It would be easy to dismiss Jelan Kendrick as just another malcontent. Kendrick, after all, has had issues throughout his high school and AAU playing days ranging from trouble with his teammates to trouble with his coaches. His transient AAU history, when he played for multiple high school and AAU teams, makes him seem impossible to please. His early troubles at Memphis -- constantly feuding with fellow players over seemingly minor affronts, being suspended by Josh Pastner and left behind on the Tigers' exhibition trip -- would just be par for the course.
Only it's not quite as easy to leave your college team as it is to leave an AAU outfit. When you pick a college, you're stuck with it for at least a year, and maybe longer; the rule that forces transfer to sit out a year is prohibitive at best and a non-starter at worst. Which is part of the reason why Kendrick seems to be figuring things out. From Dan Wolken of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal:
After spending two weeks away from the team, Kendrick took a major and necessary step when he called everybody into the Tigers' locker room at the Finch Center following a practice last weekend.
In that meeting, according to several sources, Kendrick talked openly about struggling to control his anger. He explained the need to confront that issue for the first time in his life, the counseling he has been receiving and the help he'll need from teammates if he ever starts to veer off path. Most of all, he apologized.
For a player who spent all summer picking unnecessary fights and turning normal situations into aggressive confrontations, it was perhaps the first time he truly felt comfortable among his teammates.
"I feel like it took a lot of guts to do what Jelan did, and I respect him for that," senior forward Will Coleman said. "He let us know some things, personal issues, and it really helped us to understand him and help him through his struggles."
Wolken has written about Kendrick's history with anger problems before. It was a constant issue during his high school days, and while none of it seems particularly serious -- it's not like Kendrick has done anything illegal here -- it does seem like Kendrick, when he's angry, is a wholly unpleasant person to be around.
It's possible to be cynical about this story. Maybe Pastner is just desperate to get Kendrick, one of his top recruits, on the floor. Maybe Kendrick is one of those "I'm sorry, baby, I'll never do it again," types, the ones who get really good at apologizing because they practice so much.
But between the lines, this feels genuine. And if Kendrick's working on becoming a better person, and Pastner and the vast resources of the Memphis Tigers basketball program can help him do so, well, that's kind of what college basketball is all about, right?