MEMPHIS — University of Memphis coach Josh Pastner made two attempts to add a forward for the 2009-10 season but came up empty when Matt Pilgrim chose to transfer to Oklahoma State.
Pilgrim, who started his career at Hampton before transferring to Kentucky, sat out last season and was expecting to play this fall. Instead, when former Tigers coach John Calipari arrived in Lexington, he told Pilgrim that a scholarship would not be available for him.
Calipari was hoping to steer Pilgrim to Memphis, where former Kentucky assistant Glynn Cyprien had a connection with the 6-foot-8 power forward from Cincinnati.
Pilgrim visited Memphis and Maryland last week but chose to play for Oklahoma State, which had a big hole at power forward when incoming recruit Karron Johnson failed to qualify.
Memphis also missed out on 6-7 forward Derrick Williams, an ex-USC signee, who chose Arizona over the Tigers.
The Tigers were hoping to add Pilgrim as insurance in case 6-foot-8 forward Latavious Williams, a top-20 national recruit, doesn’t qualify. Williams has submitted his transcript to the NCAA Eligibility Center and is waiting for academic clearance, which should come before the start of the school year.
Beyond Williams, the Tigers’ top option at power forward would be 6-11 Angel Garcia, a former top-50 recruit who sat out last season because of academics issues. Memphis could also use senior Pierre Henderson-Niles or sophomore Wesley Witherspoon.
It’s no sure thing Pilgrim will be eligible next season. He is hoping the NCAA will allow him to play immediately because he already paid his transfer penalty last season and did not choose to leave Kentucky.