Penny Hardaway didn’t come to Memphis to win American Athletic Convention championships or construct a sustainable NCAA event entrant. His ambitions had been a lot greater than that. When Hardaway returned to his alma mater as head coach, he needed to make Memphis one of many premier applications within the nation. Via his first three years, it’s been a piece in progress.
Hardaway has received greater than 20 video games in every of his first three seasons. He landed the highest recruiting class in America in 2019, headlined by No. 1 overall prospect James Wiseman. He’s constructed an identification for his workforce that begins on the defensive finish: the Tigers completed with one of the best protection in DI final 12 months, and so they had been No. 5 within the defensive effectivity rankings a 12 months earlier. He’s taken Memphis basketball from one thing not often made a blip on radar outdoors of the native market in the course of the days of Josh Pastner and Tubby Smith and elevated it right into a program that drives dialogue on a nationwide scale.
He additionally nonetheless hasn’t made the NCAA event. The Tigers did cling a banner as NIT champs final 12 months, however that isn’t precisely price bragging about. Sooner or later, Hardaway has to win at a excessive degree to justify the excitement. The stress to take action begins now.
Emoni Bates — one of many hyped prospects of his era — dedicated to Memphis not too long ago. One way or the other, he isn’t the best ranked incoming recruit on the workforce. That honor goes to heart Jalen Duren. The Tigers had what felt like a high No. 20 workforce within the preseason rankings earlier than Bates joined, however they is likely to be a top-10 workforce with the upside to win the entire thing. A minimum of that’s the objective.
The Tigers are essentially the most fascinating workforce in school hoops on the point of a brand new season. Right here’s why.
Penny Hardaway can grow to be school basketball’s subsequent marquee coach
School basketball is getting into a interval of transition when it comes to the coaches who’ve outlined the game. That is Mike Krzyzewski’s final dance at Duke. Roy Williams retired. Jim Boeheim is 76 years previous. John Calipari, Invoice Self, Jay Wright, and Tom Izzo are nonetheless doing their factor, nevertheless it appears like there’s room for a brand new face of school basketball to emerge.
Hardaway is the plain candidate. He’s younger and charismatic and has a built-in private model for his legendary NBA profession. He’s the kind of individual that anybody who loves the game will likely be drawn to no matter their age. He was already a famous person as a participant and is on the point of incomes the identical standing as a coach.
All he must do is win. It’s simpler mentioned than executed.
Rasheed Wallace and Larry Brown are essentially the most high-profile assistant coaches within the nation
Hardaway employed a giant identify assistant as quickly as he took the Memphis job when he bought Mike Miller to affix this system shortly after he retired from the NBA. Whereas Miller ultimately moved on, Hardaway didn’t waste any time getting two extra famed assistants this season: Larry Brown and Rasheed Wallace.
Brown is about to show 81 years previous, however he’s top-of-the-line basketball coaches ever. He has expertise within the school sport by profitable a nationwide championship as head coach at Kansas in 1988 along with his NBA success. As we speak’s recruits might not know a lot about Brown, however he’ll be a useful useful resource to Penny on the bench as he tries to win at a excessive degree.
Wallace can be an impressed rent. Solely 46 years previous, he ought to be capable to hook up with this era of gamers in a method few different present school assistants can. The meme potential right here can be off the charts. Wallace is responsible for so many classic phrases like “ball don’t lie,” “lower the examine,” and “each groups performed onerous.”
Having Sheed and Larry Brown on the bench is simply going to make Memphis much more buzz-worthy.
It is going to be fascinating to see how Emoni Bates adjusts to the faculty sport
Bates was thought of top-of-the-line highschool freshmen ever, however his hype dissipated a bit over the past 12 months. Not one of the current discourse issues anymore. Bates deserves a contemporary begin and a clear slate as he ranges as much as school, however he’s certain to be one of the crucial scrutinized gamers within the nation no matter how Memphis’ season goes.
Bates will likely be one of many youngest gamers in school basketball, not turning 18 years previous till Jan. 28. He’s virtually a 12 months and a half youthful than a number of the different high incoming freshman, like Gonzaga heart Chet Holmgren. Age issues in peer-aged competitors. Expectations for Bates will likely be excessive due to his pedigree, nevertheless it feels unfair to count on him to dominate school basketball from the bounce.
Bates’ greatest ability is his deep pull-up capturing, which ought to result in loads of nice highlights. The microscope will actually be on how he performs along with his teammates, although. Bates has a popularity for forcing unhealthy photographs, and might want to show he can play a profitable model of basketball. He’s reportedly going to deal with the ball lots of Memphis, and his largest take a look at will likely be utilizing the specter of his scoring to arrange his teammates for simple baskets along with his passing. It’s lots of duty to placed on a 17-year-old.
Sources: Memphis plans to make use of Emoni Bates everywhere in the ground, together with EXTENDED time at level guard.
It’ll be a piece in progress, however I used to be extraordinarily impressed along with his passing/court docket imaginative and prescient down on the Peach Jam final month.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) August 25, 2021
Bates is simply too younger to enter the 2022 NBA Draft, which suggests the Tigers might have him for 2 seasons. Remember that Memphis has one other high prospect for subsequent 12 months’s draft on the roster who will draw simply as a lot consideration.
Jalen Duren race to be the No. 1 total draft decide
Duren handed Bates for the No. 1 participant within the class of 2022 earlier than each reclassified to affix Memphis this season. The 6’10 heart from Philadelphia has a 7’5 wingspan, a ridiculously developed body, and rising ball expertise. We have him projected as a top-10 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, however the high of the category is so large open that it’s potential he can contend for the No. 1 total decide with a powerful 12 months.
Based on knowledge offered by Cerebro Sports, Duren averaged 23.6 factors, 15.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 4 blocks per-40 with 57.4 % true capturing throughout his run with EYBL champs Workforce Last this season. He needs to be a monster roll man from someday with the power to punish switches within the paint on offense. Defensively, he’ll be anticipated to anchor a high unit for the Tigers simply as Moussa Cisse and Valuable Achiuwa have executed as freshmen the final two years.
Try some highlights of Duren’s play on the EYBL right here:
Memphis’ greatest participant isn’t a freshman — it’s Deandre Williams
It’s a must to be a school hoops diehard to know who Deandre Williams is in the event you aren’t a Tigers fan. Williams began his school profession at Evansville, the place he helped his workforce upset Kentucky and emerged into one of many largest mid-major stars in America. Williams transferred to Memphis forward of final season, and instantly turned the workforce’s greatest participant. The Tigers had been 4-3 with out Williams, and 16-4 with him. Memphis most likely would have made the event if Williams was instantly eligible.
Williams a 6’9, 190-pound ahead who will turn 25 years old before the season. The Tigers ran the offense via him final 12 months, and let his passing within the excessive submit dictate their actions. Williams put up a powerful 26.4 % help fee, ranked top-10 nationally with a 4.7 % steal fee, and in addition hit 45.5 % of his threes on low quantity (33 makes an attempt in 20 video games).
The large query for Memphis is how Williams matches round their two famous person freshmen. Penny could be sensible to proceed operating the present via Williams and let Bates and Duren play off of him. There might be a spacing crunch on the ground although as a result of Duren isn’t recognized for his capturing vary, and Williams is simply too good to easily be used a spot-up shooter. That is in the end downside to have, nevertheless it’s on the teaching workers to make all of this expertise work.
Memphis has another proficient veterans
Along with Williams, Memphis has another actually good returning gamers.
Landers Nolley is a 6’7 guard who transferred into this system final 12 months after a standout freshman season at Virginia Tech. Nolley can stand up threes with quantity and play bodily protection. As a sophomore at Memphis final season, he made 39 % of 168 makes an attempt from deep whereas posting a 2.2 % steal fee.
Lester Quinones is mostly known for wearing incredibly short shorts, however he’s one other excessive quantity three-point shooter. The 6’5 guard hit 40 % of his 110 makes an attempt from three-point vary final 12 months. Quinones can be athlete who finishes effectively in transition (74th percentile, per Synergy Sports activities) even when he’s not a lot of a risk to run offense off the dribble.
Earl Timberlake could be the largest addition of the offseason for many school basketball groups. Timberlake transferred in from Miami after an injury-filled freshman season, and continues to rehab his left shoulder. The 6’6 wing solely performed seven video games for the Hurricanes, however his mixture of dimension, energy, and athleticism jumped off the ground. He needs to be one other monster defender for the Tigers who can get to the foul line on offense. Taking pictures will likely be his swing issue. We had Timberlake projected as the first round pick in the 2022 NBA Draft at No. 26 overall in our first mock for the class.
Memphis has one other promising freshman in 6’9 wing Josh Minott, brings in brothers Chandler and Jonathan Lawson (you could keep in mind Dedric and Ok.J. Lawson taking part in for Memphis just a few years again), and has Alex Lomax as an skilled ground common who has been with Hardaway for years.
It’s on Hardaway to make the items match
You can see Hardaway’s imaginative and prescient coming into focus on the finish of final season when Memphis closed the 12 months by profitable 11 of their final 13 video games en path to an NIT championship. Whereas just a few key items — Boogie Ellis, DJ Jeffries, and Moussa Cisse amongst them — have transferred out, the incoming expertise is essentially the most spectacular lot in school basketball.
Hardaway is able to ascend within the teaching world, however Memphis must justify the hype first. The one method it might occur is with a long term within the NCAA event. There’s no denying the expertise he’s put in place, however the lack of a star level guard and the seemingly reliance on the freshmen create some potential pitfalls. Now it’s Penny’s flip to indicate how good he actually is.