The 2019-2020 season played host to many narratives about the basketball team. It was Head Coach Penny Hardaway’s second year at the University of Memphis, and he began the year with the most impressive group of freshmen available in the nation. Expectations were through the roof. But as the season progressed, the promised land of basketball turned into a minefield of events.
Even with a shortened season, fans could tell that those expectations had not been met. After losing their ace, James Wiseman, the Tigers would peeter out to a 21-10 record overall. Could the so-called “Penny Effect” really be a myth that Memphians generated in their excitement for the return of the former NBA star?
Some may attribute last year’s stellar freshman class to Wiseman being added to the roster early on, but his eventual departure from his collegiate career has not dampened the recruitment effort put forth by Hardaway.
After acquiring Landers Nolley II, a sophomore transfer from Virginia Tech University, the Tigers went on to add Moussa Cisse to the roster. Cisse is currently ranked as the #12 high school player in the country and the #2 center as well.
While it does not help to think about the ones who got away, take Jalen Green as an example of Hardaway’s recruiting dominance. Green is the #1 player in the 2020 class who had as his top four schools the University of Kentucky, Auburn University, University of Oregon and the University of Memphis. Although he would ultimately join the NBA G-League, he has said that the UofM would have earned back to back top players in the nation.
But what good does it do to think about someone like Green? For starters, it shows a status that the UofM has not seen for a long time. The simple fact that the Tigers are being ranked among blue blood schools, such as UK, speaks to the impact that Penny has had on the program’s prestige. In essence, this is the Penny Effect in action.
So, what can we expect from the Tigers this season? Although there were the losses of Precious Achiuwa and Wiseman, talented players such as Boogie Ellis, Lester Quinones and D.J. Jeffries should show off their offensive talents with a year of experience under their belts. Alex Lomax, last year’s assist leader, could help facilitate the Tigers’ high-powered offense as well.
In his third year as head coach, Hardaway is looking to bounce back from a year of missteps in order to add an elite season to the team’s marketability on the recruiting side. With players already beginning to group the UofM alongside Power Five conference schools, the Penny Effect has already started to impact the basketball culture in the 901.