Memphis Tigers: Pastner's Chances as Good as Calipari's

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Memphis Tigers: Pastner's Chances as Good as Calipari's
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Local product Joe Jackson brings hope to Memphis that was gone when former coach John Calipari left for Kentucky.

Baby steps.

Those should be the key words to Memphis coach Josh Pastner's reign as Memphis men's basketball head coach. After former coach John Calipari left the Tigers for dead, Pastner's well on his way to making Memphis respectable again.

Well, they are respectable. A top 25 team with fantastic freshman talent is pretty impressive. But as expected, the program is not on the level where it was with Calipari, who finished with four consecutive 30 win seasons and a final four trip with the Tigers.

But Kalipari's kryptonite is that he prioritizes player development over winning. He practically admitted it when he said that the most important day in Kentucky history was when five of his players went pro in the 2010 NBA draft.

Also, the fact that Calipari always makes free throw shooting a priority shows that he focuses solely on the skills that NBA teams like. When have you ever seen a player drafted highly because of free throw shooting?

Calipari's player development priorities make him the best recruiter in all of college basketball, but he is unlikely to win a championship without making winning a priority. The only way he will win is if the field of competition is weak, and he wins off talent alone.

Pastner already has had success recruiting, though. Joe Jackson and William Barton have already become backcourt leaders.

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Barton is the second ranked shooting guard recruit according to rivals.com. He leads Memphis in scoring and rebounding. Jackson is ranked fifth among point guard recruits. The Memphis native leads the Tigers in assists. Also, Chris Crawford, ranked 17th among shooting guards, has been a solid scorer and defender.

It's not quite on the Calipari level, but Pastner's first full recruiting class (he came in towards the end of the previous year's recruiting season) is one of the best in basketball.

The question is whether or not the one-and-done trend of Calipari's programs will continue. I have so much faith in Memphis because I see all three of these freshmen returning for a sequel.

At 6-0, I don't see Jackson drafted highly if he goes pro, so I see him staying. At 6-6 and 175 lbs., Barton needs to build muscle before being a solid NBA contributor. Crawford will likely never make the NBA.

This Memphis team has the opportunity. They can continue to be known as a program of one-and-dones or they can become a school dedicated to staying and winning.

This class is a good start. College programs begin to become respectable by recruiting players who stick around because they won't go pro. If all three freshmen contributors return next year, Memphis should have a top ten program.

They're ranked now, although it's hard to tell why if you just saw their loss to Georgetown yesterday. But their only losses are to top ten teams Georgetown and Kansas. If most of their losses are to elite teams this year, there is no reason why this program won't have an extremely bright future.

Pastner will never have a team as talented as Calipari's, but Calipari has never won it all. Winning takes not only talent, but dedication too. If Pastner can bring that dedication, Memphis can win the title that Calipari never brought.

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