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 Full Complement of Players, Memphis Ready to Roll; C-USA Preseason Teams
NEW YORK — A year ago, Memphis coach Josh Pastner had only seven scholarship players, making a full practice virtually impossible.
“Last year I ran the practices a lot like an NBA team, when the NBA team is finishing their regular season in the sense that a lot of times we didn’t practice,” Pastner said Wednesday at Conference USA Media Day in lower Manhattan. “We just did walk-throughs and shooting because we had to get to the games because of our numbers.”
Even though the Tigers finished 24-10 in Pastner’s first year succeeding John Calipari, that routine sometimes hurt the team’s preparation.
“Due to that, we got hurt in some areas because weren’t able to drill and emphasize some things,” Pastner said. “A lot of times we were putting in different defenses the day of the game.”
A year later, Pastner has the full complement of 13 scholarship players and is ready to roll when practices officially begin Friday.
“We’ll have more of an opportunity to really do some things that we want to emphasize with rebounding and some other things that we can not only talk about but drilling is an important part,” he said.
Memphis lost four starters from last season, including Elliot Williams, a first-round NBA Draft pick.
Yet of the 10 players chosen to the Conference USA Preseason first- and second-teams, two are from Memphis.
Junior guard Wesley Witherspoon made the first team, while freshman guard Will Barton is on the second.
Pastner said he was “very happy” when the 6-6 Barton, a consensus top 15 national recruit, was cleared in August by the NCAA.
“Will’s a good player,” Pastner said. “Obviously, you’re better with him than not with him. There’s no doubt about that.
“But again, he’s a freshman and he hasn’t scored a point yet in Division 1 basketball, nor has he got a rebound. So like I tell him, you can’t read your press clippings or no one wants to hear about what you did in high school. You’ve got to produce on the floor. He understands that and that’s why he’s doing his job by working his butt off and preparing for the season ahead.”
Barton headlines a seven-member recruiting class that was ranked No. 2 nationally behind Kentucky by Rivals.com.
The class also includes Antonio Barton, Will’s brother, Tarik Black, Chris Crawford, Joe Jackson, Jelan Kendrick and Hippolyte Tsafack, as well as New Orleans transfer Charles Carmouche.
“I think we’ve got a lot of good players,” Pastner said. “We are young. We’re inexperienced. We’ve got things we’ve got to continue to get better on and we’re going to take those practice days to do that.”
CONFERENCE USA MEN’S BASKETBALL PRESEASON TEAMS2010-11 PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Randy Culpepper, UTEP, G, 6-0, Sr., Memphis Tenn.
2010-11 ALL CONFERENCE FIRST TEAM
Gary Flowers, Southern Miss, F, 6-8, 214, Sr., Dallas, Texas
Justin Hurtt, Tulsa, G, 6-4, 201, Sr., Raytown, Mo.
Wesley Witherspoon, Memphis, F/G, 6-9, 210, Jr. , Atlanta, Ga.
Brock Young, East Carolina, G, 5-11, 180, Sr., Raleigh, N.C.
2010-11 ALL CONFERENCE SECOND TEAM
Will Barton, Memphis, G, 6-6, 175, Fr., Baltimore, Md.
Papa Dia, SMU, F, 6-9, 235, Sr., St. Louis
Aaron Johnson, UAB, G, 5-8, 185, Sr., Chicago
Arsalan Kazemi, Rice, F, 6-7, 205, So., Esfahan, Iran
Jeremy Williams, UTEP, F, 6-7, 220, Sr., Memphis
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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.