After an eventful first season as head coach, Penny Hardaway has put the Memphis Tigers in prime position to be one of the top programs in the country next season. Bringing in top-ranked recruits like forward D.J. Jefferies and center James Wiseman to help usher in the new era of Memphis basketball.
With the departures of players like Jeremiah Martin and Kareem Brewton, Memphis will need some new Tigers to step up and fill their roles both on and off the court. Alex Lomax can be that player because he showed throughout this past season that he will do whatever takes to win. Lomax’s experience with Hardaway as coach will be something newcomers look to him for.
The new Tigers will look vastly different on the court but will nevertheless be more formidable. Last season, Memphis had no real answer in the paint and often struggled scoring and rebounding in that area, but insert Wiseman and it’s a different story.
Wiseman, at 7-foot-1, is a rebounding and scoring machine, averaging 25.8 points and 14.8 rebounds per game with Memphis East. His presence on the court will open lanes and space last season’s team did not have. He will give Hardaway a chance to develop a more complex offensive system compared to last season.
The attention on Wiseman would have given a player like Antwann Jones the space and room to manipulate the court. Jones has displayed his excellent court vision on multiple occasions and would have been the main ball distributor with Martin out of the picture.
Jones told The Daily Helmsman he is transferring. It is unclear what led to this decision considering his freshman year was a developmental one that would have put him in prime position to succeed with the incoming talent coming to Memphis.
Guard Tyler Harris will benefit from behind the arc. Opponents will not be able to guard the perimeter as well as last season because of the threat of Wiseman, Jones or Jefferies getting an easy bucket. Harris will have more room and assurance to shoot threes because he knows that Wiseman will be there to help secure more offensive rebounds than could be secured last season.
Jefferies will be able to slide right in, another scoring option, averaging 24.4 points per game with Olive Branch last season. He possesses a great skill set and knows how to drive into lanes and get the hard buckets like Kyvon Davenport and Martin were able to for Memphis. Jefferies is also a scoring threat from deep, seeing as he dropped 51 points in a win over DeSoto Central last season and shot 9-11 from behind the arc in that game.
Forward Isaiah Maurice struggled at times lasts year but also carried the team at times, scoring a career-high 21 points against UCF in the quarterfinals of the AAC Tournament. With a year of experience under his belt, he has a chance to come into his own for Memphis, and because of his size, he can be used alongside Wiseman in the paint while still having the ability to move around the court.
There is a lot of untapped potential in the new Memphis Tigers, and Hardaway knows how to get the best out of his players. It’s difficult to tell what the starting five will be this far out, but rest assured Hardaway is going to get experimental again this upcoming season.