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Memphis Picks up Reigning AAC-Freshman of the Year PJ Haggerty in Portal

PJ Haggerty announced his commitment to Memphis on Instagram.
PJ Haggerty announced his commitment to Memphis on Instagram.

Penny Hardaway secured his first transfer portal commitment on April 4 from former Tulsa guard and reigning AAC Freshman of the Year PJ Haggerty. Haggerty averaged 21.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.8 assists and was clearly the best player on an otherwise bad Tulsa team. In the one meeting between Tulsa and Memphis this year, he put up 27 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals. 

This is a massive commitment for Memphis to start their transfer portal class for many reasons. Haggerty is very highly rated, ranking as the #2 transfer by On3, #3 by The Athletic, and #16 by 247Sports.  

Standing at 6’3 and with great length, he is a big point guard that has a knack for scoring the ball and is a stat sheet stuffer in general.  

Additionally, his defensive prowess should help Hardaway’s team return to the defensive focus that became a key characteristic of his teams but lost last year. With his size and length, Haggerty averaged 1.9 steals last year, and in Hardaway’s aggressive pressing defense, that number could rise. 

Another reason this is such a great get is that Haggerty still has 3 years of eligibility remaining and could potentially be at Memphis for multiple years. Continuity is invaluable in the portal era and was sorely missing from last season’s team. With 10 players on last season’s team officially gone, whether they exhausted their eligibility or decided to transfer like Carl Cherenfant or Johnathan Pierre, continuity will be at a premium yet again this upcoming season, and Haggerty represents a hope for that to improve in the coming years. 

As it stands right now, Memphis is returning starting forward Nick Jourdain, and reserves Ashton Hardaway and Joe Cooper, with top-100 high school commit Jarred Harris coming in. Last season’s star David Jones, the only player in the AAC to average more points than PJ Haggerty, will test the NBA draft waters, and his return is up in the air. 

The success of this offseason will largely be dependent on if Penny can convince Jones to return. If he does, Memphis should have a clear top-2 in Jones and Haggerty akin to Kendric Davis and Deandre Williams from two years ago. The next step for Hardaway is to surround them with role players that complement the two well. The two biggest needs are a defensive minded wing that does not need the ball in his hands and an athletic shot blocking big that has anchored Hardaway’s most successful defenses in the past, in the vein of a Precious Achiuwa, Jalen Duren, or Moussa Cisse. From there, quality depth pieces will be needed. 

Haggerty should be the linchpin of this year's transfer portal class and getting him this early is incredibly important. Generally, the early transfer commits under Penny tend to have the most success relative to their expectations. Look no further than Elijah McCadden, Kendric Davis, and Nick Jourdain as proof of concept. 

The key now is to find the right pieces of the puzzle to make sure this roster fits well together, as last year’s biggest issue was a prioritization of talent over fit, while Penny’s most successful and uncharacteristically drama free year was the 2022-23 season, where he prioritized putting pieces that fit around two star players, while sacrificing talent. 

With all that being said, it is hard to argue that this transfer class for an all-important year seven of the Penny Hardaway era could have gotten off to a better start than it has with its first member. 

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