OK, Memphis. Let’s see what you’ve got.
After weeks of appealing (with the NCAA) hand-wringing (by fans), Josh Pastner’s squad found out Friday it’ll have prized freshman recruit Will Barton for the 2010-11 season. The NCAA reversed its decision on declaring Barton an academic nonqualifier – a new rule requiring players to graduate high school in eight semesters was at issue – which made for an elated Barton.
“So happy I’m cleared,” Barton tweeted. “I’m officially a student-athlete at the University of Memphis. I luv (sic) Memphis. The fans are the best in the world. Thanks 4 all the support. Let’s go.”
Barton, a 6-foot-6 wing regarded as a Top 10 prospect, is the gem’s of Pastner’s elite 2010 class. He and fellow freshmen Joe Jackson and Jelan Kendrick will be the key to the Tigers making a possible Final Four run. They already were the Conference USA favorites, but this sets them up as Top 15 team, according to Dan Wolken of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. (I think he’s right.)
Even better for Memphis is it should help quiet any naysayers who want to peg the school as a “do anything to win” place. Fairly or unfairly, the school took some hits when Barton was declared ineligible. Now it’ll simply get to focus on hoops. Call it a win for everyone.
“It’s a very good thing for Will, for the university, for the city and the team because he brings a lot,” Pastner told Wolken.