Gearing Up for C-USA Media Day

By David Scott - October 19, 2006

MEMPHIS - Coaches and media were trickling into the Memphis Hilton during Wednesday's evening hours and the league's annual media confab is nearing its official commencement in the noon hour on Thursday. Spotted in the Hitlon's spacious, tres-chic lobby were first year UTEP head coach, Tony Barbee; CSTV analyst (and story teller extraordinaire) Pete Gillen; former Georgetown coach (now CSTV employee) Craig Esherick; second-year Tulane head coach, Dave Dickerson; and the ubiquitous CSTV talent Seth Davis.

Barbee told Hang Time he is adjusting nicely to life in El Paso and has been leaning heavily on the de facto Mayor of El Paso, Hall of Famer Don Haskins. "He's an incredible man," said Barbee. "It's amazing to be able to talk basketball with him."

Barbee, proving to be a wily veteran even on the eve of his first media day, is already trying to temper expectations for his inaugural season. "We've got one senior (guard Kevin Henderson, Minneapolis), so we'll have to see how our young guys play."

Speaking of expectations, you, the Hang Time Hangers, have already exceeded ours with the bevy of great Media Day Questions which you have submitted to our special email: We won't be able to ask all of your tremednous queries, but we will select more than a handful and report back throughout the day with players' and coaches' responses. Keep 'em clean and keep 'em educated.

* Our Wednesday afternoon recap overlooked the exceptional Tigers' practice play of freshman guard Doneal Mack (Statesville, NC) and the dogged determination of classmate Willie Kemp (Bolivar, Tenn.). Head coach John Calipari later raved about Kemp's attitude and his willingness to listen and learn. "I wish I had 12 of him," said Calipari, who, it should be noted, is pretty satisfied with the dozen-plus Tigers on his roster. It's worth noting, too, that Memphis is loaded for a few years to come with just two seniors on the roster (neither of whom are major contributors) and two juniors.

* Memphis assistant coach, John Robic, handicapped the C-USA race for Hang Time and we're pretty comfortable stealing and sharing Robic's fondness for the league's possible darkhorse, 15th-year coach, Willis Wilson's Rice Owls. The Owls finished 12-16 (6-8) last season, but return the veteran guard combo of seniors Lorenzo Williams (Killeen, Texas) and Morris Almond (Powder Springs, Georgia). Almond led the league in scoring last year (21.9 ppg) and Williams is the top returning assist-man (6.1 apg).

* As promised, Calipari allowed Hang Time to tag along for a pre-Media Day carbo load at one of his favorite downtown haunts, Conte's Italian Restaurant on Madison between 2nd and 3rd.

Now, oridinarily when we visit new cities (or old ones), we are partial to trying the local cuisine which the city is famous for. But we're also not rude enough to deny Calipari his Italian vittles. Besides, we've still got a few Memphis meals left on the docket and there's plenty of time for dry and/or wet ribs.

Besides, Conte's is owned by Pam Conte, a Staten Island-native who has brought a taste of Italy to Memphis at her year-old establishment where "Little Italy comes to Memphis." She also won us over with a guided tour of the kitchen and a sneak peek at her Uncle Armando's 70-year-old sausage maker AND a glimpse at the secret family sausage recipe that is stowed in an old cigar box on the shelf above the grinder. We could tell you the ingredients for the mouth-watering sausage, but we'd have to stuff you in the grinder afterwards.

. . . Also, as promised in our Wednesday afternoon posting, we were able to aid and abet Calipari in his seemingly regular ritual of partaking in some of Memphis Grizzlies head coach, Mike Fratello's, Conte's stash of dessert liquers. Fratello, it seems, is also quite fond of Conte's (and its tremendous homemade pastries) and Calipari thinks it's humorous to tap into The Czar's private stock. We'd like to officially thank The Czar for his thoughtfulness. You're in the Hang Time Hall of Fame, Coach - and the waiting period has been waived.

. . . Speaking of Hall of Fames, Robic was recently inducted into the Denison University Athletic Hall of Fame. The affable assistant now boasts that he can sign all autographs with the addendum "HOF, 2006."

. . . Fratello has an appetizer on the Conte's menu named for him, while Calipari has an entree. However, Fratello's picture hangs on the restaurant's wall in a 1980s photo taken with none other than the Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra, during what is believed to be Old Blue Eye's final tour.

* Be sure to check back often for our wall-to-wall coverage of C-USA Media Day and keep the questions and comments coming to CSTVhangtimeAT

Hang Loose. . .

Posted by David Scott at 01:44 AM on October 19, 2006

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