It all started with DaJuan Wagner.
You remember him, right? 100 points in high school... Averaged over 20 points a game for the Tigers in 01-02... Shot as frequently as Iverson... Had his entire colon removed in 2006... It's true. Completely unrelated, but true.
Wagner was a big deal for the Tigers, not to mention Benedict Calipari, in his time here. Sure, his shooting was often erratic. Sure, he was a one-man show at times. Sure, he was so trigger happy that Trojan made a push to become his first sponsor. These are all well-and-good, but Wagner's real importance was in the fact that he was Calipari's first Memphis player to be drafted into the NBA. It was exponentially beneficial that Wagner was taken at number six overall, so that every basketball fan, coach and aspiring college player could watch him take the stage, see his dreams come true and watch John Calipari congratulate him all along the way.
Regardless of how Wagner ended up at Memphis (cough, cough), his incredible draftday experience gave John Calipari the bargaining chip he needed to lure new talent to the school. I have a strong suspicion that Wagner's name surfaced once or twice as Calipari recruited players such as Chris Douglas-Roberts, Shawne Williams, Joey Dorsey and Derrick Rose.
So where does Shawn Taggart fit into all this?
First of all, we need him back at Memphis. Of course we need his game and his leadership, but mostly we need him back so that I didn't write this piece in vain. Secondly, Pastner didn't even recruit Taggart. In fact, Taggart has been around Memphis longer than Pastner has. So, what does all this mean? Bear with me...
If Taggart comes back, gets stronger, works on his post game, and plays every possession, he will get drafted next year. Depending on the strength of his senior season, he will likely play his way higher in the second round of the draft. Will Taggart's draft success reveal anything about Pastner? Probably a little bit. Pastner has a history of coaching athletic big men into skilled big men. However, even more than Pastner's ability, even more than simply wanting a Tiger to succeed in the NBA, Shawn Taggart being drafted next year would look good for Tiger basketball.
In the wake of Benedict Calipari's exit, recruits have scattered like roaches in the light, while Memphis has faded from national spotlight with each passing day. In that vein, there seems to be the sense that Memphis is fading back into the CUSA abyss. Calipari did a good job (admit it) of holding Memphis above the CUSA. He consistently had someone in the media talking about the Tigers. To this point, Pastner hasn't played big-media too much, understandably so. He's not John Calipari... which means Pastner can't rely on shmoozing and politics. He will need to prove himself and his program on the court.
The Tigers need a player or two to make a big splash in the basketball world, partly for Pastner's recruiting sake, but moreso to keep Memphis relevant and in the headlines. Taggart being drafted next year will show recruits that Memphis can continue to churn out NBA players... So what about other schools? So what about other coaches? With the playing field leveled a bit, Pastner can work his cellular magic and continue to bring in quality talent. After a few years of success, maybe Pastner can turn Memphis into the dynasty that was promised us for the past few years... Maybe he can even do it without politics, shmoozing and hiring family members of top recruits... Just maybe.