More than 4,000 people are on Memphis State's season-ticket waiting list. To shoehorn them into the Mid-South Coliseum, which has been sold out to its 11,200 capacity for every game, the Tennessee legislature is considering a bill authorizing the installation of more seating—by raising the roof.
Of course, that's exactly what Memphians have already done over the Tigers. Those hoping to catch a glimpse of the action in the Bluff City Classic, a summer league featuring Memphis State players, have to show up at the Shelby State Community College gym two hours before tip-off to get a seat. Coach Dana Kirk does four radio shows a day, year-round. And one of three players who worked as a lifeguard over the summer says, "The kids didn't come by the pool to swim. They came by to mess with us."
No one else should mess with them on the court, not even perennial Metro Conference champ Louisville, which beat Memphis State in all three meetings last season. Memphis State could play as many as 22 games at home, including Metro tournament and NCAA Midwest Regional first-and second-round games set for the Coliseum. The Tigers will face that highly advantageous schedule with the same starters who went 23-8 in 1982-83 and a bench that has been shored up with some splendid recruits. The starters include:
•Keith Lee (right), the recently married 6'10" All-America junior. Lee, who has a reputation for being as shy as he is polite, was positively expansive—and Solomonic—when he announced he'd pass up the pros for another year. "The only hardship is in not having an education," he said. Last season he duplicated his national Freshman of the Year numbers, getting approximately 19 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks a game from the forward spot in Kirk's high-post system.
November 28, 1983
•Derrick Phillips, the 6'9" senior center. "Derrick's our hub," Kirk says. He sat out two seasons with a Bill Waltonlike stress fracture of the right foot, and now plays with two surgically implanted screws in there. A criminal-justice major who wants to become a federal agent, Phillips will use an improved jumper from around the circle to lay down the law: Cheating toward Lee doesn't pay.
•Bobby Parks, the 6'5", 185-pound senior forward. He's the Tigers' best defender and last season's second-best scorer, rebounder, assist-man, thief and shooter. "The heart in your body, the battery in your car," Kirk calls Parks. Others call him the most underrated player in the country.
•Phillip (Doom) Haynes, the 6'3" bank-shooting senior guard. He isn't nearly as nasty as his nickname—he got it for aggressiveness playing sandlot football—and facial expression suggest.
•Andre Turner, the 5'10" sophomore point guard. His nickname isn't The Beale Street Blur, but it should be. "I've got to portray more leadership this year," he says. "I tended to look up to the elderly fellows." He'll continue to look up at almost everyone else, too, especially opposing guards who post him. "I'll make them work so hard running the offense, they'll forget about taking shots," he vows.
The rest of last season's team was called the Blue Dogs after the jersey color they'd wear in practice. The only hound to escape the pound early on was Baskerville Holmes, the backup forward who got his first name when his mom went into labor while watching The Hound of the Baskervilles on TV. Holmes, who stood out in summer league play, is called Batman by teammates. "No specific reason," says Haynes. "But he does get up awfully high."
The 1983-84 Dogs will have a better pedigree. "Last year we'd look down the bench and not be able to do what we wanted," Kirk says. "We'd falter. This year we should be in fourth gear in the fourth quarter." He'll be able to choose from Forward Willie Becton, a junior transfer from St. Louis University, where he was the 1980-81 Metro Conference Freshman of the Year; freshman Guard John Wilfong, whose father (Gene) and uncle (Win) were Tiger stars during the '50s; and freshman forwards Larry Bush and Dewayne Bailey and Center William Bedford, who were teammates on Memphis' Melrose High team, which won the Class AAA state title last season. Bedford still must pass a minimum competency test to become academically eligible for the second semester. All the newcomers except Bush are Memphians, meaning 11 of 15 Tigers hail from within an hour of town. "We recruit inside-out," says Kirk. "You don't clean up the yard till you've tidied up the house."
With or without a roof, Memphis State's house is in pretty good order.