Joey Dorsey had to work to keep his emotions in check.
Now, he keeps hearing how far basketball can take him - if he'll play with more emotion.
Dick Vitale lectured the kid last week about playing harder. John Calipari has announced that his Memphis team won't go far in March without some ferocity from the 6-foot-9, 260-pound freshman. Gary Williams is reminding Maryland to keep Dorsey's wide body off the glass tomorrow night, when the Terps meet the Tigers in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic in Springfield, Mass.
Overlooked in all the speculation about Dorsey's potential to do damage - and make millions in the NBA - is how little he knows about the game.
Three years ago this week, the player formerly known as Richard Dorsey had never suited up for a school team.
A single season at Baltimore's Douglass High lifted him onto the recruiting radar. After he made stops at two prep schools, Dorsey's introduction to the college game this fall has consisted of a progression of exhilarating ups, interrupted by a gigantic down once the schedule toughened.
Dorsey tied a Coaches vs. Cancer tournament record with 16 rebounds in his collegiate debut. In the tournament semifinals a week later, at Madison Square Garden, he came within two rebounds of his third straight double double. He blocked five Saint Mary's (Calif.) shots, ran the court well and continued to establish himself as the Tigers' best inside player.
That effort came a few hours after the visit from television commentator Vitale, who was speaking at the behest of Calipari. Another heart-to-heart was in order after Dorsey was a figurative no-show in the tournament title game against Syracuse. Limited to 12 minutes by foul trouble, he collected five rebounds but had more turnovers, two, than shots, one.
"Joey got embarrassed, and I called him into the office the next day," Calipari said. "I told him I recruited a relentless rebounder who's going to get everything around the goal and dunk it back in.
"I told him I recruited a guy who would be the first to practice and the last to leave, one who has pro aspirations and would work to make that happen. I told him, 'What I have now is something different. Maybe you're at the wrong school.'"
The bluff was motivational. A change of scenery is the last thing needed by a teenager who has changed his name and is accustomed to being told he needs to change his game.
The Memphis media guide - which states Dorsey "needs to learn the intensity needed to play at the college level" - was in the print shop when he informed Calipari he wanted to be known as Joey, not Richard.
"I jumped around a lot when I was a little kid," Dorsey said. "My mother started calling me Joey, what they call baby kangaroos."
Dorsey said that a lack of self-control got him expelled from a city public school. He landed at Douglass after a stint at New Foundations, an alternative school whose 35 students range from fifth grade to age 21.
"I was used to being disruptive in class, not paying attention," Dorsey said. "When I got to New Foundations, I just started over. They helped me to get focused in school, told me that I could take this somewhere."
He followed basketball acquaintances Gerald Brown and Tyler Smith to Douglass High and to Baltimore Select, an Amateur Athletic Union team.
"I'm not sure how much organized ball he had played," Select coach Scottie Bowden said. "You heard stories, 'You don't want to deal with him. He's not stable, not a team player.' We found a kid who just wanted to belong."
Rebounding and defense pay well in the NBA, but nobody dreams of growing up and becoming Ben Wallace. Dorsey wears No. 15 and idolizes Carmelo Anthony. In the Memphis layup lines, he dribbles between his legs and shows decent range on his jump shot, but Calipari is the latest to reiterate to Dorsey that he's an inside player.
The scoring options on a perfect Douglass team in 2001-02 began with Smith, The Sun's Player of the Year, who has transferred from DePaul to Manhattan, and Brown, the sixth man at Providence.
Mount Zion and Laurinburg, prep schools in North Carolina where Dorsey did remedial work on academics and basketball, were similarly loaded.
No. 25 Memphis revolves around two talented 6-8 wings, Rodney Carney and Sean Banks, who combine for 11 three-point attempts per game.
The Tigers lack a consistent post presence, and Calipari is keeping it simple for Dorsey: Run the floor, establish position and go after the ball. If you're at the defensive end, get it to freshman point guard Darius Washington. If you grab it at the other end, take it right back up and dunk.
Off the bench, Dorsey leads Memphis (4-1) in rebounds with 9.0 a game and blocks at 3.0, but his scoring is down to 7.0 after getting just one basket in the past two games combined.
"His skills with the ball are not where they need to be," Calipari said. "He doesn't understand the importance of practicing. He keeps saying, 'I'll be ready for the games.' He's a typical freshman, Sometimes he just stops playing."
Dorsey was involved in a controversy before he ever played a game for Memphis. After a robbery of the apartment he shares with three teammates, early reports included $40,000 worth of mink coats among the missing items. Their actual value was $5,000. Calipari said Dorsey erroneously multiplied the combined worth of the eight coats that belonged to his girlfriend.
After Maryland, the fast living for Memphis includes nonconference games with Purdue, Pittsburgh, Providence and Texas. The Conference USA schedule will also accelerate Dorsey's education.
"I'm trying to be patient, but I'm also trying to win games," said Calipari, who remembers getting roughed up in the 2004 NCAA tournament. "We're a doughnut team [no center] right now, just like we were a year ago when Oklahoma State smash-mouthed us. When you don't have somebody you can throw the ball into, you're not going to get far."
Next for Maryland
Matchup: No. 13 Maryland (2-0) vs. No. 25 Memphis (4-1) in Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic
Site: Spring- field (Mass.) Civic Center
When: Tomorrow, 9 p.m.
TV/Radio: ESPN2/WBAL (1090 AM)
Freshman center Joey Dorsey had many stops en route to Memphis.
Season School Comment
2000-01 New Foundations Alternative school has no athletics
2001-02 Douglass All-Metro on unbeaten No. 1
2002-03 Mount Zion (N.C.) First prep school stop
2003-04 Laurinburg (N.C.) Averaged 16.2 points, 10.2 reb.
2004-05 Memphis Tigers need his post presence