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Pastner can’t afford to rush Kendrick’s return

Might a “personal matter” derail Memphis’ season? It all depends on how Tigers coach Josh Pastner handles Jelan Kendrick.

The 6-6 Kendrick, a Top 25 freshman recruit who’s one of three five-star prospects on the Tigers’ roser, is dealing with a “personal matter” and isn’t currently with the team. A report says it’s essentially an indefinite suspension because the school is investigating a verbal threat against another teammate. Kendrick’s also reportedly been in multiple fights with teammates since arriving on campus.

“Once the personal matter is resolved, we will revisit the situation and we’ll go from there,” Pastner said Tuesday.

It won’t be a quick resolution, though. As Dan Wolken of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal writes, Kendrick’s problems are many and they’re the type that takes months, maybe years to resolve. And Kendrick’s the only one who can solve them.

In short, he has to grow up. From Wolken’s column:

Kendrick has every reason to make this work. He was so good in early practices that many people believed he would start for the Tigers at small forward. He’s also, for a player of his talent, abnormally unselfish. Kendrick does not need a lot of shots, and that’s invaluable on a team with so many talented scorers.

But this is about more than what happens for two hours on the basketball court 40 times over the next five months.

Players live together, go to class together, practice together and travel together. The only questions about Memphis this season are about chemistry, not talent. If one member of the team is struggling to interact normally now, when there’s really no pressure, what happens when true adversity strikes?

Pastner would undoubtedly love for Kendrick to play as he’d be a boost to Memphis’ Final Four hopes. But he can’t rush it or Kendrick risks becoming just another talented player who washes out before he reaches his goal.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.