Penny Hardaway, Memphis Tigers

Memphis basketball looks to use its grade-A recruiting class to prove the haters wrong come March.

Memphis basketball was able to lock in coach Penny Hardaway until the 2025-26 season after rumors of him potentially taking an NBA coaching job. The rumors were squashed as coach Hardaway signed his deal and went to work in the off-season. The Tigers finished last season 20-8 on the year and 11-4 in conference play, finishing third in the American Athletic Conference.

Coach Hardaway will also rely on assistant coach Larry Brown, who is the eight-winningest coach in NBA history and only head coach to win both an NCAA Championship and an NBA title. Brown’s long list of accomplishments should help the Tigers coaching staff and players. Memphis basketball also brought in Rasheed Wallace, a former NBA All-Star. Wallace will be a huge asset in the area that Penny has the most success with dominant big men.

With Name, Image, and likeness (NIL) usage Coach Hardaway was able to land two of the top five incoming freshmen in Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren. He was also able to recruit some players to replace those he lost in Earl Timberlake from Miami, Chandler Lawson from Oregon and Tyler Harris from Iowa State. Together, this leads to an extremely interesting team that looks to finally put together a very successful season.

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Projected Rotation

PG: Earl Timberlake (6-6, 215, So.)

2021 stats: 9.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.7 steals (Miami-Fla)

Projected stats: 9.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.0 steals

SG: Lester Quinones (6-5, 205, Jr.)

2021 stats: 9.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 40.0 3-P%

Projected stats: 11.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 42.5

SF: Landers Nolley II (6-7, 220, Rs. Jr.)

2021 stats: 13.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists

Projected stats: 13.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists

PF: Deandre Williams (6-9, 190, Jr.)

2021 stats: 11.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.2 steals

Projected stats: 12.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.3 steals

C: Jalen Duren (6-10, 230, Fr.)

247Sports #5 overall rated recruit

Projected stats: 7.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 1.8 blocks

6: Emoni Bates (6-8, 200, Fr.)

247Sports #4 overall rated recruit

Projected stats: 8.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists

7: Alex Lomax (6-0, 190, Sr.)

2021 stats: 6.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.8 steals

Projected stats: 6.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.8 steals

8: Malcolm Dandridge (6-9, 232, Jr.)

2021 stats: 3.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 0.7 blocks

Projected stats: 4.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.1 blocks

9: Chandler Lawson (6-8, 205, Jr.)

2020 stats: 4.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, 0.8 assists (Oregon)

Projected stats: 5.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists

10: Tyler Harris (5-9, 150, Sr.)

2021 stats: 7.5 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.0 steals (Iowa State)

Projected stats: 6.6 points, 1.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.3 steals

11: Jayden Hardaway (6-5, 195, Jr.)

2021 stats: 2.6 points, 0.7 rebounds, 0.6 assists

Projected stats: 3.0 points, 1.0 rebounds, 0.9 assists

12: Josh Minott (6-8, 175, Fr.)

247Sports #44 overall rated recruit

Projected stats: 3.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 0.5 assists

Team MVP: Landers Nolley

Landers Nolley came in last year from Virginia Tech and immediately made an impact on Memphis basketball. Nolley lead the Tigers in minutes played last year on average as well as in points per game.

These few stats allowed Nolley to be fourth in the conference in points (368), Tenth in steals (31) third on his team, third in field goals (127), third in field goal attempts (306), tied for third in 3-point field goal (65), third in 3-point field goal attempts (168),  and was eight in points produced in the AAC (328). Nolley was Memphis basketball’s only player named to the first team in the AAC. He was also a huge asset for the team on the defensive part of the floor.

Having another year of learning the offense, knowing his role, and adding more experienced and knowledgeable coaches can be a huge asset as a leader for Memphis basketball. Honing his skills, his size is difficult to match up with, he can create shots for himself and others, and he will also be important in tough situations and someone that can be leaned on for the Tigers.

With a few of the new players incoming being shooters, he could find himself really building up his NBA profile, and Nolley could easily be higher than the projections as this team blows out games.

Make or Break Player: Jalen Duren

Memphis basketball has been known for its talented big men and this year is no different. Bringing in Jalen Duren, Penny is hoping for more of a Precious Achiuwa than a Moussa Cisse. The Tigers are going need to have someone with good footwork, bounce, scoring ability, body positioning, and a soft touch.

Coach Hardaway will need to establish him as a big man down low, the team will struggle. Memphis basketball is known for its slow gameplay and defensive ability. Duren will need to be a huge body in the center while limiting fouls and playing smart defensively. Luckily, Duren will be the force in the center and have the shot at it first. The Tigers have Dandridge and Lawson as potential rotational players at the center spot.

Duren is a very impressive player, has a good basketball IQ, and knows how to move without the ball. He can create shots, take smart shots, creates space, and help with ball movement. Duren is a huge asset for Memphis basketball and will definitely grow with the coaching staff’s help. He is going to terrorize the AAC in the center with his talent and ability.

Bench Rating: 9/10

Memphis basketball is again going to be a deep team stocked full of talent. It’s no doubt that Emoni Bates will likely be a starter by the end of the year, but his versatility makes him a huge asset for the team.

The Tigers return one of the best sixth men in Alex Lomax who is a difference-maker for this team and brings loads of experience. Outside of that, Memphis is also blessed with Malcolm Dandridge, a big man who will likely come in to spell Duren. Tyler Harris also returns to this team and is known for some really big offensive games. These two guards in Harris and Lomax are the smaller guards on the team but are still major assets for the team.

The Tigers are extremely balanced and very long.  The team is made up of 10 guards: two seniors, four guards, two sophomores, and two freshmen. This team also has five forwards: one senior, one junior, and three freshmen. Finally, Memphis basketball has three traditional centers: one junior and two freshmen. With some of the guards being able to play forward and forwards playing center. The Tigers’ ability to be fluid and play a variety of lineups will make this team very tough to beat.

Analytic to Know: 247Sports Recruiting Ranking

How about the non-traditional ‘analytic’ as Memphis basketball comes into the season with the top overall ranked recruiting class in college basketball. You know the names, but Hardaway will have the seemingly impossible task of fitting in two five-stars and two four-stars into an already loaded rotation. Hardaway has had some success with some of the best recruits before but the challenge has never been this tough.

Team Outlook

Memphis basketball has already started its season unofficially dominating Lemoyne-Owen College in a big 105-57 win. The Tigers were led by Lester Quinones in this matchup. Dandridge, Duren, Hardaway and Camden all went for double digits. The Tigers will tip off again on October 31st against Lane College.

The Tigers go to its tournament in the NIT Season Tip-off and will open against Virginia Tech and then has a shot at Iowa State or Xavier. They’ll also get games against other good competition including Georgia, Ole Miss, Alabama and Tennessee.. Before entering conference play, Memphis basketball will have a solid resume but will need wins to give them a boost into the NCAA Tournament.

With the bad taste of the NIT last year in coach Hardaway’s mouth, he has added experience and has put together a difficult non-conference schedule that should lead them straight into the NCAA Tournament. A majority of college hoops fans would be surprised if Memphis doesn’t win a few games in March.

Projected Finish: 1st in AAC

Projected Postseason Finish: NCAA Tournament Round of 32 Exit

Ceiling: NCAA Championship Appearance