This was going to be Memphis’ breakout season under Josh Pastner. With all their incoming talent, perhaps the Tigers could stage a deep NCAA tournament run, even to the Final Four.
The NCAA ruled shooting guard Will Barton ineligible for the 2010-11 season last week because of a new rule relating to when athletes must graduate high school. Without Barton, the Tigers still have a potent roster, but their sky-high expectations should probably be adjusted. A Conference USA title and a spot in the Sweet 16 seems about the best they can hope for now.
Barton is appealing, and Pastner says the school will “exhaust every opportunity available to give the student-athlete the best chance to succeed on and off the floor.”
But even if that fails, there could be a silver lining. Barton says he may just sit out a season.
Dan Wolken from the Memphis Commercial-Appeal caught up with Barton for his first public comments since being notified about the NCAA’s decision and says that while “there’s a lot of stuff going on in my head,” that he’s considering all his option, including playing for Memphis in 2011-12.
Barton could play in Europe or the NBDL, but neither option apparently are all that appealing to him. He wants to play in the NBA and the best way to do that is by having a solid season or two at Memphis for some exposure.
(The potential NBA lockout is the wild-card. If it happens, Barton would be smart to stay in school.)
And judging by Barton’s comments, it doesn’t seem far-fetched that’ll he stay in Memphis. He knows he’s at fault if he doesn’t play this season.
“I got it together my 11th and 12th year, my prep year, but not taking care of business early in life, you can’t blame anyone but yourself,” Barton told Wolken. “If you have dreams of going to college and playing basketball, you need to think about it early. And that’s my fault. I was the one going to school. I should have been doing my work.”
It seems Barton’s already grown up. Most would rail against the system at this point. Maybe the NCAA, as Geoff Calkins writes, blew it with the Barton decision. Maybe his school of choice is causing the NCAA to be extra cautious on Barton.
But Barton says he doesn’t feel picked on, he just wants to figure out his next move. If Memphis is lucky, it’ll involve him eventually suiting up for Pastner in 2011-12. That’s the move a grown-up would make.