With the season opener just a few days away, there was no way the Tigers could keep Jelan Kendrick on the bench.
After meeting and exceeding what Memphis coach Josh Pastner said were a series of objectives, Kendrick saw his first playing time as a Tiger in a 75-49 exhibition win over Christian Brothers on Tuesday night. Though his stat line was inconsequential, Kendrick’s presence in the lineup meant the uber-talented Tigers are one step closer to being at full strength for the start of the regular season Friday against Centenary.
“I’ve always said that when something you love gets taken away, sometimes it gives you another perspective,” Pastner said. “Sometimes that light goes off.”
Kendrick, who’d missed two weeks of practice dealing with a “personal matter,” was allowed to return to practice this week, but sat out the first preseason game Nov. 3. The McDonald’s All-American logged 15 minutes Tuesday, finishing 4-of-8 from the field with eight points, two rebounds and two assists.
“There are certain situations in life you have to learn from and continue to grow,” Kendrick said. “I have totally different mindset now. I’ve set a new standard for myself.”
Figuring out the rotation
Memphis’ offense hasn’t looked very fluid in either of its preseason games, and some of that is Pastner’s fault. With so many players deserving of time, it’s a better problem to have than most. But that doesn’t make it any less difficult.
The only two players not to see any time Tuesday were Tarik Black and Will Barton —- both out with minor injuries. Six players had eight points or more. The leading scorer? Freshman backup point guard Antonio Barton.
“During a timeout, I told our assistants that I probably did a poor job by not letting us get in a rhythm because I was subbing so much,” Pastner said. “That was the case both preseason games, but that won’t be the case from here forward.”
Though he is intent on tightening the rotation, Pastner said he still isn’t sure exactly how he’ll do it. Well, he sort of said it like that. You’ve got to see the full quote:
“I’m not any closer to knowing how I’ll tighten up the rotation,” Pastner said. “I wish I could play everyone 40 minutes, but gosh darn it, Dr. James Nasmith invented a game with only five guys on the court at a time. … Our guys are going to have to understand that.”
• Charles Carmouche had a big game offensively against Lemoyne-Owen, and he followed it up with a big game defensively against Christian Brothers. He had five of the Tigers’ 11 steals.
• Exhibition game or not, the Tigers held CBU to 5-of-25 (20 percent) shooting from the 3-point line. They played well defensively overall, forcing 18 turnovers and holding the Bucs to 33.9 shooting from the field.
• Witherspoon had another night of showing why he’s an NBA talent. He drove baseline, elevated and dunked. He grabbed nine boards. He even added a block and a steal.
Barton ready for Friday?
Will Barton hasn’t seen the court since injuring his knee and ankle in practice Oct. 22. Though he said after the exhibition Tuesday that he’d be ready for Centenary on Friday, his coach wasn’t so quick to make the same promise.
“I don’t know (if he’ll play),” Pastner said. “I’ve got to talk to your staff. We have a day off (Wednesday), practice Thursday and then we’ll see what he does then. I’m not going to put him in a position where he could get hurt any further.”
Brandon Harris covers Tiger basketball for Memphis Sport. You can follow him via Twitter @bharris901.