With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.
Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.
“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”
Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.
As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.
Less than a week after making a verbal pledge to attend Memphis while on an official visit to the school, one of the top junior college players in the country has decided to reopen his recruitment.
College of Southern Idaho guard Ar’Mond Davis announced the news via Twitter Thursday morning, but he also noted that Josh Pastner’s program will remain under consideration. Memphis was the first of three official visits Davis scheduled in late August, with Texas A&M due to host him this weekend and Alabama beginning September 18th. Davis informed NBC Sports that he will be taking those visits at their originally scheduled dates.
In addition to those schools, Missouri and Penn State are among the other high major programs to have shown interest in Davis prior to his commitment to Memphis.
With the 6-foot-6 Tacoma, Washington native having de-committed, Memphis is in the position of not only re-recruiting Davis but also looking at other options on the wing. The Tigers will lose four players, including wings Trahson Burrell and Chris Hawkins, from their perimeter rotation at the end of the 2015-16 season. Memphis has addressed that in part with their 2015 recruiting class, but another scoring option wouldn’t hurt for the 2016-17 campaign.
Davis’ de-commitment leaves Memphis without a verbal commit in the Class of 2016.
Memphis Athletic Director Tom Bowen announced on Thursday afternoon that the school has decided to grant Austin Nichols a conditional release to transfer.
“I spoke with Austin Nichols this morning and informed him the University of Memphis will grant to him a conditional release from his National Letter of Intent,” Bowen said in a statement. “While we are disappointed in this outcome and the timing of this situation, we respect his wishes to pursue other opportunities. We appreciate Austin’s contributions to the Tigers and wish him well in his future endeavors.”
The conditions for the release, according to the Commercial Appeal, include anyone in the American Athletic Conference, any Memphis non-conference opponent in 2015-16 and Tennessee, Iowa, Providence and Virginia. Iowa, Providence and Virginia all play in a tournament with Memphis in the 2016-17 season, while Tennessee is … Tennessee. Memphis’ non-conference schedule for 2015-16 includes Oklahoma, South Carolina, Louisiana Tech, Ole Miss and Ohio State.
Nichols, however, may have his sights set on something bigger. A former top 25 recruit that averaged 13.4 points, 6.5 boards and 3.4 blocks — top five nationally — as a sophomore is going to get attention from the biggest and best programs in the country. Nichols will have to redshirt the 2015-16 season, but he has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
This is good news for Nichols, and kudos to Memphis for doing the right thing by granting him a release, but it still doesn’t answer the biggest question for the Memphis program: Have we seen this program reach its peak under Josh Pastner, and why can’t they seem to keep local talent happy?