The long wait for the 2011-2012 basketball season is over. This year’s version of the Memphis Tigers – which will feature two new assistant coaches (Damon Stoudamire and Luke Walton) and three new players (Adonis Thomas, Stan Simpson, and Ferrakohn Hall) – takes the floor tonight at FedExForum against the LeMoyne-Owen College Magicians. The game starts at 7:00pm CT.
Ranked in both preseason national polls – No. 11 in the Associated Press poll and No. 9 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll – the Tigers have two exhibition games (the other against Christian Brothers University on November 11th) prior to kicking off the regular season on November 15th against Belmont.
Last year, Memphis beat Lemoyne-Owen 106-49. In that game:
Here’s a breakdown of this year’s roster, divided up by the guard, forward, and center position.
Joe Jackson – Jackson spent a lot of his summer playing for the USA U19 basketball team. Jackson led his team in assists, 4.1 per game and was 2nd on the team in points, 11.6. More importantly his assist to turnover ratio 1.2 compared to last season where he had a negative (more turnovers than assists) ratio of .95. Jackson has also been the most improved player in practice so far this year.
Antonio Barton – Last years biggest surprise was Antonio Barton. He was the Tigers’ best 3-pt shooter (44%), was the best clutch player, played the 3rd most minutes of any player on the team, and was a big key to Memphis’ success last year. This year should be no different.
Chris Crawford – When he signed with Memphis, Chris Crawford was supposed to be the Tigers’ 3-pt clutch shooter. What he ended up being was a lock down defender and the second best playmaker behind Joe Jackson. His 3-pt shooting was very streaky. Overall he averaged only 30% from 3-pt land. He made 5-6 in a come from behind win at UTEP but was 0-6 in a loss at Marshall. Was it the fact that he spent so much energy on defense that it effected his shot? Crawford like all of the Tigers should be in better shape this year. Hopefully that will mean that Crawford will be a more effective 3-pt shooter.
Charles Carmouche – There is often a tendency to forget about Carmouche on this talent laden team. Carmouche is a guy that will step up to any task that is given him. Need him to make a clutch shot, he makes a 3 and wins the Southern Miss game. Need him to guard an All-American who is several inches and many pound larger than him, he does an excellent job on Derrick Williams. Carmouche was a steadying influence last year on a freshman ladeled team. This year, expect more of the same.
Wesley Witherspoon – Wesley also spent the summer working with “Frank’s Fantasy Factory” as he put it. After being named pre-season CUSA player of the year last year, Wesley started the season off averaging 15 points after the first 6 games. Of that 15 points nearly half of his points came from the free throw line. He shot 50 free throws making 43. After those 6 games Witherspoon only shot 43 more free throws making only 29. Some of that was because of his reduced playing time. A good portion of it though was because his ability to drive to the basket and get fouled was greatly diminished due to knee injury. A healthy Witherspoon will be a key to this teams success this year.
Will Barton – Barton’s main problem last year was decision making. He was the Tigers leading scorer last year averaging 12 points per game. He also shot the ball 390 times compared to Joe Jackson who was second on the team in FGA’s at 255. He only made 26.5% of his 3-pt shots but about 38% of his shots were 3′s. In order for Barton to shoot better he needs to be more selective about his shots. Barton has done very well in practices so far this year.
Adonis Thomas – Thomas was the key addition to this year’s roster. He was rated in the top 10 nationally among recruits. Thomas is a guy that can make this team better without scoring a lot of points. He’s an excellent rebounder which helps Memphis since they struggled so much last year. He’s a great defender who will probably take the toughest defensive assignments every night. He also has the luxury that freshmen last year didn’t have of not having to produce from his first game out. He can develop at a normal freshman pace.
Ferrakohn Hall – Hall returns to his hometown Memphis after transferring from Seton Hall and will give the Tigers good minutes at the forward position. Despite being labeled as a power forward who fancies himself as a perimeter player, Hall has shown a willingness to mix it up in the paint, a knack for going after rebounds, and the ability to hit a mid-range jumper at the four position that opens things up for pick-and-pops, pick-and-rolls, and more. Hall will not be eligible to play until December 17th because of his mid-year transfer.
Other forwards who will see limited playing time include Drew Barham and DJ Stephens.
Tarik Black – While Joe Jackson spent the summer playing for the USA Tarik Black spent his summer with the new Memphis trainer, Frank Matrisciano. As a result Black lost 20lbs. and is in much better shape than he was last year. Black has also been a favorite of the new Memphis coach Luke Walton.
Stan Simpson – When Memphis signed Simpson last year they beat out other top teams that were recruiting Simpson out of Junior College. Simpson was brought in to add interior depth. This Memphis team might get more than they bargained for with Simpson. He has been one of the bigger surprises in practice so far and has worked his way into the rotation.
Other center who will see limited playing time includes Hippolyte Tsafack.
Watch tonight’s exhibition game on-line tonight on Tiger Vision (paid service). LINK