The BIGS for Memphis breaks a sweat at the summer workout

The big men for Memphis are getting into shape over the summer so, they will be ready for next season. Their faces were dripping with sweat and socks were sticking to their ankles. Josh Pastner was definitely observing the big men progress in the paint. His eyes were zoned in on the players as Robert Kirby ran the guys through a 40-minute workout on Wednesday.

“Don’t walk back on the floor, guys!” Kirby yelled to Austin Nichols, Dominic Woodson, David Pellom, and Hippolyte Tsafack when they were moving too slow for him while taking turns competing in a one-on-one drill.

After former Tigers big man coach Jimmy Williams resigned, Pastner stated that he would coach the team’s frontcourt players himself this season. Memphis’ post play was a disaster last season. Majority of their points came from their guards. Memphis most productive big man was 6-5, 188-pound forward D.J. Stephens. Stephens averaged 7.6 points and led the team in rebounds (6.6 rpg). After last season, Pastner was very determined to fix their inside performance. They will need it when they will have to take on teams like Louisville, UCONN, and Cincinnati.

Memphis is only in their third week of summer workouts. Kirby, who Pastner snatched from LSU on last month, did majority of the teaching at practice on Wednesday.

Kirby is still trying to get to know the players since the job is still new to him. Kirby seems to know the players enough and now he is getting down to business. His main focus is to get the big men prepared for the 2013-2014 season. As for Pastner’s thoughts, he is very content with Kirby’s approach to the team.

“Josh and I spend a lot of time talking about the things he wants to run and how he wants to do it, so I’m getting more and more comfortable every day, especially when it comes to what we’re running and what he wants out of each set,” said Kirby. “Once I got that understanding, then I could better serve him with the guys that we have, trying to make sure our bigs are doing what they need to be doing.”

Pastner, by the looks of it, seemed very please with Kirby and the team.

“He’s been around some great coaches and he’s coached some really good bigs. He’s going to do really good with our big guys,” said Pastner.

Kirby has great history with coaching talented big men. While he was at Mississippi St. (1989-93, 1998-2010), he coached national Defensive Player of the Year Jarvis Varnado and SEC Player of the Year Lawrence Roberts.

As you see, Kirby know how to get big guys to play at a high level and possibly become a dominant force in college basketball.

“Again, I’m going to be involved in every area of the program,” said Pastner, “but I hired people because I trust ‘em to do the job. I’ve got a great staff. He’s going to be a head coach just like Tigers assistant coach Aki Collins is going to be a head coach.”

While Kirby is coaching the big men at practice, Shaq Goodwin will be joining his teammates in the workouts after his experience with the USA Under 19 team ended on a low-note. The experience was short-lived because he didn’t make the team. Pastner mentioned that Goodwin will enroll in the second session of summer school that kicks off in July. In his first year at Memphis, Goodwin averaged 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds a game. He started 33 of the Tigers’ 36 games, but he went into a slump during the second half of last season.

“I talked to the guys at USA Basketball regarding Shaq,” said Pastner. “They said Shaq looked good. They said his body looks lean and he was very bouncy and quick off the floor. He got caught in a numbers game. Nothing more than that.

“We’ve got good depth in the frontcourt. I think when Goodwin arrives next month the guys are going to push each other.”

Goodwin is listed at 6’9″, 246 pounds. George Washington transfer, David Pellom is listed at 6’8″, 220 pounds. These two guys are Memphis’ most experienced big men. So, the coaching staff will have to mode in newcomers Austin Nichols (6-8, 215) and Dominic Woodson (6-10, 319).

Pellom is looking to regain his productiveness on the floor as he had to sit out all of last season due to a left wrist injury. If he gets back to dominance, then he could possibly top the 68.5 field-goal percentage he shot during the 2011-2012 season. As for Woodson, his main goal is to lose weight and Tigers strength and conditioning coach Frank Matrisciano is helping him with that.

Thus far, Nichols is looking very sharp and could possibly contribute to the team immediately, but Pastner feels that all of the newcomers have room for improvement.

“Dominic has made a lot of strides since he’s gotten here. Is he a finished product? Not by any means,” said Pastner. “Really, for all of our bigs, they can’t hit a wall and then let their game lower a level. They’ve got to get past their comfort zone, and that includes Austin. Austin is obviously very skilled and talented, but he needs to continue to get past that initial wall. Pellom, the same thing because it’s a different style of play than at GW and he’s said to me, ‘I’m not used to playing at this speed.’ And then Hipp has done a nice job. Hipp just does his job.”

I received this information from the Commercial Appeal.

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