Older, wiser Tigers ready for C-USA
Posted: Thursday, October 13, 2011 7:03 pm
MEMPHIS (AP) — The Memphis Tigers are a year older and much smarter about how much work is required playing college basketball.
A year ago, a freshmen-laden team started a bit starry eyed by preseason rankings and lofty predictions. They started 7-0 but finished 25-10 after struggling on the road in Conference USA. Memphis won the conference tournament and the automatic berth in the NCAA tournament only to lose 77-75 to Arizona in the opening game.
“You can tell the difference from last year to this year,” coach Josh Pastner said during the team’s media availability. “I think we’re ahead at this point just in our sense of maturity and experience. Just the understanding about every possession. They are playing hard. Early last year, we were trying to get them to understand about going hard every single possession, and it took some time.”
Last season’s squad came with high expectations boosted by Pastner’s stellar recruiting class. The freshmen had a steeper than expected learning curve from high school to college, and the returning Tigers agree they finally realized the difference in the last half of the season, which they think has better prepared them for this season.
“I can tell from a couple of practices that people’s mindset is so different,” sophomore point guard Joe Jackson said. “The atmosphere is more like a winning atmosphere. This is a team that will win.
“Last year, we were young and everybody’s head was in a cloud. We thought: ‘It’s college, and it’s only one step ahead (of high school),’ and we were going to blow teams out of the water. But we weren’t ready for those types of accolades to be put on us.”
The Tigers could start the season ranked in the Top 10 because Pastner goes into his third season with his top six scorers back. The only significant loss was big man Will Coleman, who was in and out of the starting lineup because of his sporadic play. By the end of the season, freshman Tarik Black had become a better, more productive option in the post.
Published in The Messenger 10.13.11