The University of Memphis only has three mens’ basketball coaches on the payroll, but they are burning up the recruiting trail.
I spoke with assistant coach Glynn Cyprien at the recent Tiger Spring Tour, and though he could not go into specifics, he seemed very confident when the discussion turned to Memphis’ prospects of signing five-star recruits.
At the time, John Wall was still unannounced, Lance Stephenson was flirting with Arizona and Latavious Williams had just canceled a press conference when he had been expected to sign with Memphis, and opened up his recruiting by throwing Florida International into the mix.
Yet when I asked Cyprien what he thought of his team’s chances to sign any of the remaining big-name recruits, his lips creased into a broad smile.
“Don’t be surprised if we sign one or two of them!” he said without hesitation.
Reading between the lines, I inferred that he was speaking of Stephenson and Williams.
Several days later, Williams announced that he would make his decision known sometime between May 20 and May 25.
Right on time today, it has been reported by Adam Zagoria, the respected hoops recruiting guru, that Williams is a heavy Memphis lean.
Reached by telephone, Williams, a five-star, 6’8” combo forward, told Zagoria the following:
“I’d say Memphis is the favorite. More likely, it’s Memphis right now.”
As frequently happens in cases such as this, Williams’ signing could have a domino effect on the other remaining five-star recruit, Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson.
With Memphis already solidly in the running for Stephenson’s services anyway, having Williams on board and publicly lobbying his fellow star certainly cannot hurt.
“He needs to go to Memphis,” Williams said of the 6'5" inch Stephenson, the leading scorer in New York State basketball history. “I haven’t met him, I saw him in Vegas. If he goes to Memphis, that would be a good thing.”
Stephenson is on record as saying that he wants to play for a team that will allow him to showcase his skills in the NCAA Tournament next March. There are precious few teams with scholarships open that fit that criterion.
This bodes well for Memphis, as Arizona is soft-selling their recruitment of Lance, having once openly said that they were not interested in his services.
That obstinate public stance seems to have softened somewhat, and sources indicate that Stephenson has remained in contact with Sean Miller and his staff to one degree or another.
There are no questions about Stephenson’s ability to qualify; the issues are his attitude and the looming sexual assault charges that hang over his head like the Sword of Damocles.
As for Latavious Williams, he says that he has earned an acceptable grade on the ACT, and apparently the night schooling he has been doing has improved his odds of being cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse.
Looking ahead to 2010, Memphis is also the confirmed leader with one of the premium point guard prospects in the class, and he’s very close to home: state champion Joe Jackson of Memphis White Station High School.
Jackson, a five-star at the lead guard position who is ranked fourth among point guards and No. 17 overall, is 5’11” and weighs 160 pounds. In addition to quarterbacking his team to a state title, the quicksilver Jackson more than held his own in a heralded showdown with John Wall.
Though White Station fell to Wall and Word of God, 83-71 on Jan. 17, Jackson led all scorers with 27 points, while Wall scored 24.
No one who saw the game left with the impression that Jackson was anything less than an elite scorer and fine floor general.
A colleague of mine—John Martin of TigerSportsReport.com—recently interviewed Joe Jackson. Here are some teaser excerpts:
John Martin: Where do you stand with Memphis right now?
Joe Jackson: “Oh man, I’m always a Tiger fan. Memphis is my top priority, because that’s where I’m from. As long as the spot is available and the situation’s right, then it’s all good. But if something else comes up, because of a bad situation, I’ll have to look another way.”
JM: Is there anybody, active or not, that you like to model your game after?
JJ: “My favorite players in the league are Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant. That’s who I model my game around, because the way they attack and just carry themselves. I like that. I like the way they approach the game.”
So it is fair to say that Josh Pastner has done a fantastic job of continuing the roll that Memphis has been on in recent years. Though the recruiting class took a major hit when former head man John Calipari left for Kentucky—basically taking one of the finest recruiting classes in recent memory with him—that Pastner is still on the short list with the only two five-star recruits still to be had is most impressive.
To be the acknowledged leader with one (Williams) is balm to Tiger fans’ ears.
Having Joe Jackson pledge allegiance to the hometown school lends credibility to Pastner’s avowed desire to pursue an inside-out recruiting strategy, focusing considerably more resources on the basketball rich Memphis area for recruits.
Leroy Watson, Jr. and John Martin both contribute content to Memphis.rivals.com, also known as TigerSportsReport.com. Anyone with a premium Rivals account may access the full columns which form some of the informational basis of this article.