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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Dan Wolken - Calipari after scrimmage: We need work

Calipari after scrimmage: We need work
By Dan Wolken, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Sunday, November 2, 2008

After watching his team fail to get offensive rebounds and suffer yet another injury when freshman star Tyreke Evans sprained his ankle Saturday in a closed scrimmage at Saint Louis, coach John Calipari had a message for University of Memphis fans.

"We have so far to go to be any good, it's incredible," Calipari said by phone. "So the people who were mad when we were ranked 12th (in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll), I say 'rejoice.' But maybe there are a lot of other bad teams out there, too."

Though Calipari may have engaged in some hyperbole -- it's difficult to know, since the NCAA doesn't allow fans or media members to observe preseason scrimmages between Division 1 teams -- it's no shock that the Tigers have a long way to go.

That much has been obvious in early workouts, with several new players added to the mix and veteran role players being asked to step into new roles. But the point was apparently driven home even further when they got on the court against the Billikens.

Though Calipari wasn't allowed to talk specifically about statistics or scores, he characterized the morning session as "ugly," with a lot of unforced turnovers and a lack of presence on the boards.

"We're not offensive rebounding at all," Calipari said. "We're not even attempting. Last year we didn't shoot the ball well, but we'd rebound, and it wasn't just Joey (Dorsey). It was our team and how we played. Right now, if they even come near us we run the other way. We have to get that squared away."

The Tigers were also unable to come out the scrimmage injury-free, which was important given that senior guard Antonio Anderson is sitting out with shin splints, freshman forward Angel Garcia is out with a sprained knee and freshman guard C.J. Henry is recovering from surgery on a broken foot.

Calipari said Evans would be out one week, meaning he won't play in Tuesday's exhibition game against Christian Brothers at FedExForum.

Unless Anderson gets better quickly, the Tigers could have just eight or nine scholarship players available for the CBU game depending on whether freshman forward Matt Simpkins is declared academically eligible by the NCAA.

The major point for Calipari will be bringing out a consistent effort from whoever is on the court.

"We get there, and after 20 minutes I want to go throw up like, we're awful," Calipari said. "And then they play for 5-to-7 minutes and really look like they're competing. They don't understand how to play a full possession; there's one guy that just stops. But it was a great scrimmage to learn about our team."

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