Posted on: January 29, 2012 12:17 am
Edited on: January 29, 2012 12:21 am
By Gary Parrish
MEMPHIS -- Wesley Witherspoon has had a strange college career filled with more downs than ups.
The diehard fans have been hard on him
Some have given up on him.
But he's the reason Memphis is still atop the Conference USA standings.
The 6-foot-8 senior finished with 12 points in Saturday night's 83-76 win over Marshall here at FedExForum that pushed the Tigers' league mark to the same 6-1 record that Southern Miss earned earlier. But he also chased loose balls. And drew a charge. And blocked a shot in the final three minutes. And grabbed an offensive rebound in the closing seconds. And basically did all the little things coaches beg players to do.
"You never know what my role is gonna be [because] it changes night in and night out," Witherspoon said. "So I just have to make sure I'm ready to play basketball everyday."
Which has always been the knock on Witherspoon.
He's frustrating because he's not ready to play basketball everyday.
Sometimes he's very good.
But he disappears too often for anybody's liking.
Proof is in the fact that the former projected first-round draft pick is a reserve ranked eighth in points per game on the Memphis roster. His coaches have decided they can't rely on him, and it's difficult to blame them. But now isn't the time to stress that because Wesley Witherspoon was the anti-Wesley Witherspoon on this night. He didn't jog. He ran. He wasn't soft. He played strong. He didn't sulk. He smiled.
And he doesn't really have a reputation for smiling much on the court.
"Exactly," said Memphis sophomore Will Barton. "So we've just got to keep him smiling all the time."
Posted on: January 18, 2011 12:00 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2011 12:09 pm
Posted by Matt Norlander
His message was delivered quickly, but Josh Pastner seems to be about second chances.
You can't deny he's high on the discipline, though.
Pastner, the head coach at Memphis, announced last night he'll let junior forward Wesley Witherspoon back on the team Thursday morning. That reinstatement comes the day after the Tigers' big road game against 14-3 Southern Mississippi, which happens to be one of the best teams in (a relatively weak) Conference USA.
Pastner can downplay Witherspoon's actions all he wants, but the drama around this program will not go away until the season ends. Like I noted above, Pastner's a disciplinarian, but also not above letting guys come back, tail between their legs, and give it a second go.
That's what happened with freshman Jelan Kendrick in November — before he inevitably transferred.
What's going to be interesting is to see how Memphis plays without Witherspoon against Southern Miss. If the Tigers win big, then talk radio (which is almost always all about Memphis basketball) will be abuzz over whether Witherspoon returning so soon is a good thing.
If the Tigers win, they're 2-0 without Witherspoon and 12-4 with him. It's sample size, but it won't stop fans from making and taking that leap. If Memphis loses, then of course the conversation's different.
The details of why Witherspoon was suspended were covered in Gary Parrish's blog post a few days ago. While what he did was disrespectful, it's hardly the most heinous of acts. The Tigers are hardly a bubble team right now. Their at-large hopes rest in what happens over the course of the next three games: at Southern Miss, at 12-4 UAB and home against 14-2 Central Florida.
If Witherspoon's paid his dues, Pastner's got little choice but to get him back on the team as soon as possible to keep March hopes alive.
Photo: US PRESSWIRE
Posted on: January 13, 2011 8:16 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2011 8:27 pm
Posted by Matt Norlander
For the second time this season, second-year coach Josh Pastner has shown he's not afraid to run the Memphis men's basketball program by his exact, no-tolerance rules.
At least that's how it looks from the outside.
Who knows how long it's taking for Pastner to come to these domineering decisions privately — what series of actions behind closed doors are piling up — but at the very least the Memphis coach isn't letting things wiggle from his grip from a public perspective.
First it was Jelan Kendrick who earned a suspension under Pastner's rule in November. He eventually left the program and landed at Mississippi last month. And now, tonight, it's junior Wesley Witherspoon who's being put on ice for an indefinite amount of time. This coming one night after Memphis lost for the second straight season at mediocre Southern Methodist.
The news broke a short while ago, when Pastner informed the media after a Tigers practice.
From the outside, it seems Pastner's basically saying, if this team is going to lose, it's going to do it with the future of this program and the guys who are fully invested. That anyone who's immature, lacks leadership and embodies apathy, those guys, they can take a hike and do some soul searching. That's what Pastner's put in front of Witherspoon now.
Will he be back? After Kendrick's jettison act, who knows for certain? This team is young and talented and we all expected some drama. Who knew we'd get a fireworks show like this, though?
The 20-year-old, 6-9 Witherspoon was thought to be the leader of this team back in October. But the forward's had far too may non-impactful performances throughout Memphis' 12-4 season so far. He's been anything but a model alpha for this group. Many close to the program have seen the proof first-hand: he doesn't work hard, he doesn't guard anybody and he generally doesn't care too much about which way the ship sails.
Basically the feeling is losing doesn't bother him. And with Pastner, that's something he won't tolerate — all the way to the point where he'll temporarily remove a guy from the team.
The second-year coach is trying to change the tone. Pastner's a young guy too (33), so it's all the more impressive he's so insistent with his team like this. He knows this decision immediately creates a swirling melodrama around his already unstable team.
Tells all you need to know about how fed up Pastner is with Witherspoon.