Tiger Basketball

Playing Hurt Podcast: Let’s Fix the University of Memphis Men’s Basketball Program

TOMJoin Cerrito Live producer CJ Hurt and Sports 56 producer and WUMR Sports  host Drew Barrett as they take you on a sports odyssey full of twists, turns, and a good time during Playing Hurt Podcast.

MemphiSport Live

Playing Hurt Podcast: Who Should Replace Josh Pastner?

Josh PastnerJoin Cerrito Live and HardBashin producer CJ Hurt and Sports 56 producer and WUMR Sports  host Drew Barrett as they take you on a sports odyssey full of twists, turns, and a good time during  Playing Hurt Podcast.
MemphiSport Live

5 Reasons Why The Big 12 Should Add The University Of Memphis

big 12We might not have known who all would be involved, but we all knew conference expansion would pick back up some day.  Recent rumors have the Big 12 looking to add at least two more teams so that they can have a conference championship game and actually have “one true champion” (ignore this year’s PSA from the Big 12). The two teams that are believed to be on the Big 12 radar are Cincinnati and Memphis.

This move makes a ton of sense for everyone involved.  In fact, Memphis joining the Big 12 makes so much sense that I suggested it be done way back in 2011.

The basic points remain the same as to why the Big 12 should add the Tigers.  A strong fan base, good facilities, and marketability are all reasons why it is logical for the Big 12 to want a team like Memphis.

However, there are more reasons why they should want Memphis.  Here are Five Reasons Why the Big 12 Should Add the University of Memphis…

1). The Tigers have a football team on the rise.
In the past, one of the issues Memphis ran into during conference realignment was the fact that their football team was not up to snuff.  This is no longer the case, as finally the Tigers have a football team that is more than respectable.

They are Co-Champions of the American Athletic Conference and have an outside chance of making it to a “New Year’s Six Bowl”.  The job head coach Justin Fuente has done in three short years is truly laudable.  With coach Fuente leading the way this Tigers football program should remain relevant for several years to come.

One of the things that matter most in conference realignment is football, and now that the Tigers are good it is only logical that the Big 12 strike while the coal is hot.

2).  Mid-Southerners love college football and will support a quality team in a quality conference.
You might wonder why it matters if the Mid-South is full of passionate fans.  After all, passion and enthusiasm for college football is all over this great country.

The Mid-South is very similar to the Midwest, West Coast, and Southwest in that one “Power Five” conference dominates the college football landscape for the individual regions.  SEC football is all that Mid-Southerners care about, and it is clear to see why with the recent success of the conference.  Add to it the fact that the Mid-South is home to three teams that play in the SEC (Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Arkansas) and you have a region that is as die hard as any in the nation.

The way fans in the area thirst for college football is unlike any other region and if the Big 12 adds Memphis they will get a piece of that fervor.  Sure SEC will still reign supreme, but there are enough die hard Tigers fans in the area for the Big 12 to gain a significant following and a get a substantial number of supporters.

3). It may not seem like it now, but Memphis has a good basketball program.
There is no doubt that football is the driving force behind conference realignment.  However, adding a university that has a basketball program as exceptional as the Memphis Tigers is a good thing too.

If you ignore this season’s struggles, you will see that Memphis is a program that has a slew of conference championships over the past decade, and the Tigers have only missed out on the NCAA Tournament once since 2003.  A basketball program like the one Memphis has can be another money maker for the Big 12, which loves raking in the doe.

The Tigers will also add more prestige to a conference that already has national powerhouse Kansas and several of good programs like Texas and Iowa State.

4).  Geographically, speaking adding Memphis will help connect West Virginia to the rest of the Big 12.
We all knew that travel was going to be an issue for the Mountaineers when the Big 12 decided to add West Virginia in 2012.  The Mountaineers are on the East Coast while most of the Big 12 sits in the Southwest. The nearest conference foe to West Virginia sits two states away across Kentucky and Missouri into Kansas.

That type of travel can really wear down an athletic department’s budget.  It also annoys coaches, athletic directors, and players as well.

With the addition of both Memphis and Cincinnati to the Big 12 the conference can split into two division like the rest of the “Power Five” conferences. One can only assume the Tigers, Bearcats and Mountaineers would comprise the East Division of the Big 12.  A Big 12 East will certainly cut down on the travel that West Virginia has to do and allow for a healthier Big 12.

5).  Adding Memphis will give the Big 12 another top 50 media market.
The Big 12 has a television deal worth 2.5 billion dollars through 2025, which is not too shabby.  However, there is always more money to be had and adding yet another top 50 media market will help the conference get more doe when time comes to negotiate another television deal.

As it stands right now there are five top 50 media markets in Big 12 territory.  They are Austin, Oklahoma City, Houston, San Antonio and Dallas.  If you have not noticed, all but one of these media markets reside in Texas.

Bringing in Memphis will give the conference yet another top 50 media market, while simultaneously increasing its footprint in another part of the country.  The Big 12 will no longer be so dependent on the Texas schools to carry the burden of marketability from a media perspective.  This diversity in markets will certainly equate to more dollars when the next television contract comes up.


CJ Hurt covers college football for MemphiSport. Follow him 
@conradicalness for live tweets from games.

Memphis Tiger Basketball Replays Are Returning To WKNO (UPDATED With Schedule)

According to Sports Files host Greg Gason, the tradition of replaying Memphis Tiger basketball games on WKNO Channel 10 will be back this season with 15 broadcasts:

Gaston will be doing the play-by-play for the broadcasts.

UPDATE: Here is the full schedule of Tiger Basketball games to air on WKNO in the 2014-15 season

WKNO Schedule



Twitter: @cerrito
Email: [email protected]



MSL Interview: Josh Pastner talks about his birthday, his new Twitter account and more

happy bday coach pastner


University of Memphis men’s basketball head coach Josh Pastner joined Kevin Cerrito on MSL to celebrate his birthday weekend and talk about his new iPhone, his new Twitter account (@5050ballswinsand the Tigers’ big football game in Oxford.

Click here for more MSL interviews.

Kevin Cerrito hosts MemphiSport Live (MSL) with Marcus Hunter on Sports 56 & 87.7 FM every Saturday from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm. MSL was voted 3rd Best Sports Radio Show in the 2010, 2011 & 2012 Memphis Flyer Best of Memphis poll. 

Former Tiger standout Ernest Smith emerging as a fixture on AAU coaching circuit

WILDCAT FORMATION --- Former Memphis State basketball standout Ernest Smith (center back row) is starting to become a fixture on the local AAU coaching circuit. Smith's Memphis Wildcats 9-and-under team has enjoyed much success as one of the area's youngest units. (Photos submitted by Ernest Smith)

WILDCAT FORMATION — Former Memphis State basketball standout Ernest Smith (center back row) is starting to become a fixture on the local AAU coaching circuit. Smith’s Memphis Wildcats 9-and-under team has enjoyed much success as one of the area’s youngest units. (Photos submitted by Ernest Smith)

DALLAS — Ernest Smith was a force on the Memphis basketball circuit in the mid-1980s when he was a high-flying star at Whitehaven High.

Today, the former Memphis State standout is putting his coaching techniques to test as a coach of the Memphis Wildcats AAU 9-and-under team.

For Smith, who starred at small forward for the Tigers from 1988-92, coaching youths who boast lofty aspirations of transcending through the local basketball ranks much like he did nearly three decades ago is a challenge by which he envisioned long before his professional career ended.

Following his collegiate career under Memphis icon and legendary coach Larry Finch, Smith enjoyed a stellar career of international ball, having played in Switzerland, Mexico, and South America in the early-to-late 1990s.

Coaching, he contends, offer more challenges, especially for youths who are still developing their mechanics and fundamentals.

HUMAN HIGHLIGHT FILM --- Smith, played for the Tigers from 1988-92, was known primarily for his astouding leaping ability.

HUMAN HIGHLIGHT FILM — Smith, who played for the Tigers from 1988-92, was known primarily for his astouding leaping ability.


“We teach them the basic fundamentals, from layup drills, dribbling, shooting midrange junpers, practicing free throws, you name it,” said Smith, whose team is in Dallas this weekend for a national tournament.

Fortunately for Smith, his Wildcats, a Team Penny-sanctioned squad, has enjoyed success in recent years, in large part because it has seasoned coaches to help inspire his players on and off the court.

Jarvis Stephen, who coaches basketball at Hamilton Middle School, assumes a majority of the head coaching duties for the Wildcats. Like Smith, Stephen, who is in his second full season with the team, welcomes the challenges that come with training young athletes.

“Honestly, it’s more tough to coach these young kids because they’re at such a young age,” Stephen said. “But I’m more hands on. I’m able to build a better rapport with the parents because they trust our (coaching background).”

Former Raleigh-Egypt standout Steve Holloway also coaches the Wildcats 9-and-under squad. Like Smith and Stephen, he relishes the fact that this unit has rid itself of assuming the proverbial “superstar role” and has developed the habit of gelling as a team.

“One of the hardest parts about 9-and-under kids is discipline,” Holloway said. “Besides the (occasional) attitude problems, we’ve got to teach them to adjust and play as a team. That’s one of the hardest parts of coaching kids this age.”

With proper discipline, comes success on the court.


TEXAS SIZE STAGE --- The Wildcats' 9-and-under AAU squad is taking part in a tournament this weekend in Dallas that features an array of Mid-South-area teams.

TEXAS SIZE STAGE — The Memphis Wildcats’ 9-and-under AAU squad is taking part in a tournament this weekend in Dallas that features an array of Mid-South-area teams.

Last year, the Wildcats were as good advertised, finishing in the Top 10 nationally. Before emerging as a national standout, the Wildcats won a host a regular-season tournaments throughout the region and claimed the state crown in their age division.

“It was a lot easier (as the season progressed) because everybody developed a team concept,” said Smith, assessing last season. “They got better and they played up to our expectations.”

Smith and Co. expect more of the same No-I-In-Team concept this year for a Wildcat team that returned a majority of last year’s roster. After this weekend’s tournament here, the Wildcats have trips scheduled to New Orleans and Orlando, among other sites.

As the team lobbies for additional sponsors to aid with travel expenses, supplies, hotels, and other necessities, Smith said his primary objective is to help instill in his players that there’s more to playing basketball within the parameters of Memphis.

TEXAS-SIZE CHAMPS --- Smith's Wildcats seized yet another championship over the weekend in Dallas.

TEXAS-SIZE CHAMPS — Smith’s Wildcats seized yet another championship over the weekend in Dallas.

“We need all the sponsors we can get,” Smith said. “We try to keep our team as a group. We try to get charter buses so our team can be together. When we go to Orlando, we’re getting flight tickets because some of our kids have never flown.”

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at [email protected]. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist. 

Tigers seek redemption in inaugural AAC Tournament

Photo by Chris Evans

Photo by Chris Evans

Tonight in Downtown Memphis the American Athletic Conference tips off it’s inaugural conference tournament. Tonight’s double feature matchups showcase four teams with losing records both overall and in the conference. But we’ve known all season long that this conference was very top heavy.

Tomorrow things will really get going as the Tigers take on a UConn team (at 8pm CST on ESPNU) that has already beaten them twice this year. However in the first game things were tight until the Tigers collapsed in the final 5 minutes. The second time the game went to overtime. These are two teams that know each other well at this point.

The key to defeating UConn is no secret: Stop AAC Player of the Year Shabazz Napier. In the first matchup Napier had 17 points and 10 assists. In the second he had 34 points and 4 assists. Not that they don’t have other talented guys but I think it’s fair to say UConn wins and loses with Shabazz Napier. [Read more…]

Tigers take down Zags, Bring on the Madness


Photo by Chris Evans

Photo by Chris Evans

Saturday night, with 14:35 left in the game, the Memphis Tigers trailed the Gonzaga Bulldogs by 12 points. The Tigers’ Shaq Goodwin had fouled Sam Dower after a made layup, and as Dower headed to the line to shoot the freebie, I thought to myself, “Man. Another missed opportunity.”

Dower missed the free throw. A minute later Memphis’ Joe Jackson, listed at 6’1’’, but really standing at 5’11’’, climbed an invisible ladder and shut down the 7’1’’ Prezemek Karnowski by blocking a gimme dunk. Karnowski had absolutely had his way with the Tiger big men all day, but with that SportsCenter Top 10 worthy dunk, Joe Jackson, on his birthday no less, changed the game in an unspeakable way.

In front of a raucous 18,248 fans, the Memphis Tigers did what they haven’t been able to do at home so far this season. They came back and beat a team that had their number on their home court. They decided the outcome of the game instead of letting the opponent have their way. The Tigers said, “This is our house. We’ll be damned if you come in and make us look like chumps here.”

It felt good to have my heart pumping in the last 10 minutes of the game. In the Connecticut and Cincinnati losses, there was never a moment when I said to myself, “The Tigers have this.” But last night, with the rowdiest Tiger crowd I’ve seen since Derrick Rose, I knew this game was the Tigers’ to take.

Michael Dixon, Jr. and his comeback story continued by making a layup to put the Tigers ahead for the first time in the second half and for the last time overall with 1:12 left in the game. Nick King put in crazy productive minutes in the 2nd half by grabbing rebounds, diving for loose balls, and telling the world he belongs in the game when it matters most. And then there were Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford, the two seniors playing in their 100th win as Tigers, making FREE THROWS when it mattered.

The Tigers, after that Joe Jackson block, went on a run of monumental importance. They beat a top-25 opponent on their home court. They made a statement on ESPN after their team and their hometown hosted College Gameday. They came back from being down and out and won a game against a great opponent.

The 2013-14 Memphis Tigers might not be a Final Four team. But when they can get beat up by a very talented Gonzaga team and still come back and win the game, their fans have plenty of reasons to have faith in theem. There are lots of games left to play. The Tigers have to go to Cincinnati, Connecticut, and still have to host Louisville and SMU, as well as the AAC tournament. But last night, playing a damn good team, was as close to an NCAA Tournament game the Tigers will get before the Big Dance actually begins.

Ladies and Gentlemen, March is going to be fun. Buckle up for the ride.


Memphis Tigers need to find an identity down the stretch


Photo by Chris Evans

Photo by Chris Evans

When the Tigers took the court this past Saturday they did so with a great chance to send a message. Everyone who follows the University of Memphis and AAC basketball as a whole knew this SMU matchup had all the makings of a trap game. SMU would try to slow things down and force the Tigers to run a half court offense, which is often an absolute disaster due to the Tigers total disregard for off-ball movement.

However, through the first 20 minutes Memphis seemed to be up for the challenge. They went into the half tied but then as the second half started it didn’t take long to realize that it was all a mirage. Things got ugly as SMU went on a parade of layups and uncontested three point shots. That is not hyperbole either, SMU had 14 layups and six made three point shots in the second half.

The problem as this writer sees it is that the Tigers have no clue what their identity is as a team. What do they hang their hat on? What is one thing they do really well that you can rely on in every game? The fact is that it seems like every time we see this team we see something different.

They are like the old “It’s Pat” skits from Saturday Night Live. We don’t know what they heck they really are.

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Courtesy: Wikipedia

The Tigers are sitting in a decent spot at 16-5 considering they don’t really have any losses to bad teams. The problem is that outside of the two-point loss to Florida, all of their other losses were in games that they were never competitive in down the stretch. And I really think that has everything to do with their lack of an identity. Josh Pastner is primarily a man-to-man defensive guy but yet he was hell bent on that zone defense that kept getting abused in the second half against SMU. It’s not that you can’t change things up to fit the matchups in each game, it’s just that if you’re having to rely on a zone defense that isn’t even stopping SMU that’s a problem.

And the sad thing is that I don’t really even see this team’s defensive struggles as a lack of effort. They play pretty hard, pretty consistently for the most part. But if this team is going to make a run down the stretch in the AAC and into the NCAA Tournament, they are going to have to find something to hang their hats on. They are going to have to find a way to be consistently good at something. They are going to have to find a way to move around on offense when they can’t play in transition. And they are going to have to actually get some stops if they ever want to see a transition opportunity again.

It’s not all gloom and doom because they lost to SMU. Many of us saw that as a decent possibility. It’s more about the way things went, and have gone in the games they have lost.

Looking ahead the Tigers will have a middle of the road Rutgers team to rebound against on Tuesday before ESPN’s College GameDay comes to town this Saturday for the Gonzaga matchup. I still think there is time for things to start really clicking but it’s going to have to start sooner rather than later if they are going to have any rhythm going into the postseason.

Clayton Martin is a regular contributor for MemphiSport and The Wise Guise. Read his non-sports stuff here. Follow him @ClaytonAMartin.

PHOTO: Joe Jackson and Geron Johnson visit the National Civil Rights Museum

With Martin Luther King, Jr. Day just around the corner, Memphis Tiger basketball stars Joe Jackson and Geron Johnson thought it was a good time to visit the National Civil Rights Museum.

On Wednesday morning, Johnson tweeted (@G_Johnson55) this photo of the duo in front of the museum in downtown Memphis:joe geron mlk

Twitter: @cerrito
Email: [email protected]