Memphis State coach Dana Kirk doesn't have to leave his backyard to recruit. All but one player on the Tigers' 12-man roster were either first-team Memphis All-Metro or first-team All-Shelby County in high school, and the joke is that the reason freshman forward David Jensen only made second team all-city is that he lived in Greenville, S.C. Kirk says he doesn't know what his recruiting budget is, but he's sure life is pleasanter when the travel receipts bear the names of gas stations rather than airlines.
Still, despite its impressive credentials, this team of Memphis locals hasn't been able to progress past the NCAA round of 16. If the Tigers go farther this year, it will be because a) the leadership void left by the departure of three starters from last year's 26-7 squad will have been filled by All-Everything, including all-quiet, 6'10" senior forward Keith Lee, and b) one of two freshmen will have developed into a shooting guard to replace Phillip (Doom) Haynes, one of the departed trio.
Lee figured to have a great season in 1984-85, but most folks assumed it would be in the NBA. Instead, Lee decided to remain in school—much to Kirk's delight. After all, Lee got 35 points in the Metro tournament championship game against Virginia Tech last year and averaged 23.3 points in the NCAAs. He could have made himself a bundle by going pro, but he wants his degree in phys ed, and, more important, he didn't want to leave Memphis while his mother was suffering from bone cancer. That's also why he declined to attend the Olympic trials last spring. Rebecca Lee died on Oct. 22. But in his first intrasquad scrimmage, Lee scored 31 points.
The aforementioned leaders the Tigers lost—Haynes, center Derrick Phillips and small forward Bobby Parks-were spiritual leaders only, because midseason injuries to them last year forced Kirk to move 7-foot center William (Call Me William) Bedford and 6'7" forward Baskerville (Batman) Holmes into the starting lineup. Bedford, a gliding 220-pound sophomore with a cheery disposition, fancies himself a guard. "Did you like that 20-footer I hit yesterday?" he recently asked guard Ricky McCoy. "Couldn't believe it, could you?" But when the action gets serious, Bedford will move inside to allow Lee more scoring freedom.
Bedford scored 21 points against Akeem Olajuwon in the Tigers' 78-71 Midwest Regional semifinal loss to Houston. Holmes also made a late-season surge, averaging 11.3 points in the NCAAs. Now a junior, he's still adjusting to the small forward position after being a high school center. "It's like driving one of those foreign cars with the steering wheel on the right side," he says.
Kirk's backcourt has an erratic sports car and two luxury models that haven't been road-tested. The little sports model is 5'10" point guard Andre Turner, who will have to play with greater consistency. He led trhe Tigers with 150 assists, the fourth highest total in the school's history, but in two games against Louisville, the Cards' 6'5" Milt Wagner scored 56 points and forced Turner into 11 turnovers. One of the newcomers at guard, 6'5" Vincent Askew, or his roommate, 6'3" Dwight Boyd, will eventually replace Haynes.
Boyd, an excellent shooter (59.5% last season), arrived at Memphis State with a bigger rep than Askew, but came from a smaller school. Askew caught on to Kirk's offense more quickly in preseason practice. "When I saw that we'd signed Vincent, I said, 'Who's he?' " says McCoy, a senior who will start until one of the freshmen emerges as the shooting guard. "After the first week of practice, I knew he was a player." Says Boyd, "I'm just looking for playing time. They didn't tell me I would play. They told me a starting position would be open. I would've come here anyway." Kirk has that kind of pull with the local talent, and this year's crop will have to come through if the Tigers are at last to reach the Final Four.