Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
With the ACL injury to Memphis sophomore Angel Garcia, the Tigers are down to eight scholarship players for the upcoming season.
It’s yet another tough blow for first-year head coach Josh Pastner, who has already had to deal with the forfeiture of the 2008 Final Four appearance in the wake of the Derrick Rose SAT scandal.
But you won’t find Pastner complaining. At least not publicly.
“We have no choice. We’ve got to coach them up. We have to remain positive,” Pastner said by phone. “We’ve got a good nucleus. We’ve got to keep them positive.”
Reinforcements are coming next year, when guards Joe Jackson and Will Barton will give Memphis one of the top young backcourts in the nation.
And because of that, Pastner has the full backing of Memphis AD R.C. Johnson.
“I told him [Pastner] the other day, between him, Abraham Lincoln and Vince Lombardi, all three of them are walking on water right now. He’s having unbelievable recruiting success,” Johnson said.
“We’ll be a little lean this year, but I think people understand that. Our fan base is huge and very knowledgeable. I think Josh is going to be fantastic.”
Garcia’s injury occurred during a non-contact drill in last Thursday’s individual workouts at the Larry O. Finch Center.
The 6-foot-11 Garcia, a Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, native, will undergo surgery within the next two weeks, and then faces six-to-eight months of rehabilitation.
“I know the fans were looking forward to seeing Angel on the court this year, and we were as well. But, we’ll rally around Angel, and our players and coaching staff will be there for him throughout his rehab. I’d also encourage Tiger Nation to send prayers and thoughts Angel’s way as he works hard to return to the court in 2010-11,” Pastner said in a release.
The loss of Garcia essentially leaves the Tigers with a seven-man rotation that includes guards Elliot Williams, a Duke transfer who was granted immediate eligibility because his mother is battling cancer; Wesley Witherspoon; Doneal Mack; Roburt Sallie; Willie Kemp; and forwards Will Coleman and Pierre Henderson-Niles.
Thank goodness for Memphis that Williams was granted eligibility. Otherwise, they’d really be in trouble.
“Elliot Williams brings toughness and leadership,” Pastner said. “Just a beautfiul young man, just a really good person. Really good basketball player, too.”
While Memphis plows ahead with eight players Pastner might look at Seton Hall for some inspiration.
The Pirates essentially played with an eight-man rotation last year and managed to go 17-11 overall while winning a game in the Big East Tournament.
MORE MEMPHIS NEWS**Memphis AD says SEC is first choice.
**Memphis hires Mike Tranghese in hopes of joining Big East.
**Joe Jackson to Memphis.
(Photo courtesy Memphis Athletics)
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.