HAVERFORD, Pa. -- Thank you, Joey Dorsey, for returning to Memphis and, for that matter, being invited to the Pan Am Games trials. You see, without Mr. Dorsey, we might not have our most quotable player for the 2007-08 season. Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Joakim Noah both checked out of college after their junior seasons. So, that left a void for all of us scribes and television reporters thirsting for someone to serve up an honest comment or two.
Who can forget his sporting that white tank on the bench after fouling out of the Sweet 16 game against Texas A&M in San Antonio. Later that night, I received an e-mail from an NCAA official saying that wouldn't happen again. (Translation: Dorsey was told to keep the uniform on.) But for what it's worth, the sight of Dorsey looking as though he was just through a workout at Gold's Gym and ready to bust through a door certainly was imposing. So much so that Dorsey didn't hesitate to call out Greg Oden in advance of the Elite Eight matchup against Ohio State. For those who need a refresher course, Dorsey said at the time, "This is the game I wanted." He added that Oden was "overrated as a big man" and that Oden "might be as good as Joey Dorsey." As our columnist Gene Wojciechowski laid out at the time, Dorsey's final prize was saying it was going to be "David versus Goliath." And remember, Dorsey was saying he was the monster. Of course, Oden dominated with 17 points. Dorsey finished with zilch.
Dorsey had to be asked about his comments when I caught up with him in at the Pan Am trials in Philadelphia. "I underestimated my opposition, and that's something I never did playing basketball the past five years," Dorsey said. "My opponent was a very great player, one of the best I've played against." After watching Oden dominate the national championship game, even in a loss to Florida, Dorsey said he understood how good Oden really was. Later, the Memphis resident rooted against the Memphis Grizzlies the night of the lottery because Dorsey wanted no part of Oden in his town. "It was a lift off my back because if Memphis got the No. 1 pick, then I would have had to hear about David and Goliath the whole year," Dorsey said.
It's all been part of the growing process for this senior. "Joey took longer to mature, to understand to get rid of the bitterness, and there was a bit of anger in there," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "A lot of kids come to school with an edge and a bitterness. "But all of the coaches have said he's a good kid and has a good heart. But I've told him he has to get out of his own way. There's only one of him out there. So I tell him if he misses layups and free throws, remember that the other guys can't do what you do. Be proud of what you are and who you are."
Dorsey will lead Memphis, my pick for No. 1 in the pre-preseason. And the Tigers will stay there -- barring some sort of injury in the fall. That's fine with Dorsey. "We deserve to be No. 1 coming off back-to-back Elite Eights," he said.
"I've been working out since the season was over, working out with Carmelo [Anthony, who -- like Dorsey -- is from Baltimore] and Rudy [Gay] in Memphis and trying to improve my overall game," Dorsey said. "I'm working on my free throws, taking 100 a day, so that there are no flaws in my game. "[Scouts] told me that I have to improve my skill level because they said I cannot do left-handed layups and left-handed jump hooks," Dorsey said. That's why he's looked at as being an enforcer on Team USA. No one expects Dorsey to be the finesse player to go to down in the post. No, he's on this team to grab rebounds and to look imposing. And, to be honest, it won't hurt for Dorsey to get the book down on Georgetown's Roy Hibbert since Dorsey will be defending him when the two top-10 teams play in Memphis on Dec. 22.
That game will be a good barometer for Memphis' national title hopes, although according to Dorsey, there's no question which team will be cutting down the nets in April. "We talked about me leaving, and a lot of guys said they would come back if I came back," Dorsey said of the decision by himself and Chris Douglas-Roberts to bypass the NBA draft. "With Derrick Rose coming in, this was our chance to win a championship. And that's what I told Memphis University players and the state of Tennessee -- that we'll win a championship." See? Dorsey is good for the game. He looks menacing. He doesn't back down from an opponent or from saying what's on his mind. Unless Calipari -- who easily is the coach most willing to talk candidly -- reels him in, Dorsey should be the go-to guy to talk Memphis all season long. Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.