Last season, the Memphis Tigers failed to advance to the NCAA Tournament for just the second time since head coach Josh Pastner took over the reigns from John Calipari in 2009.
Coming off a letdown 18-14 showing overall and a 10-8 record in AAC play, Memphis is in search of a return to relevance and that could happen with eight freshmen added to the mix. The large influx of young talent after they lost four total players this off-season. Senior Calvin Godfrey graduated while leading scorer Austin Nichols transferred to Virginia and Nick King went to Alabama and Pookie Powell latched on with La Salle.
Pastner, a former assistant at Arizona and at Memphis before succeeding Calipari will have his work cut out for him this season. However, after last year’s bad showing he has new faces that could help the Tigers be a much better unit overall.
The Tigers graded as the 12th-best recruiting class this season by 247Sports. They added the most players of any program besides Kentucky and Washington. Led by brothers Dedric Lawson and K.J. Lawson, this young Memphis team is on the rise.
The Lawson brothers come from Hamilton high school in Memphis, TN. A 6’9″ power forward, Dedric Lawson was voted as the Gatorade Tennessee Boys Basketball Player of The Year after he averaged 21.3 points, 15.5 rebounds, 3.2 blocks, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game on the way to a state title as a senior.
“Dedric Lawson is so versatile with his offensive game,” said Sherman Jones, head coach of local Melrose High via the Gatorade press release. “When he goes to the post he demands a double-team, but he’s a willing passer with great vision so it’s almost always an opportunity for a score. He’s so valuable to the team because he does so much more than score.”
Keelon “K.J” Lawson is a lengthy 6’7″ wing player who can help the Tigers go big or small whenever they desire. He should play alongside his brother often as the two look to change the culture at Memphis for the better.
Another promising freshman added is 6’11” center Nick Marshall, who dons a size 18 shoe and can be a very good post man if he puts on more muscle. The Tigers also added four guards in point guards Randall Broddie and Jeremiah Martin and shooting guards Craig Randall and Dante Scott.
Three of the top four players from a year ago return to the roster, so Memphis won’t be a completely young and revamped team. Senior power forward Shaq Goodwin led the team in rebounds with 7.1 and was second with 9.6 points per game.
Also, back is senior wing Trahson Burrell, who averaged 9.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last year. Junior guard Avery Woodson is the only player to appear in all 32 games as he posted 7.9 points per game.
One of the most exciting players for the Tigers could be senior Alabama transfer Ricky Tarrant Jr. The point guard was second in scoring (13.1 PPG) before suffering an injury after 13 games for the Crimson Tide.
Tarrant, Goodwin, Burrell, Goodwin will be the core of the squad with the Lawson brothers playing often, especially Dedric, who is expected to be a starter from the jump.
After finishing sixth in the AAC, Pastner has more talent this year and if Memphis can become more successful than they should find themselves back in postseason play this March. The Tigers should surprise many this season with the versatility and athleticness they have overall.