Memphis is entering the 2013-14 season with the third best recruiting class in the nation, according to ESPN. But are the incoming Tigers really the third best? Memphis recruit Kuran Iverson doesn’t seem to think so; in fact, he went a step further to say Memphis’ class is “way better” than Kentucky’s.
As a Memphis fan, my first thought was oh great, Iverson hasn’t stepped foot onto Memphis’ campus yet, and he’s already rustling feathers. Then I thought to myself, wait a minute, could they be better?
Kuran Iverson is cousins with Allen Iverson, so the fact that he made this comment doesn’t shock me at all. We all know “The Answer” never strayed away from speaking his mind.
Iverson’s comments aren’t baseless; in fact I’d venture to say that he’s done a lot of studying on the programs that are getting big name recruits, and the players themselves. Most athletes, the ones serious about winning, study their competition. Although Memphis may not see Kentucky in the regular season, once tournament time comes around, you never know what could happen. Iverson is so confident in his Memphis team next year he told SNY.tv:
“Everybody talking about Kentucky hype, but there ain’t really gonna be no Kentucky hype. There’s gonna be some Memphis hype.”
He was not finished there. Later in the interview Iverson was asked if Memphis was better than Kentucky:
“Yeah, way better,” he said. “Way better. They talented, we work hard.”
That’s not necessarily an incorrect statement; Kentucky had the second best recruiting class in the nation last year, and couldn’t even make it out of the first round of the NIT. Yes, two years ago Kentucky did win a championship, but circumstances were different then: They had a once in a lifetime prospect who more or less singlehandedly brought them to a title.
Kentucky has five five-star players, one four-star player and two three-star players, compared to Memphis’ one five-star player, four four-star players, and one three-star player.
Memphis has lost shot blocking extraordinaire D.J. Stephens (Graduation), Adonis Thomas (NBA) Antonio Barton (transfer – Tennessee) and Tarik Black (transfer – Kansas). However, the Tigers have also gained a transfer, adding to this year’s overall haul for Memphis.
David Pellom, a 6’8” forward from George Washington University is transferring to Memphis, and is able to play immediately. It’s significant because Memphis lost a big part of their low-post game and will need a good defender/long player to fill the hole.
Head coach Josh Pastner has been slowly building this team up for the last few years. He’s getting players to stay, he’s helping them develop and, at the same time, they’re helping him develop as a coach. Pastner molded D.J. Stephens into one of the most feared shot blockers/dunkers in the country. He took on the challenge that was Geron Johnson and molded him into a fearless scorer and top notch defender. This is someone who previously got kicked out of school, got into trouble elsewhere and subsequently wasn’t highly recruited coming out of high school. One thing that is make or break for programs is team chemistry, which last year’s Memphis squad is a perfect example of. Never had I seen a program that had so much team chemistry before that.
Kuran Iverson may have indirectly admitted that Kentucky was more talented than this Memphis squad, and he might be right, but hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard. It’s clear to see Kentucky and Kansas are arguably going to be the most talented teams in the nation, but Memphis will definitely have something to say about that. Sheer talent without team chemistry will only get a team so far.
I think this was the right move on Iverson’s part. Although it’s early, Memphis could be a national contender during the 2013-14 season and this could could be Pastner’s best team since he’s been head coach. Only time will tell, but I have a feeling Kuran Iverson won’t be eating his words.