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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Dan Wolken - Tiger basketball camp: No shortage of Rebounders

Tiger basketball camp: No shortage of Rebounders
By Dan Wolken, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Friday, October 31, 2008

No shortage of Rebounders

The Tigers practiced Thursday in front of a standing-room crowd of roughly 370 people cramming every inch of free space at the Finch Center. And according to Rebounders Club president Harold Byrd, even more members of the group wanted to attend its annual Tip-Off Dinner & Basketball Practice.

"Last year, we had somewhere around 150 or 170," Byrd said. "This year, we had a waiting list of about 75 people we couldn't accommodate (due to space limitations)."

Many in the group were unable to contain their enthusiasm when somebody made a shot or executed a pretty pass, which didn't necessarily make for a productive practice atmosphere. But coach John Calipari never asked the Rebounders to tamp down their enthusiasm, especially since the group has been partly responsible for selling out the upper deck of FedExForum the last two seasons.

With Byrd connecting the sale of $100 season tickets to a Rebounders membership and an annual party at Calipari's house in September, the booster club has grown exponentially.

"We're still tabulating, but we think it's over 800 people now," Byrd said. "We've doubled, over-doubled and then doubled again. That's attributed to John Calipari."

Shin splints troubling Anderson

Calipari all but ruled senior guard Antonio Anderson out of this Saturday's closed scrimmage against Saint Louis and wasn't optimistic that he'd be ready for Tuesday's exhibition game against Christian Brothers.

Anderson has been suffering from shin splints -- a painful condition usually caused by intense running and jumping -- since early in Tuesday's practice. His absence has been noticeable.

"We're not the same team," Calipari said. "Now, you lose four-fifths of what we had a year ago and you're asking people to step up and do stuff they haven't had to do."

Though the Tigers have not been as sharp without Anderson, especially offensively, it might not be so bad in the long run. While Anderson sits out, younger players will be forced to figure out how to survive in a physical battle, which is ultimately the point of scrimmaging Saint Louis.

Still, Calipari doesn't want Anderson's injury to linger too long as the Nov. 15 opener against Fairfield approaches.

"It's bothering him. For him to be out, you know he's hurt," Calipari said. "I feel bad for him, but like I said to him, get yourself healthy."

Trojans not to be taken lightly

Recent visitors to the Finch Center, including NBA personnel and national reporters, have been talking up Southern Cal, which could be the Tigers' opponent in the second round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

"They're telling me the USC game, if we're lucky enough to win (the first round) and they're lucky enough to win, will be the best non-conference game maybe of the season," Calipari said. "We better be ready."

The Trojans are ranked 21st in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll released Thursday, and a big reason is guard DeMar DeRozan. He and Memphis guard Tyreke Evans are arguably the two top freshmen in the country.

Of course, when the Tigers played USC last season, the big storyline was also about two superstar freshmen in Derrick Rose and O.J. Mayo. The game, however, didn't quite live up to the hype in terms of aesthetic value. The Tigers escaped with a 62-58 overtime victory despite being thrown off by USC's triangle-and-two defense.

Memphis would have to beat Tennessee-Chattanooga and USC would have to defeat Seton Hall in the first round to meet once again on Nov. 21.

-- Dan Wolken

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