Memphis State on the hunt after disappointing TBT 2016


By: Ben Swanson | @bj_swanny

An abrupt ending in TBT 2016 has Memphis State hungry for a title

Entering the second half of its TBT 2016 second round game against Trained To Go, the Bluff City Blues were riding high. The Memphis alumni squad (now named Memphis State) had reunited major pieces of the Tigers' 2008 National Runner-Up team, been named the top seed in the South, and were coming off a double-digit first round victory, enjoying another comfortable double-digit lead.

And then it was over.

“We had a mental meltdown at the end of the game,” said Memphis State forward Wesley Witherspoon. “We were ahead the whole game, and just gave it away.”

At the hands of a furious comeback, the Memphis alumni fell to eighth seeded Trained To Go, 83-82. After a year off, Memphis State is ready to redeem themselves with another run in TBT.

“For myself, it’s about representing the city of Memphis the way it should be,” said Witherspoon.

Memphis State retains many of the key players from its last entry, including Adonis Thomas, Chris Crawford and Willie Coleman, all of whom averaged double-digit points in 2016. Also among those returning is Willie Kemp, who believes that while bringing back a stacked roster is important, the addition of someone who will not be on the floor may be the team’s most important get.

“We went out and got a real coach this year in Antonio Anderson, who’s a former Tiger great as well,” said Kemp. “He’s been coaching the last four years and has been doing great things. He’s going to be a D-1 coach someday and is well respected by all of our guys, so that’s going to be good for us.”

When asked who else will help prevent a repeat of two years ago, Witherspoon had a name immediately come to mind.

“We’ll have a lot better rim protection than we had by adding probably the greatest NCAA shot blocker of all time in Jarvis Varnado,” said Witherspoon. During his four year career at Mississippi State, Varnado tallied 564 blocks, the most in Division 1 history. “Defensively, we’ll have that anchor that will allow us to get after it on both ends.”

Roster changes aside, both Kemp and Witherspoon agree that their experience in 2016 will be key to reversing the team’s fortune.

“Having that first year under our belt, we know what it’s about and what it takes to win,” said Kemp. “We know this tournament now, so we’ll be able to go into this year with a clear mind, ready to win some basketball games.”

“It can all be done with one game - it’s just like the NCAA Tournament - except we’re playing for $2 million this time,” added Witherspoon. “It’s just six games, so if you come together and give it all up for six games, you can change your life.”