MEMPHIS SPORTS SCENE 

MEMPHIS SPORTS SCENE

I’m not really sure what to write about this week. My brain is still reeling from the sights and sounds of the Grizzlies pre-season opener Tuesday night at The Pyramid. More on that below. I was going to write about Coach Verties Sails, men’s head basketball coach at Southwest Tennessee Community College. How about this for tough? The man has a record of 487-185 in the Tennessee Junior/Community College Athletic Association. Over the past summer, he could have retired with good reason since he had both hips replaced just three months ago. But, no, Sails is tougher apparently than a mere loss of joints. He’s back again and going for his 500th win. I really wanted to talk to him, but I missed him by five minutes as he ran off É well, maybe he’s not running yet É to practice. Check back next week. The Memphis RiverKings started training camp on September 10th. Most interesting this season: any sort of improvement (or not) the team will have with its new affiliation with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the St. John’s Maple Leaves, Toronto’s top affiliate. Since the RiverKings seemed to do well for themselves last season, scoring an Eastern Division Championship in the Central Hockey League, the addition of seven new NHL talents will definitely increase the squad’s ability. Also -- for those that want to start a women’s sporting team -- the Women’s Sports Foundation has announced that it will launch a new $1 million educational grant program. The grant will create curricula focused on helping young female athletes with issues like drugs, depression, alcohol, sex, and all the rest. A quarter of that $1 million will go toward grants for athletic teams. The program is called GoGirlsGo and will accept grant applications until December 31st, 2001. Check out their Web site at www.womenssportsfoundation.org or call them at 1-800-277-3988. Finally, Midnight Madness stumps up in a big way this Friday at the Pyramid. Come on out and support the U of M Tigers. Votes are now being taken for which basketball team wins the most number of games: the Grizzlies or the Tigers. Of course, since the Grizzlies play four times as many games as the Tigers, I might just tally winning percentages, though that might put the Grizz at a big disadvantage. Maybe next year if the team drafts Tigers guard DaJuan Wagner? And that’s all I have. Hey, if any of you out there have some stuff for me, be sure to shoot me an e-mail at chris@memphisflyer.com. So, without much further ado (too late), I’ll jump into some OTHER STUFF:
  • The first-ever Memphis Grizzlies basketball game is in the books. Here’s some observations: Shane Battier took two well-placed threes, both of which hit. He played excellent defense and literally shocked Blazers forward Scottie Pippen when he collected his seventh steal of the night at Pippen’s expense. Battier is already there defensively. Once his shooting touch improves, as well as his rebounding, the Grizzlies might have a rookie of the year candidate. Michael Dickerson looked more than comfortable at the mid-range jumper spot, hitting well at 18-20 feet out. He will definitely be this team’s number one scoring threat this season. Lorenzen Wright is exactly what this team needed: an athletic center who fights every play. Backup center Bryant Reeves does little more than take up space when it comes to effort. And good for Wright as he collected the critical offense rebound off of Stromile Swift’s second missed free throw then pulled it out to the top of the key before burying it for two. That’s flat-out hustle. Stromile Swift = highlight reel. And probably the biggest surprise of the night -- for me at least -- was the control of Jason Williams. Trailblazers guard Damon Stoudamire, who spent most of the evening defending Williams, is a pretty fast fellow. Williams had him beaten out of his socks more than once. If Williams continues his solid ball movement and refrains from the wild threes, the kid is going to be all right. I wish we could say the same about the Grizzlies back-up squad. Such a blight upon the NBA turf has not been seen since É well, maybe the Grizzlies’ back-ups last year, I guess. The point is that this weakness needs addressing. With any luck, GM Billy Knight and coach Sydney Lowe will find some mid-season help. Also, it should be noted that center Isaac Austin and guard Brevin Knight will add some considerable depth (relatively) to the positions. Right now, a squad with Battier, Pau Gasol, Grant Long, Reeves, and Will Solomon just won’t cut it -- as Portland’s second-quarter 21-point run can attest.
  • Anyone who knows anything about Tiger football should be very nervous about this Saturday’s match-up as the Tigers travel to Houston. Let’s face it, the Tigers have a nasty habit of beating big opponents one week only to drop the next game in disappointing fashion. Most recently, the Tigers beat then-ranked #6 Tennessee 21-17 in 1996. That same squad dropped its very next game to East Carolina, 10-20. Before that, the Tigers beat then-ranked #25 Mississippi State 45-35 in 1993. The Tigers dropped their next game to Louisville in a big way, 28-54. And then, looking in the way-back machine to 1991, the team beat #14 Southern California 24-10 at Southern California. Sure enough, the team lost the next game to Mississippi, 10-0 at home. Granted, Houston is not East Carolina, Louisville, or Mississippi. On the other hand, it’s a real bad trend. Here’s to hoping the team will keep its focus and come out of Houston with a win. That will place them with a good bit of momentum as it heads to Greenville, North Carolina, facing an always dangerous East Carolina squad.

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