Pastner Keeps It Rolling At Memphis

When Josh Pastner took the Memphis job many knew he would be able to recruit, but no one predicted this kind of early success.

Following John Calipari at Memphis won't be easy.

Not after what he was able to accomplish in Graceland in nine seasons. We're talking about 253 wins, nine consecutive postseasons and a Mario Chalmers missed 3-pointer away from a national championship.

He put Memphis back on the national map by recruiting highly regarded prospects Dajuan Wagner, Darius Washington Jr., Derrick Rose and most recently Tyreke Evans.

But in just his first season at Memphis, Josh Pastner has already been able to accomplish something that even Calipari, who is known as one of, if not, the elite recruiters in college basketball, wasn't able to at Memphis.

See, Calipari has never had a problem recruiting talent. He proved that with his No. 1 recruiting class at Kentucky last year. At Memphis, he secured top 25 classes on a yearly basis and managed top 10 classes in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

"I'm following a guy that is a legend and a future Hall of Famer," Pastner said. "That's not easy whatsoever. You look at the last four years, and it's the greatest run in the history of college basketball and may never be done again."

"Memphis is a very strong program. It's just the last four years it's been elevated to a new level," he added. "It's very hard to follow a guy like that at that elite level. But there's also some really good momentum, and we want to keep that momentum going."

Keeping it going hasn't been a problem for Pastner. He just signed seven prospects in the early signing period and has the nation's top recruiting class, according to, for the first time in the program's history.

The class consists of three top 20 prospects: Joe Jackson, Will Barton and Jelan Kendrick. During Calipari's nine years on the job, he only managed to snag five top 20 players.

To go with the three highly rated prospects, the class also consists of a top 100 recruit in Tarik Black, plus three three-star prospects: Antonio Barton, Chris Crawford and Hippolyte Tsafack.

"It would have been impressive to score a top 25 class,"'s National Recruiting Director Dave Telep said about Pastner. "To get the No. 1 class is freakish."

So how did he get it done?

Well, it certainly helps that the city of Memphis is loaded with talent. Jackson, Black and Crawford are all from the city, while Kendrick, a Georgia native, played with the trio in July on the same AAU team.

Pastner and his staff followed the Memphis Magic team throughout their run through the adidas Super 64 event, and according to Memphis Magic program director Eric "Cowboy" Robinson, they were relentless with their recruiting efforts.

"Josh watched my kids play, and the kids have winning attitudes and he wanted winners," Robinson said. "They just wanted to play together, and he recruited them hard. He was all over them. It was 24-hour recruitment on these kids."

"He's going to keep the program up and running," he added. "There won't be a fall off like some thought. It's still going to be one of the best programs in the country. Josh is a real recruiter, and he goes out and gets them."

It was clear that Pastner's main selling point was winning. He targeted a handful of guys and sold them on the fact that playing together could lead to a special season.

"The class overall fits what we're trying to do," Pastner said. "The vision, they're focused and they want to compete and have a chance to win. And they have goals of winning and I think that's what has me excited about this class."

The Barton brothers were the first to give the Tigers the nod in early June in a commitment that shocked the recruiting world. Will, the older of the two brothers, said Pastner told him he wanted to get him in the fold and build their class from there.

"He told me he wanted me to be that guy to get it all started and help get great players at Memphis," Barton said. "He was very excited and enthusiastic. I just felt more comfortable around him. I just had a better feel for him. He's a great person, and that made me trust him more and that helped me pick Memphis because man, he's a great guy."

Memphis native Will Barton is the first of several top-notch recruits to sign with Tigers coach Josh Pastner. (Jim Hawkins /

Jackson,'s No. 17 prospect, followed suit in mid-September. Jackson is a hometown kid who has always wanted to play for Memphis, but it still took some convincing.

"Coach Pastner, sometimes he can be a headache," Jackson said. "I promise you he can. But overall, he just focuses in on getting you to his school. He's just a smart recruiter. He knows what to do."

"He called me and always preached Memphis," he added. "I bought into it anyway, so there wasn't really a lot that he had to do. He knew that though. He's smart. He's been doing it so long, he knew if I wanted to come or not. He knows if you have doubts."

Once Jackson verballed, the other guys followed suit. Crawford popped in early October, then Black, Tsafack and Kendrick committed and signed during the November signing period.

"Actually me, Chris Crawford and Tarik had already talked," Jackson said. "We knew where we were going to go from Day One. After July, we all made a pact that we were going to go to Memphis. I knew where they were going."

Jackson has lofty expectations at Memphis. In fact, Jackson is hoping to lead the Tigers to a NCAA championship.

"For one, it hasn't been done," he said about winning a title. "For us to do it, it would put me at a higher standard than even Penny Hardaway because he never won a championship. He was a great player, but you have to win to get the recognition."

Since he was an assistant coach at Arizona, Pastner's reputation has been one of a tirelss recruiter. His theory is talented players win games.

"I've said this many times, but a great coach is a coach that can win with no talent and I don't want to be in that situation," Pastner said. "We need players. Players win games. It's not coaching. It's straight players."

If that's the case, winning won't be a problem.

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