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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Opinion on Tigers After First Three Games



If your a returning reader I apologize for my lack of postings. Things has been a lot busier this year, so less time to blog.

Anyway, I have been very fortunate to see the Tigers live three times (vs. Christian Brothers, Fairfield, UMass) and once on television (vs. Chattanooga) early this season. There are many positives to take away and just as many negatives so early on.

Positives:

1) The early play of Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier. I've been pretty impressed. Anderson is making good decisions with the ball and showing excellent team leadership. He is taking good shots and not a whole lot of them. I can truly say I've only seen one ill-advised shot by Antonio in the four games combined. Sans the turnovers in today's win over Chattanooga, Anderson has been marvelous moving the ball around the court.

One of the most impressive things to me about Antonio has been the physical change. He has put on roughly 45 pounds since coming to Memphis three years ago. He now has the physical frame of a legitimate NBA guard (sort of like Tyreke Evans).

I suspect Anderson will put up very impressive "overall" statistics this year. I predict 9 points a game, 5 rebounds a game, 6 assists a game, better than a 3 to 1 assist to turnover ratio. He will shot 46% from the floor and 35% from the arc. He will be the defensive specialist and play on opponents best 1,2 or 3 position player.




















Robert Dozier has also been impressive and has FINALLY stepped up to be the player we always knew was out there, but always seemed to get lost in games. Robert has played with authority including going strong to the basket. He had a strong outing this afternoon and was very business-like putting on a consistent, productive effort without trying to do too much.

2) Tyreke Evans' composure and impressive ability to score around the rim (caveat - Reke needs serious help on developing an outside shooting touch).

3) Doneal Mack. Damn dude, aren't you glad your not suited up for the New Orleans Privateers.

4) Wesley Witherspoon. Wow, this guy has long term superstar type ability - think Todd Day, former Arkansas All-American and Razorback all-time leading scorer.




















5) The D-FENSE !!!!!!!!!!!!




Negatives

1) Continued weakness from outside the arc. Never mind the awful performance against UMass. Versus Chattanooga Memphis was still bad sans Doneal Mack's 4 of 7 effort. Memphis needs more guys at a 33% to 38% clip.

2) Overall rebounding.

3) Playing for a full 40 minutes. Do you realize that Memphis has been behind in all four games they played 5 to 10 minutes in to the game? Sure they have woken up the second half of the first half (using defensive pressure), but the competition hasn't been top 50 either.

4) Turnovers. Sure it is early and freshman (Reke and Wesley) have combined for a lot of the errors.

5) Willie Kemp's confidence. Clearly Willie is struggling and Cal seems to have lost significant confidence in Kemp also replacing him as a starter and barely playing him versus Chattanooga today.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Exhibition

DOZIER --------------- 0 - 1 - 1 - 2 - 29
HENDERSON-NILES - 0 - 1 - 2 - 1 - 21
KEMP ----------------- 5 - 3 - 0 - 1 - 32
SALLIE --------------- 1 - 3 - 0 - 3 - 29
MACK ---------------- 0 - 4 - 0 - 1 - 28
TAGGART ------------ 0 - 1 - 1 - 0 - 24
WITHERSPOON ------ 1 - 4 - 0 - 3 - 26
ROBINSON ----------- 1 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 11

Totals............... 8 - 17 - 4 - 11 - 200

There are several items of interest coming out of the CBU game.

Of course, you never want to see your players get injured, but having Anderson and Evans out at this time, to rest up and recover, isn't the worst thing in the world, at this point in the season.

It gives Coach Cal plenty of opportunities to evaluate the other players.

It gives these number eight, nine, and ten men in the rotation a chance to show Coach what they can do in real world situations, and it gives these guys time to get more comfortable with the notion of playing at full tilt, on every possession.

Certainly, seeing Pierre in the game, and seeing what he is bringing to the table, is a wonderful relief.

If Pierre can start, then Cal can bring Taggart in off the bench, and maybe we won't see the tip off jitters that used to get Joey Dorsey in foul trouble in the early moments of the game.

The little chart above lists assists, turnovers, blocks, steals and minutes from the CBU game.

Eight assists to seventeen turnovers is not good, but Kemp's ratio is not bad.

Three steals apiece from Sallie and Witherspoon is nice.

In the minutes department, we expect to see Dozier, Niles, and Taggart share the bigs role, and their numbers might continue just this way, through the season, especially if Simpkins doesn't get clearance.

However, for the guards, a healthy Anderson and Evans could each do a good 30+ minutes per game.

So down the stretch it looks like Robinson's minutes could dwindle, to near nothing, while Kemp, Mack, Sallie and Witherspoon would hover somewhere between 12 and 20 minutes per game.

All told, it was a good beginning.

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."

Ron Tillery - Short memory for former Tiger Rose

Short memory for former Tiger Rose
By Ronald Tillery, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Sunday, November 2, 2008

He's already forgotten:

The dazzling spotlight on a national stage with a team primed for great achievements.

FedExForum.

The ridiculously dominant run through Conference USA.

The shake-the-haters-off tournament run that ended in a NCAA national title game appearance.

The southern hospitality and admiration.

Derrick Rose has a startling and sad case of amnesia when it comes to University of Memphis basketball, the city and its loyal fans.

During pregame introductions with his NBA team, the Chicago Bulls, Rose is announced as being from "Chicago" and not Memphis where he played his college basketball last year.

No, this isn't done by mistake. It's done by design. It's done with Rose's unfortunate consent.

"It was my idea," the talented point guard said. "They asked me about it, I thought about it a while and I finally came up with the decision to announce I'm from (Chicago). I've been here my whole life and I was in Memphis only one year, so I think the fans in Memphis will understand."

Sure, Rose played just one season for Memphis.

Sure, he's a Chicago product living the dream of playing pro ball where he grew up.

Sure, it's Rose's prerogative to orchestrate his nightly introduction.

This much is certain, too: It's a slap in the face to Memphis no matter how much Rose hopes for understanding.

Where's Steven Black when you need him?

Worrisome Warriors

Monta Ellis was suspended 30 games (fined $3 million) for his moped escapade. His camp is now arguing (in an official grievance) that the Warriors' can't also punish him by saying that if Ellis doesn't return totally healthy they can still fine/suspend/terminate the deal.

Although Ellis' appeal has been expected for weeks, it comes on the heels of Al Harrington publicly demanding a trade, and as reports surface that the Warriors are already in a legal dispute with former coach Mike Montgomery.

Media covering the Warriors confirmed that Montgomery is in arbitration over payments Golden State stopped making after Montgomery was fired two seasons into the four-year, $10 million deal he signed in 2004.

And, oh yeah, Al Harrington wants to be traded.

"I've wanted to be traded since the end of last season," said Harrington, who doesn't like playing for coach Don Nelson. "I was hoping things were going to work out between me and Nellie, but I don't think that's going to happen."

Love from the bench

The only other time Kevin Love can remember not starting a basketball game was UCLA's Senior Night last season, when the freshman deferred to Lorenzo Mata-Real for the game's opening tip.

Last Wednesday, Love made his NBA debut when he entered Minnesota's season-opening victory over Sacramento late in the first quarter. The best player on his team all his life until now, Love is the NBA newcomer who knows he must prove he is tall enough, athletic enough, talented enough and fit enough to warrant Minnesota's big draft-night trade that brought his draft rights from Memphis in an eight-player deal.

"People, wherever they are, they like to doubt me because they say, 'He's a slow, white guy, he can't get off the ground,'" Love said. "No matter what, I'm going to get it done. I'll show people that, too."

Comback on track

Former slam dunk champ Gerald Green is with his fourth team in four years after entering the NBA out of a Houston area high school. Dallas has been pleased with him because he not only is a great athlete but he's been a better shooter than they expected. Green regularly ends practice by shooting 25 3-pointers and has made as many as 18.

"Based on his preseason, he's certainly in the equation as a guy we got to consider for the rotation," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "But in the last game, you saw some of the things that have been his nemeses: over-dribbling a little bit, turnovers, a couple defensive mistakes.

"But he established over the first seven games some real consistency in those areas. So I don't look at those things as super-negatives."

First time for Wade

Miami's Dwyane Wade has accomplished plenty in the NBA so there's not much to shoot for other than another title. Believe it or not, though, Wade has never been captain for the Heat.

For the first time in his six seasons, Wade has been named a Heat captain, sharing the designation with Udonis Haslem and Shawn Marion.

"Anytime you get a distinction of leadership, it's always great," Wade said.

Life is good for Wade. After months of rehabilitation on his troublesome left knee, a month with the U.S. national team at the Beijing Olympics, and then a month of training camp that included a week in Europe, Wade nonetheless said he feels refreshed.

"I've been healthy for a whole summer," he said, having led the U.S. Olympic team in scoring on the way to the gold medal. "Coming into the season, I feel good and ready to go: Nothing to worry about right now, hopefully nothing to worry about any time soon."

House hunting

Dwight Howard, the Magic's brutally strong big man, is apparently making the most of a struggling Florida economy and housing market.

Howard bought a spacious new house in Seminole County for $8 million -- possibly the priciest single-family home on record in a county known for its mini-mansions.

The Chateau d'Usse, which had been listed for $9.7 million, captured all the awards earlier this year during the local Street of Dreams luxury-home show. The 11,026-square-foot home in the upscale Lake Club development is described as a "castle."

From the baseline

Shaun Livingston's comeback in Miami is reminding some of last season's Penny Hardaway experiment. Livingston knows what to do with the ball and where to be, but has physical limitations in getting there. Cleveland is supposedly "monitoring" New York power forward Zach Randolph. But the Cavs aren't interested in acquiring a large contract. They want to keep financial flexibility for 2010 when James can become a free agent. When the Celtics raised their 17th world championship banner to the rafters the Cavs decided to stay in the locker room for the affair. Said Celtics coach Doc Rivers: "I didn't know they were invited." This week, the Milwaukee Bucks announced a promotion in which all of the seats in the upper bowl will go for $10 in November and December. Those seats in the past have gone for $24 or $29.

10 from Tillery

How young is the NBA getting? Elias Sports Bureau calculated the average age of the eight youngest teams in the league based on opening-night rosters. Below are the teams in order by average age in years:

----Begin Table----

Team / Average / Players /

1. Golden State Warriors / 24.192 / 15 /

2. Portland Trail Blazers / 24.399 / 15 /

3. Memphis Grizzlies / 24.784 / 14 /

4. Charlotte Bobcats / 25.128 / 14 /

5. Oklahoma City Thunder / 25.184 / 15 /

6. Chicago Bulls / 25.411 / 14 /

7. Atlanta Hawks / 25.415 / 15 /

8. New Jersey Nets / 25.804 / 15 /

9. League average / 26.815 /15 /

Dan Wolken - Tigers' new assistants cram like freshmen

Tigers' new assistants cram like freshmen
Antigua, Pastner recruit, but dribble-drive takes time
By Dan Wolken, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Sunday, November 2, 2008

While the first two weeks of practice have been crucial for six first-year players on the University of Memphis roster, it's been just as educational for two other newcomers looking to make an impact on the program.

Though assistant coaches Orlando Antigua and Josh Pastner didn't need much tutoring to start quickly on the recruiting trail, they have spent most of their on-court time so far doing more observing than teaching.

"I do as much listening as the freshmen on the team just to get a grasp of everything," said Antigua, who came from Pittsburgh, his alma mater.

Likewise, Pastner has spent the opening weeks of the season trying to get a feel for the Tigers' personnel and coach John Calipari's unorthodox style of offense after spending the past seven years at his alma mater, Arizona.

"For me, it's been like a clinic in the sense that I've been able to learn and pick things up," Pastner said. "Every day you're just being a sponge."

The way Calipari structures his coaching staff, Antigua and Pastner were hired primarily to do the groundwork on recruiting, while John Robic, who has been with the Tigers for four seasons, specializes in scouting opponents and building gameplans.

So far, it's been a good fit, with Antigua working his home base in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast and Pastner getting the Tigers involved with players on the West Coast and in Texas.

Already, Antigua has been crucial in recruiting big man Will Coleman and sharpshooter Darnell Dodson from Miami-Dade Junior College Antigua recruited both of them while at Pittsburgh while Pastner helped get a commitment from top-50 shooting guard Nolan Dennis.

Antigua said he's seen little difference in recruiting a player from the Northeast to Memphis as opposed to Pittsburgh. Pastner, in fact, recruited many of the same players or knew them through AAU teammates.

"Memphis is very similar to Arizona," Pastner said. "You're recruiting elite-level players and guys from different backgrounds and everything else. I think guys here compete as hard and play as hard as anybody in the country. They get after each other, and I think it's great. Competition breeds excellence because when guys have to compete and push each other, that's when they really start to get to an elite level."

But for all the recruiting success Antigua and Pastner anticipate having at Memphis, the primary reason both left their alma maters was to boost their resumes by learning Calipari's dribble-drive offense, which helped Tony Barbee (UTEP), Derek Kellogg (UMass) and Chuck Martin (Marist) all land head-coaching jobs.

During the mayhem of the summer recruiting period, Calipari brought in Pastner and Antigua for intense cram sessions on the Tigers' dribble-drive offense. Even so, he doesn't expect them to pick it up right away.

"Until they watch me do it and for a year, it's hard," Calipari said. "John Robic can throw stuff in, but they just don't know it yet. They know it, but not to the level of being confident to step in there where Derek and Chuck did. Chuck didn't say anything for a year. John Robic didn't say anything for a year. He was just silent, like, 'I don't know what to say.' But I can count on those guys to do (other things)."

Pastner and Antigua have had the added task of bonding with the players, which isn't necessarily as easy as it sounds. Assistant coaches often develop deep relationships with the players they recruit and become sounding-boards later on.

Though there was some crossover -- Antigua, for instance, knew Jeff Robinson and Tyreke Evans when they were coming up in the Philadelphia area -- there has been an adjustment period on both sides of the equation.

"You develop relationships with them, you show them you care about them, you follow up," Antigua said. "So there's a timeframe of trying to show them that you're going to be vested in them and that's kind of what you have to do when you're on a new staff."

From the players' perspective, it's taken some time too.

"They're cool guys but there's nobody like our coaching staff last year. That's a cool coaching staff right there," junior forward Pierre Henderson-Niles said. "They're gone to a better place, though, so we have to get used to them. They're not going to jump right in, be like, you do this, you do that. They're just like some of the freshmen. They have to get used to us."

Calipari knew that bringing in two assistant coaches at once would be a difficult transition in some ways. That's why he took the unusual approach of bringing Pastner and Antigua in together for their interviews as a way to gauge how the new staff might function.

So far, he's pleased with the results.

"We walked together, we ate together, talked to them together," Calipari said. "I wanted to make sure. The most important thing for me is family. I don't want one guy thinking, 'I've got to get this one, you've got to get this one, it's my recruit, your recruit.' I don't do it that way. We all recruit everybody. We need everybody in this thing together, and they hit it off."

No. 13 Tigers vs. CBU

What: The U of M's lone exhibition game before the regular-season opener Nov. 15

When, where: 7 p.m. Tuesday at FedExForum

Radio: WEGR-FM (102.7)

The new guys

Orlando Antigua

Assistant coach

Last job: Five years as an assistant at Pittsburgh

Noteworthy: In 1995, Antigua started a seven-year stint as the first Latin American player on the Harlem Globetrotters.

Josh Pastner

Assistant coach

Last job: Six years as an assistant at Arizona

Noteworthy: Earned bachelor's degree in family studies in just 21/2 years, faster than any other Arizona student-athlete.

Reach Dan Wolken at 529-2365; read his blogs on the Tigers at thememphisedge.com.

Athlon Sports - Mid-majors face extra challenges to win big

Mid-majors face extra challenges to win big
By Michael Bradley
Published: October 31st, 2008
Athlon Sports Contributor

John Calipari was perusing the program at the Reebok All-American Basketball Camp in early July, checking out the talent, when he came across something that suprised him, and that’s not easy to do. During his time as a head coach in both the collegiate ranks and in the NBA, Calipari has seen just about everything. But when he looked at the brief biography of a certain player, he read something he didn’t expect.

Right there, next to the “What Schools Are You Considering?” question, was Calipari’s school, Memphis.

“I didn’t even know the player was interested in us,” Calipari says, laughing. “But you can bet I had one of my assistants check it out.”

The Tigers have been the destination of some pretty big names over the past few years, most notably Derrick Rose, the top pick in June’s NBA Draft. So it’s not as if Memphis never had interest from top prospects. After a three-year run that has produced 104 wins, including 38 last season — “That might never be beaten,” Calipari says — the Tigers have moved into somewhat rarified air, especially for a school that isn’t in one of the BCS power conferences. You know the ones: Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, Pac-10, ACC, Big East. Those leagues are defined predominantly by their football profiles and access to big-money bowl games, but their influence carries over to the hardwood. They’re the folks who get the most TV games in the choice spots. Who get the most money from the NCAA come tournament time. And who get the widest interest from top recruits.

Leagues like Memphis’ Conference USA, the Atlantic 10, the Missouri Valley and the like are the “mid-majors,” which for some is almost a profane designation. Last year, when Xavier’s Drew Lavender was named “Mid-Major Player of the Week,” the school turned down the award, arguing that its success over the past decade-plus had put it in the big time and that it shouldn’t be considered mid-major in status.

No matter how much Xavier protests, there is a clear designation between the football power conferences and the rest of the D-I hoops world. Because of that, there are extra stresses and challenges presented to the non-BCS conferences that require considerable imagination, cooperation and commitment. When Calipari met the media at last year’s Final Four, he said, “It takes a village” to raise a mid-major program to great heights. He wasn’t just channeling Hillary Clinton.

Before you try to include Memphis with the rest of the big-timers, because of its Final Four appearances in 1973 and ’85, remember that tradition means little to the average high school student these days. “We’re talking about kids who are 17 years old,” Calipari says. “They remember back to when they were 12, 13 or 14. That’s it.” And the Tigers weren’t roaring too loudly when Calipari showed up in 2000. Memphis was coming off two straight losing seasons and had not won an NCAA Tournament game since 1995. He had work to do, and he needed plenty of help.

“Everybody has to be involved to do everything we can possibly do,” Calipari says. “Our building holds 19,000 people, so even the people who buy the upper-level seats, and they’re way up there, are important, too. (Their buying tickets) gets you the sellouts that build excitement and helps get TV to come, too.”

Calipari talks about the program’s “ambassadors,” who give $500,000 each to help the program. “We have 32 of them,” he says. Memphis may have a football program, but it sure doesn’t make money, so basketball needs to maximize every asset it has. When the Tigers do something special, like advance to the NCAA tourney final, it’s up to Calipari to capitalize on the impact. So, he’ll be looking for every recruit who now considers Memphis hot. He’ll be rustling up some more ambassadors. Looking to improve the program’s facilities. Calling on every member of that “village” to do his part.

And he has plenty of company throughout the non-BCS world. It’s tough enough to earn an invitation to one NCAA Tournament, much less become a regular participant. And once you get there on a consistent basis, it becomes incredibly challenging to stick around for a couple weekends. The trick is to do more than just dream big; schools must devote every moment to making those dreams come true.

“We always have to be realistic about the world around us, and try not to trick ourselves that we are someone we’re not,” Xavier AD Mike Bobinski says. “But we also put no limits on ourselves. How do we accomplish what we can accomplish? Putting the right plan together is a day-to-day mindset.”

Bobinski has been at Xavier through much of its recent success. Dating back to 1983, the Musketeers have played in 18 NCAA Tournaments. That alone is reason to laud the program and its progress. For part of that period, however, X was thriving as a bully in a weak neighborhood, dominating the Midwestern Collegiate Conference until its move to the A-10 for the 1995-96 season. Since then, Xavier has committed itself to behaving more like a BCS school. In 2000, it opened the on-campus Cintas Center, which seats 10,250 and is as sharp as any place you’ll find in the nation. It has begun to get respect from the tournament selection committee as well, grabbing No. 3 seeds last season and in 2003 and No. 7 seeds in 2002 and ’04.

The fallout has been substantial. Not only is Xavier now considered a national factor, from its TV coverage to its recruiting scope; it is also behaving more like a team that belongs among the upper echelon of the country’s powers. When coach Sean Miller recruits, he often travels by private jet. The school’s locker and training facilities are first-rate. Assistant coaches’ salaries are more in line with those paid by BCS schools, helping to promote continuity. It comes down to a priority and a commitment designed to make Xavier basketball thrive.

“In the early ’90s, (school) president Father James Hoff had a great affinity for athletics and realized they were a great asset for Xavier going forward,” Bobinski says. “People told him ‘this’ needs to happen or ‘that,’ and he was a visionary. He said, ‘Get it done.’ He made it a priority, and because of his ability to raise funds at a high level, it has been done.”

Because there is no football revenue, and the basketball programs can’t fund capital improvements on their own, other income streams are needed. When a team has success, it’s important to capitalize. Saint Joseph’s is in the midst of a project that will expand the capacity of its on-campus fieldhouse by 1,000 and provide new practice and office facilities. It was important to make a move while the team was successful and popular. “You have to express to upper administration and the people who make decisions that when we danced on the clouds, everybody liked it,” Hawks’ coach Phil Martelli says. “It meant something in admissions and annual giving and community pride, but it’s not done with smoke and mirrors.”

No, success is sustained often with steel and brick. Upgrading facilities is big in luring recruits, who don’t care about a school’s tradition. So, there must be upgrades made, especially after successful periods, because that’s when people are more likely to open their wallets. But some programs don’t have the luxury of being able to make substantial changes. For them, sustained success is more of a mindset and an ability to convince players that they can achieve what they want by coming to a school that might not be on TV every week.

Valparaiso’s Homer Drew has been a head coach for 31 years, the last 19 for the Crusaders (with a one-year hiatus, in 2002-03). He has noticed prospects are more interested in getting to the professional ranks than learning about a school’s campus life and educational opportunities. So, he stresses that in the past 14 years, 27 Valpo players have played professionally around the world. Oh, and they all have their degrees, too. But none of them, even Drew’s son Bryce, who played in the NBA, left early. Often, the key to winning at the mid-major level is developing players and building a team, rather than putting together all-stars.

“When we went to the Sweet 16 (in 1998), we had five seniors,” Drew says. “Experience can offset talent. That’s why you’re seeing so many mid-majors do well. Experience counteracts talent at other schools.”

Experience on the bench is huge, too. Creighton’s Dana Altman has been at the small, private school in Omaha for 14 years — save a few days when he was hired at Arkansas and then resigned. During his time there, he has taken the Bluejays to seven NCAA Tournaments. It’s important that assistants Darian DeVries and Brian Fish have been with Altman almost every step of the way. DeVries spent three years as a graduate manager before joining the Bluejays’ staff full time in 2001, while Fish has been at Creighton for two stops and has worked with Altman for a total of 10 seasons. Before he took the job at Indiana State last spring, Kevin McKenna was a nine-year assistant.

“(Having long-time assistants) keeps your recruiting stable,” Altman says. “A lot of the players who come here are here for five years. When they’re working with the same coaches, they develop a bond and the trust needed to be successful.

“When you’re working on improvement with a player, until you get that player to believe everything you do is for a purpose, you don’t get progress. That takes time.”

Facilities, continuity, a sense of community, fundraising, a winning attitude and TV exposure are all part of the non-BCS basketball success story. Nothing, however, beats wild success. That’s why George Mason remains a big name. Its run to the 2006 Final Four triggered an avalanche of progress and good will that continues today. Attendance is way up. Sales of merchandise have skyrocketed. TV opportunities are so abundant that GMU coach Jim Larranaga often must choose between a great game and a greater game. Admission applications are up. The Patriots’ recruiting has improved. The “Mason Nation” logo on the Patriot Center floor is more than a marketing emblem.

George Mason has maximized the wild, one-time ride to the upper reaches of the NCAA tourney. Few people know the Pats have made four tournament appearances during Larranaga’s tenure. They just know about the one biggie. Larranaga is not being arrogant or demeaning when he says that there is no contest between the benefits of one colossal achievement and a prolonged period of less dramatic success. “There are other schools out there that are consistently at the top of their (non-BCS) conferences and get back to the NCAA Tournament each year for a decade; that’s special,” he says. “But until one of them gets to the Final Four, they won’t reach us.”

Memphis made it this past season, and Calipari is eager to get everybody in the village to help keep it going. And that means everybody.

Tiger basketball camp report

Tiger basketball camp report
Saturday, November 1, 2008

In what can only be described as a bizarre clash of worlds, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) put out a press release Thursday asking Tigers junior Pierre Henderson-Niles to become a vegetarian in his quest to lose weight.

In a letter addressed to the Memphis forward, who went from 350 to under 300 pounds this summer, PETA director Dan Shannon wrote that "losing those last 20 so or so pounds can be the toughest" and offered "assistance as you transition to a healthy, humane vegetarian diet."

Henderson-Niles presumably caught the attention of PETA through the series of documentary-style videos about the Tigers' program on Rivals.com.

PETA clearly seized on that story to further its political agenda. In the letter, Shannon wrote, "By going vegetarian, you'll save more than 100 animals a year from the horrors of the industrialized meat industry."

On Friday afternoon, Henderson-Niles said he had not heard anything about PETA, but the group probably shouldn't hold its breath waiting for a conversion.

"Once I lose these 15 more pounds, I can eat all the meat I want," he said.

NCAA to rule on Tigers

The Tigers expected to hear from the NCAA Eligibility Center this week on the status of freshman forwards Angel Garcia and Matt Simpkins, but Friday passed without a ruling.

"It looks like it will be Monday," coach John Calipari said. "We called to ask, 'Are you going to have something for us?' And they said no."

The NCAA grants a grace period of two weeks where a player can practice while his academic eligibility is under review.

-- Dan Wolken

Memphis Announces Limited Number Of Corporate Season Tickets For Public To Purchase

Memphis Announces Limited Number Of Corporate Season Tickets For Public To Purchase
Terrace-level season tickets are $195 for all 18 Tiger home dates.

Oct. 31, 2008

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - For those Tiger fans that thought there was no chance of obtaining season tickets for the 2008-09 campaign, they have one last opportunity, thanks to the University of Memphis athletics corporate partners.

Memphis Director of Athletics R.C. Johnson announced Friday that the department's corporate sponsors have released a limited number of season tickets for the general public to purchase. The season tickets are $195 and include all 18 Tiger home dates at FedExForum.

"This is a tremendous gesture on behalf of our corporate sponsors," said Johnson. "They realize there is a lot of interest in watching our Tigers play in person, and they want as many fans as possible to experience the excitement of Memphis basketball at FedExForum.

"We are grateful that these tickets have become available to accommodate all those fans that want to come and watch us play. We are looking forward to another exciting ride with this year's Tigers."

To purchase season tickets, fans can go to the Memphis athletics web site at http://www.gotigersgo.com. Fans may also purchase tickets by calling the Athletic Ticket Office at 678-2331.

Memphis tips off its 2008-09 home schedule Nov. 4 with a 7 p.m. (CT) exhibition against Christian Brothers at FedExForum. The Tigers, ranked No. 12 in the preseason ESPN/USA Today preseason poll, open regular season play at home Nov. 15 versus Fairfield. That game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. (CT) tip.

Fans still have the opportunity to purchase season tickets to watch the Tigers play in 2008-09.

Sports Illustrated - 2008-09 Conference Capsules

Sports Illustrated
2008-09 Conference Capsules

CONFERENCE USA

07-08 CHAMPIONS: xy-Memphis.

POSTSEASON TEAMS: NCAA: Memphis. NIT: UAB.

PRESEASON POLL: Memphis; UAB; Tulsa; Texas-El Paso; Southern Mississippi (only five teams picked).

PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM: Robert Vaden, UAB; Robert Dozier, Memphis; Stefon Jackson, Texas-El Paso; Jerome Jordan, Tulsa; Jermaine Taylor, Central Florida.

THREE THINGS: Memphis had a season for the ages in 2007-08 winning an NCAA-record 38 games, running unbeaten through C-USA again to run its in-conference winning streak to 42 games, reaching No. 1 in the poll, but the Tigers lost to Kansas in overtime in the national championship game. Four players are gone from that team, but coach John Calipari recruited a stellar class to go with Robert Dozier. ... When Mike Davis took over as coach at UAB, Robert Vaden transferred from Indiana, and he set a C-USA record last season with 142 3-pointers. He'll be joined by Paul Delaney III, an all-conference guard who missed last season with a knee injury. ... Ben Braun didn't take long to get back in the coaching ranks when California let him go after the season. He'll be in charge at Rice, which ended the season on a 20-game losing streak.

08-09 PREDICTIONS:

NCAA-Memphis; UAB; Tulsa.

NIT-Texas-El Paso.

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

Q&A: Sporting News catches up with John Calipari

Q&A: Sporting News catches up with John Calipari
Posted: October 31, 2008
Ken Bradley
Sporting News

John Calipari's teams have won at least 21 games in his eight seasons at Memphis and reached the postseason -- NCAA or NIT -- every year. Last season, his Tigers set a NCAA record for victories when they went 38-2 and lost to Kansas in overtime in the NCAA Tournament final.

Gone is Derrick Rose, who was taken No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft this summer. Also gone are draft picks Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey. Still, the Tigers are sitting at No. 10 in the Sporting News' preseason rankings. Calipari discussed the upcoming season with Sporting News' Ken Bradley.

Q: Derrick Rose was the top pick in the NBA Draft. Obviously, it's hard to replace him, but you have others to replace, too.

A: We also had Chris Douglas-(Roberts) who played like Earl "The Pearl" Monroe. We had Joey Dorsey who played basketball like Lawrence Taylor played football. So we've lost 50 percent of rebounding, 50 percent of scoring, 60 percent of our starting lineup. We've lost experience, athleticism -- we lost a lot.

Q: What about the players you have returning?

A: The guys that we have coming back, two of them are great leaders -- Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier. Shawn Taggart, Willie Kemp, Doneal Mack all got experience. Those five and we brought in a group of good players to add to those guys. We'll play the same, you know the dribble-drive motion, but we'll have to start it different. Because you can't start the way we did through Derrick or Chris because they're not here. Willie doesn't have the same kind of game. Tyreke (Evans) is different, more physical than Chris, but different. So we just have to figure it out.

Q: Your teams get recognized for their offense, but you've said your defense was key to last year's success?

A: The other thing is, without Joey, one of the things people don't realize -- the coaches do -- we were a great defensive team. Our offense made us different, but we only shot 46 percent from the floor, 34 from the three and 61 from the line. We played fast and attacked the goal and shot a lot of free throws; we just didn't make a lot. It was our defense that set us apart. Now the question is: Do we press more? Do we trap more? We're longer, do we think about some zone? We have so many questions to answer.

Q: Do you feel you've gotten to the point that Memphis simply reloads?

A: I hope so. We will see. I don't think we'll be quite as good, but I have one comment about that. Let's just hope the rest of the country isn't as good either. As long as everyone else comes down a little bit, we'll be fine. I think North Carolina may have stepped up a little bit, but the rest of the country has come back a little bit, we all have. So now, as you regroup, who's going to get their team playing their best in March?

Q: You've had good talent before and turned out OK, right?

A: You know the one thing that's happened? We lost the same kind of numbers in 2006. We lost to the NBA Rodney Carney, we lost Shawne Williams -- 16th and 17th picks -- and then we lost Darius Washington. That was over 50 percent of our offense, 50 percent of our rebounding, 60 percent of us. We came back the next year and were just as good, went to the Elite 8. When guys are in the habit of success it leads to other guys wanting to come and that's what's happened to us.

Q: Does that make it easier to recruit the top players and get them?

A: Here's what's happening. There's two sides to this. The families -- the mothers, the fathers -- want to know about the academic situation here. Well, we've graduated 16 of our last 19 seniors. Our four seniors, Antonio, Robert Dozier, Shawn Taggart (a senior with junior eligibility) and Chance McGrady will all graduate in four years. So they want to know that. They also want to know do you bring kids back. We brought seven back, who some of them have played for me, some of them did not who left early to come back and graduate. One of them is Penny Hardaway. He graduated. So they want to know that.

Q: Does it take a certain type of player to fit your system?

A: Part of it is they see it looks good, but it's really, really hard to play because you've got to be in the best shape of your life, you gotta be willing to run as fast as you can, sprint on every possession. You got to be willing to defend. If you can't guard, it's hard to run this because you don't get enough breakouts and you end up being on defense too much. It's hard to play this way. I had a couple of the freshmen in (recently) and I said, "How hard is this?" and they said, "Oh my gosh." It's hard and if you're looking for something easy, this isn't the place to go.

Sporting News - College hoops countdown: No. 10 Memphis

College hoops countdown: No. 10 Memphis
Posted: October 31, 2008
Eric Bailey
For Sporting News


Sporting News is counting down its Top 40 teams leading into the beginning of the season. For more on No. 10 Memphis, be sure to visit Sporting News Today.

More: Find your team among the 40.

One miraculous shot stuck a dagger in Memphis' dream season last year. The Tigers looked destined for an NCAA championship before Kansas' Mario Chalmers busted a 3-pointer to send the national title game to overtime.

To spare Memphis fans, that's as much detail needed. But one agonizing loss will not swallow the Tigers' hopes for a national championship this season.

Coach John Calipari lost four players from last year's 38-2 squad--three of them drafted by NBA teams--but replaced the cupboard with one of the nation's top recruiting classes.

"I'm excited about the team that we have coming back," Calipari says. "We have size and we have length. Obviously we're going to be missing three tremendous players (Joey Dorsey, Chris Douglas-Roberts and No. 1 overall NBA pick Derrick Rose).

"We are losing a lot. That puts the responsibility on the players coming back to have great summers. We've talked about it and we are thinking of different ways to do things."

It starts with two returning senior starters. Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier tested the NBA draft waters before deciding to return to Memphis.

Anderson, a 6-6 guard, is one of Conference USA's top defenders. He also showed his complete game by being named MVP of the league tournament in March. Dozier is an athletic 6-9 forward who will be asked to do more in his final season. He worked out for a handful of NBA teams this summer before choosing his final year of college eligibility.

"What I enjoyed hearing were those (general managers) telling me that if he goes back (to school), he could be a lottery pick •," Calipari says. "But he has to get stronger and he has to improve his skills. He is long and he is a good athlete."

Six other letterwinners return, with all of them needing to improve their contributing status.

Guard Doneal Mack announced he was going to transfer during the summer, but then changed his mind. Forward Shawn Taggart has been steady, but will be asked to do more. Willie Kemp played in all 40 games last year, and 6-8 Pierre Niles has been battling weight issues throughout his career. Calipari said the forward hit 350 pounds at one point and must be 300 to practice, 280 to put on a uniform.

In years past, Memphis had a "go-to" player targeted like Rodney Carney, Douglas-Roberts or Rose before a game started. This year, it's anyone's guess.

"We don't know yet how that will all play out," Calipari says. "We think (incoming freshman) Tyreke Evans will be one of them. I don't think it will be like a year ago where we all know every game who it is. It could be Robert Dozier. Antonio Anderson is a blue-collar kind of guy. We are going to be a team that can come at you in a lot of different ways."

Recruiting has never tapered off as long as Calipari has been in Memphis. After last year's run, more potential players are considering the Tigers.

"The excitement about our program has impacted recruiting," Calipari says. "A lot of kids that have interest in us are interested in the specific style in which we play. When you talk to all of them, it's the style and the ability to do certain things offensively and how we play defensively."

Five newcomers will wear Tigers jerseys in 2008-09. The gem of this year's class is Evans, a Philadelphia native.

The 6-6 guard is expected to take over at Douglas-Roberts' position on the wing, and already is a solid candidate for C-USA's Freshman of the Year.

Evans averaged 29 points and eight assists a game as a high school senior, and many expect him to dominate in his inaugural college season.

Calipari said it's important for Evans to be his own player, and not expect to equal Rose's accomplishments in his one season.

"I want (Evans) to just be who he is, no one else," Calipari says. "He's in a natural position (on the wing) for him to do what he does best, which is score with the ball and create double teams so he can pass the ball to his teammates."

Calipari: Preseason No. 12 rank no cause for alarm

Calipari: Preseason No. 12 rank no cause for alarm
Coach believes team has chances to climb

The Commercial Appeal
Thursday, October 30, 2008

The University of Memphis disrespect train is leaving the station for the 2008-09 season. But this time, you won't find coach John Calipari driving the engine.

Memphis was ranked 12th Thursday in the ESPN/USA Today preseason poll, and the verdict isn't expected to be much different when the Associated Press releases its poll today. But unlike last season, when the Tigers were admittedly perturbed by being slotted third behind North Carolina and UCLA, the reaction to Thursday's news amounted to a collective shrug of the shoulders.

"I don't think anybody should be disappointed," Calipari said. "And it doesn't really matter right now anyway. Three years ago, I think we were 10, 11 12 and within a week we were fourth. So we'll have opportunities to prove whether we're 12 or 25 or 40 or six."

Make no mistake, the Tigers' program and its fans have been obsessed with national rankings in recent years. The school even put up a billboard in the summer of 2007 proclaiming itself as "Preseason No. 1," which was essentially undermined by the two major national polls.

The disrespect theme continued all season. Even when the Tigers were obviously going to ascend to No. 1 on Jan. 19 after beating Southern Miss (North Carolina had lost earlier that day), players and coaches spent the next two days in a fog of paranoia, thinking that voters would resist vaulting them to the top.

But with the Tigers having finally broken through with a Final Four appearance, followed by the departure of three starters and an influx of new talent, their preseason ranking has barely registered as a topic of conversation.

"To be honest, I haven't even looked at no rankings or none of that," junior forward Pierre Henderson-Niles said. "This is the first I've heard of it. We should be good. People should think we'll be good. We lost three big scorers and a rebounder. But it's not like all of our players are gone."

In reality, ranking the Tigers 12th heading into this season is a far greater acknowledgement of how the program is viewed nationally than ranking them third before last season.

Anybody could have deduced that Memphis, led by Chris Douglas-Roberts, Joey Dorsey and Derrick Rose, was a national championship contender. It takes much more faith, however, for voters to rank this Memphis team anywhere close to the top 10.

"We have some things we have to prove," Calipari said. "We have some numbers, but there's inexperience, there's unproven players, there's players that need to break through that maybe don't think they need to break through. We've got a lot of questions and a lot of guys we're trying to bring along."

So far, it's been difficult to tell how the Tigers will answer those questions. They've been hit with some injuries, including to senior guard Antonio Anderson (shin splints) and freshman forward Angel Garcia (knee sprain), hindering their early progress. And much of Calipari's practice time so far has been spent teaching talented freshmen like guard Tyreke Evans and wing Wesley Witherspoon how to play in their system.

But junior forward Shawn Taggart, who provided the dissenting view, said the Tigers should be given even more credit in the polls because they're coming off a Final Four.

"I don't think it's fair, but we need motivation anyway," he said. "I think we should at least be in the top seven, top five. We're coming from a national championship game and it ain't like we got blown out. We had it. We almost clutched it.

"I know we lost three guys, but we've got great players. We've got role players then who are stepping up now to become significant players, and we've got a very good team."

Two seasons ago, voters gave Memphis the benefit of the doubt despite losing two first-round NBA Draft picks in Shawne Williams and Rodney Carney, ranking the Tigers 12th in the preseason. They delivered and then some, eventually rising to No. 5 and making the Elite Eight.

Even if it's unfair to expect Memphis to do the same thing, Calipari said he accepts the pressure.

"The expectations in this city are 30, 35, 37 wins," he said. "And it's what it is, but we understand. What we're trying to do is let's be the best we can be. Let's try to win in March like we always have. Let's have the team that's up at bat in March."

Reach Dan Wolken at 529-2365; read his blogs on the Tigers at thememphisedge.com.

Tigers' first contest draws near - but nobody can watch

Tigers' first contest draws near - but nobody can watch
By: Joseph Russell
10/31/08
www.dailyhelmsman.com

The opening game for The University of Memphis men's basketball team is Saturday, but all of the action will be behind closed doors.For the second year in a row, Coach John Calipari and the Memphis Tigers will take on St. Louis University in a closed scrimmage before the start of the season. The Tigers will travel to St. Louis for the afternoon contest.The Bilikens, coached by Rick Majerus, are expected to reveal some of the Tigers' weaknesses before their Nov. 4 exhibition match-up with Christian Brothers University."They play very physical. They hold the ball offensively. They set tremendous screens. They're great in transition defense. They'll be very careful with the ball," said Calipari, going through a list of the other team's strengths.Even though last year's scrimmage gave Tiger fans a scare with Derrick Rose tweaking his knee and a shoulder injury to Joey Dorsey, Calipari said he wanted to do it again to get an idea of where his team is and where they need to be."(They're) the type of team that will give us trouble," he said. "It's exactly what we need at this point."As well as a measuring gauge, The U of M coaching staff will also use this scrimmage as a teaching exercise for some of the younger players.With so many new players coming in and looking to play significant minutes, Calipari said, it's taken more time for this year's team to get as far along as the "dream team" in 2007, but they're trying."Last year, we could buzz through a lot of stuff, and it was just refreshing," he said. "Right now we're not refreshing, we're teaching."The Tigers take to the court Saturday against St. Louis, and their exhibition opener is Nov. 4 against CBU at FedEx Forum.