (with the help of a stop at a Hooters–my first time since hitting the one at the Baltimore Inner Harbor while skipping school in 11th grade–in Jackson, Miss., and a Monster energy drink–I now swear by these in Grenada, Miss.), my final destination. In all, a six-hour trip took me about nine, breaks included.

What makes this relevant to hoops is that I stayed with a friend of mine (shout out to Coach B) who just got a gig on staff with the University of Memphis’ men’s basketball team. He got hired maybe a week before Gustav’s arrival, so it was perfect timing. The next day, I headed out to West Memphis, Ark.–right across the bridge, but don’t confuse it with Memphis proper–to check out a workout at a local Boys and Girls Club. For the uneducated (including myself, until recently), West Memphis ranks up there with Camden, N.J., and Flint, Mich., as smaller (and incredibly poor) cities close to much bigger cities that have consistently produced big-time hoopers throughout the years. From retired pro defensive specialist Michael Cage and all-time college star Keith Lee (who went to Memphis, then called Memphis State) to recent products high-flying Sonny Weems (a second-round pick in this year’s NBA Draft and the college slam-dunk contest winner) and Jason Henry (who I wrote about in the mag a couple years ago and will follow in Weems’ footsteps at Arkansas this year), this underrated hoops hotbed is official.

The workout I watched only had two players participating, a high school freshman and a sophomore. Usually I don’t cover kids that young, but when I get to see them in that type of setting, up close and personal (I’m a gym rat), it’s gotta be documented. The freshman was Jalen Jackson, a 6-4 wing who apparently tore up the AAU circuit in his age group this summer. Jalen has the makings of a star, as he’s already long, fluid, very athletic and is starting to fill out his frame. Once he makes the full-time transition to the perimeter (as you can imagine, he’s been having his way with smaller kids on the inside for a while), I’m sure you’ll hear a lot more about him. Unfortunately, freshmen aren’t allowed to play varsity at West Memphis HS (I believe this is an Arkansas state rule; by the way, the city identifies with Arkansas more than Tennessee, so much that Jalen played for an AAU team out of Little Rock instead of one in nearby Memphis), so keep an eye out for him next summer. The sophomore was Arthur Jackson Jr. (Jalen’s brother, shout out to Arthur “Old Folk”) Jackson Sr.), a 5-11 lefty point guard. While young Arthur doesn’t have his little (big) brother’s size, he’s quick, explosive (they both dunk with ease) and also very long. I hear he’s a terror on the defensive end, as well. The thing that impressed me most about both of these kids was their work ethic, which well serve them well, as they have a good support system around them (shout out to Sam Grier, who educated me a lot about West Memphis, Memphis, basketball in the South and basketball in general) and in a city that supports its athletes (the high school has a new, million-dollar arena), that will go far.

On Labor Day, I was back in the city itself, and you know I had to check out how the best team in the city (including the Grizzlies) was looking. It was the first day of individual workouts for the national runners-up and after losing the top pick in the draft and two other pros, I knew it was gonna be interesting to see how the new squad was looking. The team was split into three groups of 4 players (15 are officially on the team, but new addition CJ Henry–SLAM diarist Xavier’s big brother and Yankees minor-league prospect–is still rehabbing his knee, and freshmen Matt Simpkins and Angel Garcia are waiting to be cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse) for the hour-long sessions, which were preceded by weightlifting by each of the groups.

The first group included a walk-on named Jason (I forget his last name, my apologies), senior guard Chance McGrady (yes, T-Mac’s brother; another walk-on, but he could definitely be playing Division I basketball on a scholarship somewhere), sophomore juco transfer Roburt Sallie and junior point guard Willie Kemp. The second group featured senior wing Antonio Anderson, junior sharpshooter Doneal Mack and freshmen Wesley Witherspoon and Tyreke Evans, last year’s SLAM diary keeper. The final group were all post players: senior Robert Dozier, juniors Shawn Taggart and Pierre Niles, and sophomore Jeff Robinson, who also can play some wing.

With basically an entire new staff (former Pitt assistant Orlando Antigua, ex-Arizona assistant Josh Pastner and holdover John Robic, a longtime Calipari aide from his UMass days)–former assistant Derek Kellogg, who played for Coach Cal in the Marcus Camby era, took the job at UMass, and brought fellow assistant Andy Allison with him–Calipari was extremely vocal at the sessions. I won’t get into too much detail, but the players were put through ballhandling, shooting, transition and finishing drills (and yes, free throws–they shot them between breaks in drills), but what I found interesting was that everything related to Memphis’ signature up-tempo offense. Full speed at all times, no bounce passes on the break (chest passes are preferred, lobs to the rim are recommended; makes sense with all the athletes they have), playing through the contact, intense D, not getting your shot blocked (missing a layup is better, since they always crash the boards; think Joey Dorsey), spacing in the half court and straight-line penetration were all points of emphasis. For all the criticism Cal gets for being more of a recruiter than a coach, I can say now that he’s a hell of a teacher, too. It was the first day, so I didn’t see him go off on anybody–but then again, the players responded well to his instruction and the vets served as de facto asssistants on the floor.

As far as the players, I was very impressed with the returning players, especially Kemp, Anderson, Dozier, Taggart and Niles. Kemp looks like a big-time leader (he kept encouraging Sallie to “go hard”), while Anderson’s improved athleticism stood out, as did Dozier’s precision, Taggart’s intensity and Niles’ body transformation. Niles went from about 350 pounds to 300 this summer (and still has about 20 more to go before the season, which I think he’ll get) and at one point, was singled out by Cal for his stamina, quickness and work ethic. Conversely, Kemp, Dozier and Taggart have all really bulked up, which told me that even without Dorsey, nobody would be pushing them around down low. Meanwhile, out of the newcomers, Evans stood out the most. While ‘Reke still has a ways to go as far as playing full speed all the time (anybody who’s ever seen him play knows he’s a rhythm player, who likes to lull his defenders to sleep), his body looks great (up to 220 pounds, according to my man Lamont Peterson, who trained him in high school and is now on the Memphis staff with him), he seems more explosive athletically, actually made an effort on D and as always, can do just about anything he wants on the offensive end of the court. Sallie, the juco transfer (but only a sophomore, do some research on his saga), seems like he will really contribute, once he fully understands Cal’s concepts, as his athleticism and physical nature fit right in on the Tigers. Witherspoon, might be the team’s most intriguing prospect. At 6-8, he can play a variety of positions and as he physically matures, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with. I didn’t see much of him in high school (one of the few elite prospects in the ’08 class I can say that about), but now I see what all the fuss was about.

Overall, the atmosphere wasn’t what people might expect. Nothing sinister, no bags of cash lying around, no Hollywood stuff. The players went hard, had fun and Cal really helped them improve in one day. He didn’t waste any time, tweaked things each session depending on the personnel and made sure everyone was on the same page. They may not go 40-0 this year, but don’t sleep on Memphis this upcoming season.

My trip back to the N.O. on Wednesday ended up taking 10 hours, mostly because of heavy traffic leaving Memphis (by the way, Beale Street is overrated), through Jackson and especially from around Hammond, La. (about an hour outside of New Orleans), all the way to the city itself. I got back to a city that looked partially deserted, trees strewn all over the place, with few stores open, fewer streetlights and even fewer stoplights. Of course, it was night, so it looked a lot worse. One of the few places open (outside of Bourbon Street) was Lucky’s, a bar on St. Charles Avenue, where I was joined by a man in a Jesus costume and a woman dressed like Satan. That’s when I knew everything was going to be fine. After what the city’s already been through, how couldn’t it be? And that’s how I spent my Gustav Evacuation.

Andy Katz: Calipari now optimistic about the Tigers

Calipari now optimistic about the Tigers
Friday, September 5, 2008

Memphis coach John Calipari has changed his opinion on this season's team. Following the trip to China in May, Calipari said he was down on his squad's potential. But after he worked out the Tigers for the first time this fall on Monday, the coach has renewed optimism about what he said will be an even "longer" and "more athletic" team than last season.

Since the trip to China in May:
• Doneal Mack transferred to New Orleans but changed his mind and went back to Memphis.
• Robert Dozier and Antonio Anderson withdrew from the NBA draft.
• Freshman Roburt Sallie came on board from Nebraska.
• Freshman Tyreke Evans arrived on campus as the most heralded newcomer.
• Freshman Wesley Witherspoon was one of the last players cut on the U.S. Under-18 national team that played in Argentina.
• The Tigers added Lamont Peterson, Bilal Batley and Jason Walberg to administrative staffing positions with the team.
• C.J. Henry joined the team for this season.

The addition of Nebraska signee Sallie -- who failed to meet the Big 12 Conference eligibility guidelines -- has changed the look of the team. Calipari said the 6-5 guard could play point. But more impressive for Calipari was Sallie's ability to shoot the ball.

"It jarred me," Calipari said. "He's pretty good."

Weight loss and weight gain have changed the coach's opinion of the team, too.

Calipari said Pierre Niles is down to 310 pounds from 350 pounds. He said Shawn Taggart has put 25 pounds on his thin frame.

"We had an overweight guy in Pierre and an underweight guy in Taggart who got manhandled," Calipari said of the way both big men played on the trip to China in May. "Willie [Kemp] got outmanned. Antonio Anderson and Doneal Mack were OK, and Jeff Robinson didn't play well, so I was looking at my team and saying, 'Oh my gosh.' But now the guys are coming in pretty good."

That team is looking even deeper with a recent addition in Henry, a 6-foot-3 guard who is also a New York Yankees prospect. The 22-year-old Henry signed with Kansas out of high school in 2005. But Henry, selected by the Yankees in the first round (17th overall) in the 2005 draft, opted to play baseball the past few years. Now he wants to return to basketball, and the Yankees are contractually obligated to pay for his education, so Calipari said it is worth taking a "flier on the kid." He said he doesn't know how much Henry, who has been an outfielder in the New York Yankees' minor league system, can contribute this season.

Henry's younger brother, Xavier Henry, is the No. 1 player in the ESPN 100 for the Class of 2009.

Due to NCAA rules, Calipari can't talk about the effect having C.J. Henry on the team will have in recruiting Xavier Henry.

But Calipari did say the Tigers could go from 6-5 to 6-10 in their starting lineup this season.

"We could be that big," Calipari said. "I've never had 12-13 guys like this. This isn't normal for me."

He said Sallie, Kemp, Henry and Anderson could all share time playing the point in the absence Derrick Rose, who was the No. 1 draft pick in June.

On Calipari's staff, the coach added a trio of new personnel. Walberg is the son of former Pepperdine coach Vance Walberg (now a UMass assistant with former Memphis assistant Derek Kellogg). He will serve as Memphis' recruiting coordinator/manager. Peterson, now an administrative assistant with the team, has trained Evans since the highly rated freshman was 15 years old. Batley, the assistant director of operations/manager, worked under former NBA coach John Lucas as a developmental coach in Houston.

Calipari said all of the positions are stipend positions and none of them receive benefits.

"I've got people begging people for jobs," Calipari said. "I didn't have a position open when Tyreke committed to us. Do you understand these are eight-month positions without benefits and don't pay that much? Do you think I need to help in recruiting kids? Do you think I need to hire someone to recruit a kid?"

That last salvo was in response to any suggested impropriety of hiring Peterson to get Evans, who committed to Memphis in April. Calipari did once hire Milt Wagner, father of Dajuan Wagner, a former Tiger.

The Tigers' staff, which included new hires Josh Pastner (from Arizona) and Orlando Antigua (from Pitt) after assistants Chucky Martin (Marist) and Derek Kellogg (UMass) got head-coaching jobs, is now 13 deep. The Tigers have 14 players on the roster.

• Calipari said the Tigers still need one more game for this season. He said he's willing to play a neutral-site game, although Pitt said it offered a game in Madison Square Garden to the Tigers but they turned that down.

The Tigers have road games at Tennessee, Georgetown and Gonzaga. They will play three games in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic and also host Syracuse, Cincinnati, UMass, Drexel, Marist, Fairfield and Lamar.

• Kansas coach Bill Self said he couldn't be more pleased with what he got out of the Labor Day weekend trip to Canada. The Jayhawks played the weekend without the highly touted twins, Markieff and Marcus Morris, who weren't eligible yet. They were declared eligible Thursday after going through the NCAA Eligibility Center. Sherron Collins, who has had an injury-plagued summer, played in just one of the three games, scoring 10 points in a win over Carleton.

"Our two best players are going to be Sherron and Cole [Aldrich]," Self said. "In the three games, three different newcomers led us in scoring [Travis Releford, Tyshawn Taylor and Mario Little]. We know we're going to get points from Sherron and Cole, but it was encouraging to get it from others."

Defensively, the Jayhawks are way behind, but that's to be expected, Self said, adding that there were plenty of times in the games when no player on the floor had made an appearance in the national title game last April.

• Pitt couldn't get someone to play the Panthers in Madison Square Garden. Instead, the Panthers got Siena to play them at home on Dec. 17. That won't be an easy game. The Saints should be the favorite in the MAAC and a potential Sweet 16 team if last season's win over Vanderbilt in the first round of the NCAA tournament is any indication.

• The Big East schedule came out. Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez will serve his one-game suspension (for his antics against Rutgers on March 9) when the Pirates travel to Syracuse on Dec. 30.

Other games to circle are: Notre Dame at Louisville, Jan. 12; Pitt at Louisville, Jan. 17; UConn at Notre Dame, Jan. 24; ND at Pitt, Jan. 31; UConn at Louisville, Feb. 2; Louisville at Notre Dame, Feb. 12; Pitt at UConn, Feb. 16; ND at UConn, Feb. 28; UConn at Pitt, March 7.

Countdown Begins to the Country's Most Heralded Basketball Coaches Clinic

Countdown Begins to the Country's Most Heralded Basketball Coaches Clinic

Sept. 4, 2008

DALLAS, Sept 04, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- In less than 13 days, Dallas-based Elevate Your Game, Inc. (EYG) will host one of the most prestigious basketball camps in the country. The clinic is generating lots of buzz in hoops circles attracting coaches from as far as Florida and Colorado. Camp instructors include Bill Self, Head Coach of the 2008 NCAA National Champion Kansas Jayhawks; John Calipari Head Coach of the Memphis Tigers, 2008 National Championship Finalists; and Del Harris of the Chicago Bulls.

Designed for high school, AAU and college coaches, the 2008 Elevate Your Game, Inc. Coaches Clinic will breakdown offense and defensive strategies, game preparation, team fundamentals and player skill development.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008
6 pm - 9 pm

Prestonwood Christian Academy Field House
6801 W. Park Boulevard
Plano, Texas 75093

Space is limited. Advance registration is $60 and $75 at the door. School districts may allow coaches who attend this clinic to receive in-service or continuing education credit.
Visit to download a registration form or call 214.834.4394 for more information. For information on registration discounts, visit the following Dallas/Ft Worth sponsor locations:

Crown Trophy
1301 Custer Road
Plano, TX 75075

400 N. Central Expressway Suite104
McKinney, TX 75070

Reliable Chevrolet
800 N. Central Expressway
Richardson, TX 75080

Prestonwood Sports Organization (PSO)
Prestonwood Baptist Church Sports and Fitness Center
6801 W. Park Boulevard
Plano, TX 75093

Media Contact
Courtney Thompson
Contact: 214-802-7644