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Tigers facing uncertain future

<p>The University of Memphis men's basketball team faces an uncertain future, including current coach Josh Pastner. Pastner has coached the team since the 2009-10 season.&nbsp;</p>
The University of Memphis men's basketball team faces an uncertain future, including current coach Josh Pastner. Pastner has coached the team since the 2009-10 season. 

The Memphis Tigers finished the 2015-2016 season with a 19-15 record and missed the postseason for the second consecutive year after a 72-58 loss to the UConn Huskies in the American Athletic Conference tournament final.

Now, there is plenty of uncertain¬ty moving forward for the Memphis men’s basketball program after two down seasons. Not only are the Tigers losing three of their top four scorers to graduation in Shaq Goodwin (14.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game), Ricky Tarrant Jr. (11.7 points and 3.2 assists per game) and Trahson Burrell (10 points and 6.2 rebounds per game), but Memphis could also lose more players to transfer.

Memphis has seen nine players transfer since the 2013-14 season, including Memphis natives Nick King and Austin Nichols last season.

The roster isn’t the only area where the program will see some turnover. News broke early Wednesday assis¬tant Damon Stoudamire has been named the head coach of Pacific University.

University of Memphis President M. David Rudd released a statement Monday the men’s basketball pro¬gram will be under review in a “com¬prehensive evaluation.†Multiple sources speculate the review will revolve around coach Josh Pastner, and whether to bring him back for an eighth season. Pastner’s contract has $10.6 million remaining on it, which runs through the 2019-20 season.

With that said, now it’s time to take a way-too-early look at the 2016-2017 roster.

Dedric Lawson

Dedric is coming off one of the most outstanding freshman seasons in U of M history. The 6-foot-9 local phenom posted a school record-tying 17 double-doubles on the year. He led the team in scoring and rebound¬ing with 15.8 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game.

Dedric’s return is a huge question mark for the program. Pastner con¬firmed Monday at the season ending press conference his star big man will test the NBA Draft waters without signing an agent. This means Dedric can tryout for all 30 NBA teams, as well as participate in the NBA Draft Combine, without compromising his eligibility, before deciding between entering the draft or returning to school.

If he decides to enter the draft, Memphis will have to scramble to fill a hole that’s basically unfillable. On the other hand, if he returns he will undoubtedly be the best player on the Memphis roster next season. With the loss of so many upperclass¬men, he will have to take on an even bigger role next year—which doesn’t seem possible or fair after the incred¬ible season he had this year.


University of Memphis forward Dedric Lawson in action this season. He won the 2015-16 American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year Award. 

Avery Woodson

Woodson finished the 2015- 2016 season averaging 9.6 points per game, while shooting 43 per¬cent from behind the three-point line. The junior, out of Waynesboro, Mississippi, made an impressive 77 three-pointers.

Woodson is in an interesting situ¬ation moving forward, as he is on pace to graduate early this spring. If he elected to transfer, he would become a graduate transfer and play immediately at his new school.

After the season Woodson had, he would be a highly sought after grad-transfer, and could have his pick of the litter of interested schools. If Woodson were to return he would be relied on heavily on the offen¬sive end of the floor, especially since Memphis could lose its top four lead¬ing scorers.

Markel Crawford

Crawford will have to step up big time for the Tigers next season. The 6-foot-4 Memphis native has carried the label as the team’s best defender the last two seasons, but his inconsistency on offense and lack of confidence in his shooting has kept him off the floor. The redshirt sophomore has all the potential in the world. He is an incredible athlete and has a high basketball IQ, but it hasn’t translated statistically.

Through two seasons, Crawford has a career average of 21.5 min¬utes per game, but in that time he has posted only 5.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. In the 2015-16 season, Crawford averaged 5.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. Memphis will need Crawford to almost double those numbers next year to make up for the production it loses this off-season.

Jeremiah Martin

Martin had an up-and-down first year as a Tiger. Through the 2015- 16 season he posted 2.7 points, 1.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. He came to Memphis known as an aggressive defender with a high motor and lived up to that label.

Much like Crawford though, Martin seemed timid at times on offense. The 6-foot-2 Memphis native struggled to find consistency in his shot, but showed a lot of poten-tial driving to the basket. He played most of his minutes as a backup point guard, but struggled directing the offense and seemed more natural as a shooting guard.

Overall, Martin can be a very productive player moving forward for Memphis, but it’s going to take some time and development. Next season, he should see more playing time though because of his defensive prowess.

Nick Marshall

Marshall has a great opportunity moving forward. With the graduation of star big man Shaq Goodwin, there is now a huge hole in the Tigers’ front line. Marshall, a 6-foot-11 Lexington, Tennessee native, didn’t have a great freshman year, but he showed plenty of potential.

He only averaged 3.1 points and 2.7 rebounds through 8.8 minutes per game. He showed some raw skills in the post, as he can out man most defenders with his size. Surprisingly he also showed some nice range to his shooting, hitting multiple deep twos from the high post and corner. He finished the year with a team-high 54 percent shooting clip from the field. Like Martin, Marshall can be a very solid contributor for Memphis moving forward, but that will depend on how much effort he puts into conditioning and developing some post moves in the offseason.

Craig Randall II

Randall II didn’t see much playing time through the beginning of the 2015-16 season, but the 6-foot-4 freshman started seeing a lot more action as the season progressed. He ended the year with 2.3 points and 1.3 rebounds through 8.2 minutes per game. In his first season, Randall II showed he has a nice shot from deep. If he can find more consistency with that shot (eight 0f 43 on the year in 2015-16), it wouldn’t be surprising to see him have a similar career as Woodson has in his time at Memphis.

K.J. Lawson

K.J., the older Lawson brother, had to sit out the majority of his freshmen season with an Achilles injury. With only playing 10 games on the year, Memphis will now seek a medical redshirt for Lawson. If the 6-foot-7 forward is granted a medical redshirt for the 2015-16 season, he will have four years of eligibility remaining.

In the time K.J. did play though he showed tons of potential. He averaged 8.8 points and 3.5 rebounds through 19.7 minutes per game. K.J. excelled at driving to the basket and drawing fouls. He also demonstrated a nice mid-range jumper. He will need to improve his ball handling and ball control, as he often became erratic when driving to the hole resulting in turnovers. If he can get this in check, he could be a starter next year and one of the team’s biggest weapons.

Sam Craft

Craft, who averaged 2.1 points and 1.2 rebounds through 12.7 minutes per game, is already back on the gridiron working with the Memphis Tigers football team. Craft came in at mid-season and played a crucial role as the back up point guard. He was very successful on the defensive end of the floor, but like many of the other Tiger guards he struggled offensively. This was to be expected though for craft, as it had been about three years since he had played organized basketball.

It will be interesting to see Craft’s development on the hardwood, as football will be his priority likely through December. But with half a season under his belt at the collegiate level, if Craft returns to the basketball Tigers at mid-season next year you can expect that he will be much more confident as a play maker.

Charlie Moore

At 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds, Moore comes to Memphis rated the No. 68 player in the nation according to ESPN’s class of 2016 top 100 rankings. The point guard out of Morgan Park High School in Chicago is known as a scoring point guard that has tons of ability as a playmaker. He has the talent to come in and make an immediate impact, especially with the graduation of starting guard Tarrant Jr.

The biggest question for Moore will be whether or not he sticks with the Tigers through the staff changes. Stoudamire was a big key in landing Moore and his departure for the Pacific job could affect Moore’s decision of enrolling at Memphis.

Jimario Rivers

Rivers, a 6-foot-8 forward out of Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis, averaged 10.3 points per game on a 59.4 percent shooting clip from the floor throughout the 2014-15 season. He also racked 7.2 rebounds per game as well.

Although he is more of a small forward or stretch-four, he adds some invaluable size to the Tigers’ roster next season.

Other Additions

In no way is the 2016-17 roster close to being complete. As of now, if the aforementioned players all return next season (which would be surprising), that would only make up nine scholarship players (Craft is a walk-on on a football scholarship). This would leave room for at least four more scholarships players to come in. Now whether these players will come from recruiting high school or junior college players or bringing in graduate transfers is still to be determined, as there hasn’t really been any buzz of players that are on Pastner and his staff’s radar for the 2016-17 season.

Over the last few years Pastner has been very successful in bringing in grad-transfers. The question is how can he convince them Memphis is the program to transfer to though after two consecutive down years?

From roster moves to possible turnover among the staff, it is clear that the University of Memphis men’s basketball program will have an eventful offseason.

The University of Memphis men's basketball team faces an uncertain future, including current coach Josh Pastner. Pastner has coached the team since the 2009-10 season. 

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