Blast coach Rickey Jemison says that this league is about one thing: helping football players go pro. The players play to get an opportunity to get looked at, Jemison says. Thats right. No salaries, no TV cameras, just some guys playing football in a serious way. Jemison knows something about serious football. Hes the second all-time leading rusher for Arkansas State University, and later played for the NFLs Redskins. Jemison also coached in various positions for the AFL2s Arkansas Twisters and Pensacola Barracudas. The squad, according to Jemison will hold try-outs around Valentines weekend. Also, according to the NAFL website (www.nafl.net), the Memphis Blast will hold tryouts at the Wilson World End (near the Mall of Memphis) from 6:30-10:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 2. Both teams are part of the South East Region Central Division, along with the Central Arkansas Rhinos, as well as other teams to be determined soon. Also, starting its second season in Memphis are the Memphis Xplorers in the Arena2 football league. The Xplorers will hold tryouts as well this Saturday. Heres what the ever eloquent Xplorers PR people have to say: Memphis Xplorers head coach Danton Barto wont spend the morning on Groundhogs Day looking for some silly rodents shadow. Hell be looking for some hardcore serious football players. "The Xplorers will hold their final open tryout for the 2002 season on Saturday February 2, at Southaven High School. Registration will begin at 9 a.m. (long after the Groundhog has made its appearance), with the on field workout scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. "Prospects should wear appropriate workout attire and cleats. Cost of the camp is $45 which covers the mandatory arenafootball2 insurance. Payment can be by cash, or money order. No personal checks will be accepted. No rodents, huh? Good to see that Coach Barto has his priorities straight. And good to see that Memphis semi-professional football, a brand of loveable vermin in its own right, refuses to die. ODDS & ENDS
- Lets all raise a glass to Grizzlies Center Bryant Reeves in his retirement. Far too many sportswriters speak badly of the big guy (Im guilty as well), but he was just someone asked to do too much, given his relative capabilities. Also, while his salary will still burden the team through next year, at least he had the good sense to walk away and let the team get on with their collective lives.
- Heres a list of rookies playing in the All-Star rookie game: Shane Battier, Memphis; Pau Gasol, Memphis; Brendan Haywood, Washington; Joe Johnson, Boston; Andrei Kirilenko, Utah; Tony Parker, San Antonio; Zeljko Rebraca, Detroit; Jason Richardson, Golden State; and Jamaal Tinsley, Indiana. For those on the Rookie of the Year watch, seeing Battier, Gasol, and Tinsley mix it up should be fun. You can get a preview during tonights game as the Grizzlies travel to Indianapolis.
- The two top Grizzlies vote-getters for the 2002 All-Star game are guard Jason Williams (170,807 votes), and center Lorenzen Wright (65,263 votes). Both players are in the top ten for their respective positions in the Western Conference.
- Rookie forward Pau Gasol has scored in double figures in 11 straight games and has scored 25 points or more six times during that span. He is shooting 60 percent (98-of-164) in his last 11 games. Gasol has not shot under 50 percent in a game since making 2-of-5 shots in a loss to Atlanta on January 4.
- Tiger senior forward Kelly Wise currently leads the C-USA in rebounding with 11.6 rpg. Freshman guard DaJuan Wagner currently ranks second in scoring with 21.2 ppg.
- "That's what the game comes down to, a silly play. It doesn't make any sense, this game, sometimes." A very un-Zen Lakers coach Phil Jackson, on the officiating in the Lakers 93-87 loss on January 27.