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Down the road with the Tigers.

Can the 2014 and 2015 recruitment classes further solidify the Tiger's presence?

In last week's article, I spoke on how the newly-formed AAC could prove to be a vital opportunity for the University of Memphis Tigers. Arguably the most experienced team in the new conference, The Louisville Cardinals, have made their intentions very clear. In a recent interview with Johnathan Litner of The Corrier-Journal, Rick Pitino said that, "If these (Louisville) players rise to the occasion once again -- win another conference championship, go back to the Final Four -- it takes three (Final Four in 2011, National Championship in 2012) to have the makings of a dynasty,". While conveying that mindset could prove to be a roadblock for Tigers in the 2013 season, the news that the Cardinals will be leaving the conference for the ACC during 2014 season (along with Rutgers moving to the Big Ten that season) can only bode well for them. Ideally, it puts them in a place where they can become a true NCAA contender. The time is integral for plotting out a course of action that will carry the Tigers to a winning lineage. A look ahead to the recruits from the classes of 2014 and 2015 shows that Josh Pastner has already begun planning for success in the fledgling conference.

With this being the final season of star guards Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford, Coach Pastner's recruitment direction for 2014 has been focused on being able to shoot the ball efficiently to make up for losing the duo (combined for a total of 24 ppg last season). The signing of point guard Dominic McGee (Helen Lee HS/Harvey, LA) hopes to fill this void with his outside shooting skills. The signing of junior college forwards Trahson Burrell (Lee College) and Chris Hawkins (Southwest Tennessee Community College), a local talent, add a bit of play experience to the mix of things. Burrell, described as a swing forward, averaged 13.7 points per game in his last season at Lee College, and looks to us his final two years of NCAA eligibility to fit into Memphis’ fast paced play style. The addition of these forwards and guard hope to compliment the likes of Nick King, Austin Nichols, and Kuran Iverson, hopefully creating a team that could rival any competition.

Looking onward to 2015, one name has become synonymous with Tiger basketball: KJ Lawson. The 6-foot-7 small forward attends local Hamilton High School, and his lanky physique and knack for scoring make him a definitive game changer for the future of the program. This top 25 player is the only 2015 commit for the Tigers as it currently stands, but his signing might be notable enough to attract the attention of other players. Above all of that is the fact that KJ’s younger brothers still have time before deciding on a college, and Pastner hopes to make that decision one that keeps them home. The 6-foot-8 Dedric and the 6-foot-4 Chandler, who is arguably the best of the bunch from play experience with his older brothers, are both top 10 players in their class (Junior and 7th grade, respectively) and the youngest brother, Jonathan, is a 5th grader who stands at 6-foot-4 and is already making waves in AAU play. The Lawsons look to evoke the feeling of basketball brothers, such as the Zellers (Cody, Luke, and Tyler) and the Plumlees (Miles, Mason, and Marshall), and hopefully build up the pride of the city and sow the the seeds of a homegrown legacy. Pastner’s guidance and methods are definitely setting his team up to be just that.