Wading in with some thoughts on several topics, starting with Adonis Thomas and Tarik Black leaving the University of Memphis basketball program:
• First off, the Tigers will be fine without them. The No. 2-ranked recruiting class in the country is on the way and while the Tigers still want another big man to replace Black, the truth is that both Thomas and Black were disappointments this past season. This is also why I wish Adonis and Tarik were staying; odds are it would be better for them if they stayed.
Black, because he already will have graduated, can transfer and play immediately at another school. The only restriction coach Josh Pastner has placed on his release from Memphis is that Black can’t transfer to a school on the Tigers’ schedule next year. That’s reasonable and fair.
Black held a, well, unique press conference at his family’s home – while wearing a Memphis shirt – to announce he was transferring. In its way, it captured his career. He wanted to be here, but he didn’t want to be here. He believes the opportunities might be greater elsewhere. And maybe they will be. But Black was his own worst enemy his junior season. He walked out of practice and though he came back, it was as though he never came all the way back. Wherever he goes, he’ll have to grab more than 4.5 rebounds a game or he won’t be starting there, either.
• As for Thomas, his aim always was to enter the NBA draft ASAP. The injury his freshman season short-circuited that plan. He played big minutes this past season but his production did not match his time on the court and he never played with anything close to the toughness required for even an end-of-the-bench player in the NBA. And what he lacks in toughness and the willingness to do the dirty work, he certainly does not make up for in outside shooting.
Not surprisingly, Thomas is not listed as being chosen in draftexpress.com’s mock draft. And even someone such as guard Russ Smith, who has a much bigger motor and just won a national title with Louisville, is projected as a second-rounder. Adonis Thomas would have been better served to come back to Memphis and to stay two years, to really work on his game and then see what opportunities are out there. Sometimes, guys have to learn the hard way.
• Through April 9, veteran guard Keyon Dooling – a late addition to the Grizzlies – had only played a total of 25 minutes in three games and he had scored 6 points with 2 assists and 3 turnovers. He came out of retirement to sign with Memphis, so he’s still got some rust on his game. I’m not sure there’s enough time to knock it off. After he played 12 minutes against Charlotte, coach Lionel Hollins also didn’t sound totally sure.
“I think he’ll probably be the backup point guard,” Hollins said, hedging. “Unless as we go forward he shows he can’t do it. I don’t think he’s a true point guard, but he’s not a true scorer either.”
Assuming Jerryd Bayless is good to go (sore knee), Bayless should take most of the minutes and Dooling will only have to care take for a minute or two here and there in the playoffs.
• I have no problem with Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice losing his job or even his becoming Public Enemy No. 1 in the wake of the video showing him physically abusing players in practice. But I do have a problem with the way national media has rolled around in their self-righteousness because I know how this would have gone had the coach in question been a big name near retirement about to have employment on the set of ESPN or some other network. Which is to say, all the TV talking heads would have been making excuses for a famous coach. But Mike Rice? His head fit nice and snug next to the front tire of the bus.
* Starting Tuesday, April 16, I’ll have a regular segment every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 Middays – 560 on your AM dial, 87.7 on FM – with hosts Greg Gaston and Eli Savoie. Thanks to The Daily News and the Memphis Baseball Academy for sponsorship.
Don Wade is a native of Kansas City and a former feature writer for The Kansas City Star and sports reporter for The Commercial Appeal. His column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News.