The head coach of the men's basketball team, Penny Hardaway, is no newcomer in the recruiting process. For the past four years, he has been able to land two No. 1 overall recruiting classes by landing top five-star high school prospects. However, this year coach Hardaway chose a different route regarding recruiting talent.
He decided to dive into the transfer portal.
Over the past few years, the transfer portal has changed the dynamic of college sports, especially basketball. With the NCAA automatically granting players immediate eligibility after their first time transferring, it has become a game of chess.
After last year's season ended with a run in the NCAA March Madness tournament, Hardaway and staff lost nine players, some to the portal and others to the league.
A few of these players included Jalen Duren, Lester Quinones, Landers Noelly, Josh Minott, and Tylers Harris.
Since only five players who played throughout the 2021-22 season returned, the team had some prominent roles to fill. This caused fans to become worried about how Hardaway would pull off getting a team that could take them back to the big dance.
"I am a little nervous about the upcoming season due to the lack of returning players," said Tiger fan Bj Gibbs.
While some were worried about the up-and-coming team, Hardaway was working hard during the offseason to pick up some veteran players from other schools.
He may not have landed the No. 1 overall recruiting class this year, but he did pick up the No. 1 transfer portal pick, 5th-year guard Kendric Davis from Southern Methodist University.
Coach did not just stop with Davis; he went on to pick up seven more players from the portal. Most of these players have at least four years of college experience under their belt.
Hardaway told WREG, "For as much as we lost, I feel great about what we added. We added an older team of guys that have done it on a high level, and they are a very close unit."
Some veteran standouts picked up were Kao A-ehiogu, Keonte Kennedy, and Elijah McCadden.
Returning team players are excited about what is to come with this new seasoned group of players.
"With me being a part of one of the top recruiting classes and playing with a lot of young teams at this school, this is definitely the most veteran one," said Malcom Dandridge, a senior center for the men's basketball team. "I feel like it's going to be a great year for us because we have some older players."
Fans and the students at the University enjoy the idea of seeing more experienced players at the FedEx Forum this year but also feel as if freshman players add a fresh "wow factor."
"I think it's good that he is getting players from the portal because you need senior players to lead the team, but at the same time, you also need freshman to give that drive and give a new outlook," said journalism major at the University of Memphis, Tylen Daniels.
Hardaway did add one freshman to the roaster, but he is not like the usual five-star high school prospects that the coach usually aims for. He is a forward coming overseas from Barcelona, Spain, Ian Granja.
The team's focus this year is to improve and keep reaching higher levels with this new veteran team.
"We want to move forward, so I appreciate when we can improve on things," Hardaway said to the Commercial Appeal. "Anything that improves is always best."
The Tigers are gearing up to display their new team full of experience Sunday, October 23, at their first exhibition game against Christan Brothers University.