Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Memphis still in Wall chase

Josh Pastner, the new Memphis coach, has at least one thing going for him.

He's a friend of Brian Clifton, a mentor to heavily recruited point guard John Wall, and has already made clear to Clifton that he wants to keep trying to persuade the Raleigh Word of God senior to play basketball at Memphis.

Pastner, 31, was named today to succeed John Calipari as head coach. A week ago, Calipari left Memphis to take the head-coaching job at Kentucky, and Clifton then thought Pastner, an assistant to Calipari at Memphis, would follow his boss to UK. Upon learning of Calipari's job change, Wall told The N&O's Tim Stevens last week tha, while he was still considering Memphis, he no longer had a "leader" among his main college choices — Memphis, Duke, N.C. State, Kansas, Baylor and Miami.

Clifton, who heads D-One Sports, the summer program Wall plays for, said he got a call Monday from Pastner about getting the Memphis job and that Pastner asked him whether it was OK to continue his recruitment of Wall.

"Josh and I have been friends for years, so I told him I absolutely didn't have a problem with it," Clifton said today.

He said he had not had a chance yet to talk about the Memphis situation with Wall, a 6-foot-4 guard, but that Wall knew about the new coach — and knows him. "Josh was the point person on [recruiting] John" when Calipari was still Memphis' head coach.

The coaching change at Memphis, where Baylor's Scott Drew was at one point being mentioned at a possible replacement for Calipari, has been among the interesting recent developments influencing Wall's college decision. He recently had what Clifton described as a "very good" visit with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, making Duke a more viable option, and also had heard from UNC coach Roy Williams.

Late last week, Wall said Williams had just called to find out how he was doing but that UNC isn't recruiting him. -- Roger van der Horst