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VOL. 129 | NO. 150 | Monday, August 4, 2014

Tigers Look to Build Chemistry on Canada Trip

By Don Wade

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What Tigers sophomore Nick King knows about Canada can be explained in two words: Andrew Wiggins – the Toronto native who was the No. 1 pick in the recent NBA Draft.

What King knows about improving his defense can be explained in one word: yoga. Well, more than one word may be necessary, but yoga is the key word.

King, in speaking about the University of Memphis basketball team’s upcoming four-game trip to Canada – Aug. 15-20 – said he is focusing on improving his defense and to do that he needs to do a better job of moving his feet. And to do that he said he has discovered he needs better flexibility in his hip flexors. And to achieve that, he’s turning to yoga, which is something teammates Austin Nichols and Shaq Goodwin have tried.

Sophomore Nick King and the University of Memphis Tigers will be working on team chemistry on upcoming trip to Canada.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

“I heard it’s tough,” said King, a 6-7 wing player.

Better defense – by whatever means – is just one of the goals for a young Tiger team that will look to take advantage of 10 additional practices and four exhibition games in preparation for a season that will have them starting a whole new backcourt.

Tigers coach Josh Pastner already has said this backcourt hasn’t played “one second of Division 1 basketball” so often that it sees like the phrase is on a loop. But it’s true they’re young.

Redshirt freshmen Pookie Powell and Markel Crawford figure to battle for the starting point guard position. Crawford is bigger, 6-foot-4 to Powell’s 6 feet, and his size gives him an edge defensively.

Offensively, the games in Canada will provide an opportunity to see each operate as a facilitator and a scorer. Pastner said the Tigers might only have “one or two plays” because of the backcourt’s inexperience, but that’s a mere starting point.

“There’s going to be some mistakes made,” Pastner said, again referring to the point guards having no college game experience. “We’ve also got some guys that can do some things with the ball and are talented. So we don’t want to box them in, either. You want to allow them to have some creativity to make plays.”

Shooting guard is also an open competition with 6-2 sophomore Avery Woodson, a junior college transfer who is considered a strong outside shooter, likely to get a lot of run on the Canada trip. Another JUCO transfer, 6-7 Trahson Burrell, might fit at the two or the three, but won’t make the Canada trip as he takes care of academic requirements.

Pastner is emphasizing defense – he mentioned 6-3 freshman guard Dominic Magee as being impressive defensively so far – and limiting turnovers.

“We had way too many turnovers (last season),” the coach said. “Not only from the backcourt but in the post area.”

The competition will be better than what the Tigers faced in the Bahamas four years ago when they won both their games by lopsided scores. Carleton University in Ottawa beat Wisconsin in an exhibition game last August just months before the Badgers went on to have a Final Four season.

Pastner said he has spent some time with Badgers coach Bo Ryan because Wisconsin is so efficient in its possessions and charts everything.

“We just need to keep it simple, sound and solid,” Pastner said.

The trip to Canada also gives the Tigers a jump on bonding as a team.

“One of our top priorities is team chemistry,” Nichols said. “Already I think our chemistry is really good. And chemistry takes a little time. But if we’re all two feet in, we can be a great team.”

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