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NCAA Basketball Memphis Tigers

Elite ’14 Recruit Cliff Alexander Sets Date For Memphis Visit and Others

Josh Pastner

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Recruiting for the 2014 class is already firmly underway and many of the nation’s top prospects are beginning to set their official visits and trim down their list of schools in the running. One of the elite recruits who recently set his visit dates is 6-foot-9, 230-pound five-star power forward Cliff Alexander, who is rated the No.4 four prospect in the country by Rivals.com.

Alexander trimmed his list to 10 schools in June, and Thursday, he announced he would be taking his official visits to the Arizona Wildcats (sometime in Sept.), Kansas Jayhawks (Oct. 4), Memphis Tigers (Oct. 18) and Louisville Cardinals (TBA), with the fifth visit still up in the air. The Kentucky Wildcats and Michigan State Spartans are also considered to be favorites despite not being listed, as he already took unofficial visits to both schools.

Though the news is big for all the schools listed, it is very big for the Tigers, who have not landed a recruit of Alexander’s caliber since John Calipari was the head honcho. The date for his official visit to Memphis could not be at a better time, as the Tigers will be holding their annual “Memphis Madness,” which is on their home court at FedExForum in front of thousands of fans. The atmosphere for the event is one of the best in the country year in and year out.

Head coach Josh Pastner has upheld the recruiting tradition laid down by Calipari, landing top classes in each of his first four years. But, he has yet to reel in a guy that is considered to be a top-five prospect in the country and an immediate game changer. The Tigers signed a top-five class for 2013 and adding a guy like Alexander for the 2014 season would potentially put Memphis back to the level the program was at in the pinnacle of Calipari’s tenure.

Alexander has a high motor and is considered to be one of the most physical and gifted big men in the 2014 class. Coaches have raved over his toughness and strength, two things many big men do not develop until they get into college and something the Tigers have not had since Joey Dorsey roamed around the paint. Like Dorsey was at Memphis, Alexander is a relentless rebounder and grabs boards that he appeared to not even have a chance of getting. He is also a good defender, but will have to work on his offensive game.

Alexander often uses his physical abilities and stature to get to the rim, something he will not be able to rely on in college. He has no particular move that is considered his go-to, so he will need to develop more post moves and work on extending his range, but make no doubt about it, Alexander has huge potential and would be a program-changing get for Memphis.

Memphis Madness has a way of grabbing the attention of recruits and did so last season when five-star and Memphis native Austin Nichols attended the event. When cameras showed Nichols on the big screen, the crowd went nuts and the student section continually gave chants of his name. Nichols was thought to be going to Tennessee, but chose to stay home and play for the Tigers.

Now, the Tigers are in a war with some of the top programs in the country to land the Chicago baller. As Alexander stated, he is far from a decision, but Memphis has to feel good about where they stand as of today. For Memphis fans, it is time to start clearing anything for the night of Oct. 18, because the stakes just got much higher.

Bryan Heater is an AAC basketball and football columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter, Friend him on Facebook or add him to your Google network.