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Calipari eyes Memphis dominance in C-USA


Dec. 4, 2003
When Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette, DePaul and South Florida decided they would leave Conference USA, there were immediate questions over the future of Memphis and its coach, John Calipari.

Coach John Calipari envisions Memphis dominating C-USA.
As I reported last month, Calipari will sign an extension through the year 2010. The coach is excited about the future of Memphis because he feels the Tigers can be a dominant force in C-USA, as was the case when Calipari coached Massachusetts in the Atlantic 10. The days of Calipari going up against Temple coach John Chaney were special.

Calipari has told me that he called Chaney and pleaded with him to join Conference USA. Those were legendary battles -- including the well-known near choking incident -- but the ultimate respect flows between these men. Both coaches are fighters and scrappers, and their teams reflect their coaches' personalities.

When I saw Memphis play in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic last month, one thing was evident: The Tigers have superb quickness, creating lots of offense with their defense. They will create opportunities in transition.

Sophomore forward Rodney Carney has a chance to be a star. He's an explosive athlete who has range as a shooter. Senior point guard Antonio Burks is strong with the basketball and has great quickness exploding to the basket, either attempting to score or creating opportunities for his teammates.

Freshman forward Sean Banks shows versatility for a diaper dandy. He can go inside or outside and isn't afraid to shoot the trifecta. What Memphis lacks is a low-post presence. The Tigers really miss Chris Massie, the 6-9 big man who graduated last spring. The lack of inside scoring could hurt later on.

The future is extremely bright, though. If Calipari's recruits report next season, watch out. Darius Washington, Shawne Williams, Richard Dorsey, Kareem Cooper and Robert Dozier are all on Calipari's radar.

Over the years, there has been excitement at Memphis in September during recruiting season -- but then, come June, there has been the disappointment of players jumping to the NBA early. Amare Stoudemire, Qyntel Woods and Kendrick Perkins all committed to Memphis as high-school phenoms but decided to skip college and go straight to the NBA. And Dajuan Wagner stayed at Memphis for just one season.

Will Washington and Williams show up on campus? With that potential class, especially its size, Memphis could be outstanding next season.

This season, the Tigers will win their share of games as Calipari gets the maximum out of his people. It's certainly good news for Memphis basketball that Calipari will be around for years to come. There will be plenty of Ws at the Pyramid, baby!

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