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Thursday, April 09, 2009

New Memphis Tigers coach Pastner made local inroads early

New Memphis Tigers coach Pastner made local inroads early
By Jason Smith, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wooddale High boys basketball coach Jerry Johnson had never met Josh Pastner when the then-University of Memphis assistant coach introduced himself last summer at the Finch Center.

"When he saw me walk in the University of Memphis gym, his eyes lit up. He knew me before I even knew who he was," said Johnson, has who coached the likes of Philadelphia 76ers forward Thaddeus Young and 2010 top-100 recruit Mardracus Wade over seven seasons at Mitchell.

New Tigers basketball coach Josh Pastner was regularly spotted at White Station games scouting Joe Jackson. Such efforts as an assistant may pay off for Pastner as a head coach -- he said he's going to pay more attention to Memphis recruits than did his predecessor, John Calipari.

"He gave me his Arizona (phone) number. And when he got a local number, he gave that to me. He opened his lines of communication up immediately to me."

Already a familiar face on the local recruiting scene after spending less than a year in Memphis, Pastner said he plans to recruit "inside-out" as the new Tigers head coach -- a philosophy both welcomed and applauded by local prep coaches.

Pastner's first official recruiting duties as Memphis' head coach begin today, the first day of the April contact period for NCAA Division 1 college coaches.

"I think (John) Calipari has done such a great job of recruiting nationally that he was able to overcome the lack of as much of an inside-out approach. There's no question he's been able to overcome it," said St. George's coach Jeff Ruffin.

Ruffin had a pair of 2008 prep standouts sign with out-of-state programs in Elliot Williams (Duke) and Laurence Bowers (Missouri). Williams, a 6-4 McDonald's All-American, picked Duke over Memphis, Tennessee and Virginia.

"But for most jobs and most people, I think to consistently produce the teams you want to, (recruiting) inside-out is very important," Ruffin said.

"Whether you're talking about Ole Miss or Mississippi State (recruiting in) Mississippi or UT (recruiting in) the state of Tennessee or Memphis (recruiting in) the Memphis metropolitan area, I think it's very important."

Johnson, having recently finished his first season at Wooddale, pointed to several recent examples of Memphis-area prep standouts leaving town to play college ball, including Young, who opted to sign with Georgia Tech in 2005.

"(Calipari) wanted Thad. He wanted Elliot Williams. He wanted (Briarcrest Christian senior guard and North Carolina signee) Leslie McDonald," Johnson said. "It was just that he didn't get those guys, and that can be frustrating, that you can get kids from all over the nation and you can't get the ones in your backyard.

"But on the other hand, there are some (players) here in Memphis that, if you have strong ties with the high school coaches, the doors of the (UofM) might open up a lot wider than they have been."

Pastner was a regular spectator this season at White Station basketball games, where he recruited Spartans junior guard Joe Jackson, the No. 15 overall prospect in the class of 2010 according to

"He's been recruiting me since he got here (last May). He's been recruiting me real hard," Jackson said. "We've got a good relationship.

"I just want to wait and weigh my options and see how well he's going to do this year -- see how things fall into place."

Harding Academy athletic director and boys basketball coach Kevin Starks said Pastner can't afford to let talents like Jackson continue to get out of Memphis.

"For instance, you can't let Joe Jackson go somewhere else. You understand what I'm saying?" Starks said.

"Because you have a national program, you can't let Joe Jackson get out of the city of Memphis. ... For Josh to win over those guys, he's going to have to build a trust and relationships with the parents, aunts and uncles and whoever's involved with their recruiting."

Jason Smith: 529-5804

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