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Penny Hardaway hosts first official press conference

<p>Penny Hardaway talks to a group of reporters about his 2018 signing class. Hardaway's 2018 class is currently top-35 in the nation.</p>
Penny Hardaway talks to a group of reporters about his 2018 signing class. Hardaway's 2018 class is currently top-35 in the nation.

Penny Hardaway spoke to the media for the first time since he was named the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Memphis.

Hardaway spoke Wednesday on topics ranging from next season’s expectations to the possible re-emergence of Nike’s ‘Lil Penny. 

“I’m excited about what we’ve done so far with the recruits,” Hardaway said. We got into the game really late. To be three weeks in and to be able to get the talent we assembled — that’s a blessing. Good people and also good basketball players to come in here and give our school a chance to win a national championship and also to get the city some excitement.”

Hardaway mentioned several times that with assistant coaches Mike Miller and Tony Madlock in place, Memphis is a place where players can come practice and train to be professionals.

“The main game plan, especially with me and Mike, was we can teach you, we’re going to develop you, we’re going to get you better,” Hardaway said. “And that’s what most of the parents really want outside of the education piece, that’s most important. But secondly, we can get you better, we can get you where you want to go, and for most of these kids, that’s the NBA. And who better to teach you that than myself and Mike?”

Memphis offered Larry Brown a consultant position last week, but Brown never accepted the position.

“As of right now, we just have to move forward,” Hardaway said of his former coach.

He said the biggest surprise transitioning to college coaching was the NCAA regulations in place.

“The biggest thing that shocked me about having the job is all of the rules that come along with being a coach,” he said. “You have to be very careful. The smallest thing is a no-no on this level ... I don’t want to make any mistakes. I don’t want to bring any blemishes on the university.”

Hardaway said those rules have kept him from celebrating his third-straight state title with  Memphis East High School.

“To see them from afar celebrating the third straight state championship without me is kind of tough, but those are the rules,” Hardaway said.

Hardaway’s  recruited class is ranked 30th in the country and first in the American Athletic Conference.

“It’s a blessing and a great opportunity for Jayden (Hardaway), my son, to be coming back to Memphis,” Hardaway said. “I’m excited because I want to have him be one of the best drop-dead shooters in the country, and he has the opportunity to be that — top-five shooter in the country. That’s what he can bring to the team.”

Hardaway also talked about East High’s Alex Lomax, who he has experience coaching.

“You bring winning,” Hardaway said. “You bring a guy that doesn’t care who gets the credit. He just wants to win, and that’s what the city is gonna love about him.”

Penny also signed Cordova High School guard Tyler Harris.

“Explosive,” Hardaway said of Harris. ”There’s nobody like him in our conference. He’s small in stature, but he has a heart bigger than the city ... I’m tired of Tyler Harris being a problem for me all the years that I had to coach against him. Now I’m ready for him to be a problem for other people.”

Hardaway also added former Texas A&M signee Antwann Jones this weekend. 

“Just call him a pit bull,” he said. “He can play two or three positions ... he’s full of confidence, great defender, great playmaker.”

Hardaway added one junior college transfer, Isaiah Maurice, who visited and chose Memphis the same weekend as Jones. 

“Great footwork,” Hardaway said. “(He) shot 48 percent from the three last year and won a national championship in juco.”

Hardaway said he recruited “winners.” He also said he is looking for another shooter. The Tigers have one open scholarship.

“Like we said, losing is not an option,” Hardaway said.

While Malik Rhodes, David Nickleberry and Jamal Johnson were all granted releases to transfer, Hardaway said he is glad to have the returning players he does have. 

“The guys that are coming back are excited,” Hardaway said. “They’re all-in. They understand what is going on. They want to be a part of it.”

Jeremiah Graham and Abigail Warren contributed to this story.

Penny Hardaway talks to a group of reporters about his 2018 signing class. Hardaway's 2018 class is currently top-35 in the nation.

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