Penny Hardaway, Memphis Tigers

The Memphis Tigers potentially lose all of their starters from last season and await an NCAA waiver for DeAndre Williams as the lone starting returner.

As is tradition, CBB Review is again ranking the top 100 teams heading into the new college basketball season. Each day, we will reveal the next team until we reach the team slotted at number one. Follow along with #CBBRank on all our social media channels.

The Memphis Tigers offseason is shrouded in controversy. The first landing was the three-game suspension for Penny Hardaway for recruiting violations. These violations are from a few years ago, and Hardaway’s recruitment of James Wiseman, who was forced to sit out and led to vacated games. Memphis got its name in additional controversy with the addition of Jaykwon Walton. Walton, who was set to join the Alabama Crimson Tide this fall, had the offer rescinded when, while in Alabama, when he was charged with second-degree possession of marijuana and found to be driving around with a loaded weapon in the car. Walton was offered to play for UCF but decided to play for Hardaway instead.

The last news is on the top-rated prospect set to join the Tigers in Mikey Williams. He is waiting for his trial after pleading not guilty to multiple felony charges related to a shooting at his home in San Diego. Williams faces five charges of assault with a weapon and one count of firing into an occupied vehicle. If he is found not guilty, Williams would likely join the Tigers. As of now, the preliminary hearing is scheduled for October 10. Williams has already spent valuable time with this team and is still listed on the athletic department’s website.

With two players becoming NBA players, Kendric Davis and Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu, Hardaway did what he does best and hit the recruiting trail and transfer portal. He has six freshmen incoming, including multiple 4-star recruits. This Memphis Tigers team grabbed three players from fellow conference members last year, in Wichita State, UCF, and Temple.

Click here to learn more about our preseason top 100 teams heading into the 2023-24 college basketball season.

Head coach:  Penny Hardaway (6th season, all at Memphis)

2022-23 record: 26-9 (13-5)

2023 postseason finish: Lost to FAU, 66-65, in first round of NCAA Tournament

Notable departures: Kendric Davis (NBA), Keonte Kennedy (Transferred to California), Elijah McCadden (Graduated), Alex Lomax (Graduated),  Damaria Franklin (Graduated), Chandler Lawson (Transferred to Arkansas), Johnathan Lawson (Transferred to Creighton)

Notable nonconference games:  at Missouri (Nov. 10), vs. Michigan (Nov. 22), Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 23-24), at Ole Miss (Dec. 2), at VCU (Dec. 6), at Texas A&M (Dec. 10), vs. Clemson (Dec. 16), vs. Virginia (Dec. 19), vs. Vanderbilt (Dec. 23)

Projected Rotation

PG: Jahvon Quinerly (6-1, 175, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 8.7 PPG, 3.6 APG, 1.9 RPG, 35.7 3P% (Alabama)

SG: Caleb Mills (6-3, 180, Gr.-Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 13.0 PPG, 3.4 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.3 SPG (Florida State)

SF: David Jones (6-6, 195, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 13.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.3 SPG, 39.2 FG% (St. John’s)

PF: Jaykwon Walton (6-7, 205, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 13.9 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, 53.5 FG%, 40.0 3P% (Wichita State)

C: Jordan Brown (6-11, 220, Gr.)

2022-23 stats: 19.3 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.2 BPG, 57.1 FG% (Louisiana)

6: Nick Jourdain (6-8, 205, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 6.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.1 BPG, 50.0 FG% (Temple)

7: Jayden Hardaway (6-5, 195, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 5.4 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 0.6 APG

8: Malcolm Dandridge (6-9, 260, Gr.-Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 5.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 0.4 APG, 1.0 BPG, 57.5 FG%

9: JJ Taylor (6-8, 180, Fr.)

247Sports Composite No. 86 rated recruit

10: Jayhlon Young (6-2, 175, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 4.5 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 35.8 3P%, 37.3 FG% (UCF)

11: Ashton Hardaway (6-8, 210, Fr.)

247Sports Composite No. 110 rated recruit

12: Carl Cherenfant (6-5, 195, Fr.)

247Sports Composite No. 115 rated recruit

Memphis Tigers MVP: Caleb Mills

With the loss of Kendric Davis, Caleb Mills steps into a role that could allow him to put up some massive points. Being a combo guard, he can remain on the floor longer. Mills’ ability to score in different ways is a cause for concern. Having moved around a bit, he will make strides as he returns to the AAC. Mills will be in an easy conference on the top one or two teams in the conference. His size is a benefit as he will face smaller guards, and his ability to open holes and get to the free-throw line makes him a vital part of the team. Mills will likely earn more favor with Penny with his defense and ability to create breakaways and force steals.

While he can shoot the 3-pointer, Mills is likelier to drive for the dunk, layup, or kick to an open teammate as he sucks in the defense. He was a top free-throw shooter in the ACC and successfully made them. With how Coach Penny runs the offense-defense, Mills will be on the assist or finishes during breakaways. 

Memphis Tigers make-or-break player: Jaykwon Walton

With all the noise surrounding him, Jaykwon Walton is coming in and will be an excellent fit for this team. He is a hard-nosed player who can light up the scoreboard. With the potential of no DeAndre Williams, Walton would fit right into this role. The difference for Walton is that he is a better 3-point shooter than Williams. The maturity that Williams is much ahead of Walton, who would often get chippy and in foul trouble whenever he made a mistake. Walton is a fantastic athlete who plays with a spark and is another offensive weapon. He is an intelligent shooter, knows how to score, and led the AAC last year in true shooting percentage and 2-point percentage. Walton can score and has a ton of talent. He hoped to play alongside and learn more from DeAndre Williams.

The Memphis Tigers are getting a baller who could easily lead the conference and team in scoring. There are a lot of positives for Walton and this team. He will need to keep the noise out and focus on playing basketball. 

Key analytic: Three-point Rate

With the success of this offense, the area that was a glaring weakness for the Memphis Tigers was, surprisingly 3-point rate. With a 3-point rate of 341st, this was part of the issue for this team. However, Coach Hardaway has reloaded. This team has some guys who can shoot it, and the 3-point line will open up with this team’s scorers. This is an area that Hardaway focused on based on all the players he brought in. This team should be closer to the 200 mark as this team will still have its success within the arc. With the talent and bounce on this team, this team is set to be one of the fiercest in its ability to score. 

Memphis Tigers 2023-24 projections

Projected conference finish: 2nd in the American Athletic Conference

Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Elite 8 Exit

One thought on “CBB Rank 2023: No. 36 Memphis Tigers”
  1. Boy oh boy. What to make of Penny and the Memphis Tigers. The good? Supreme talent base on a yearly basis, great recruiting, typically from HS but this year from the portal. The class of Jordan Brown, Jahvon Quinerly, Caleb Mills, David Jones, and Jaykwon Walton (very possibly their starting 5) plus Nick Jourdain, Jonathan Pierre, and Jayhlon Young is a class that I’ll argue is as good as anyone else in the country on talent alone. An AAC tournament championship over #1 seed Houston (sans Marcus Sasser). A first round NCAA tournament loss that could have easily been a W over an eventual Final 4 team. The bad? The continuing pattern of bringing in questionable character guys (Walton and freshman Mikey Williams) and guys on their third schools (Quinerly, Mills, Walton, Brown). The failure to live up to preseason expectations as it relates to their talent level which ultimately ends up being a question of whether Penny can really coach or is just an iconic name that can recruit like crazy. On talent alone, as usual, this should be a Top 15 team but more than likely, this year will be more of what we’ve seen in the past with the cohesiveness of Florida Atlantic taking the place of departed Houston. Lastly, Mikey Williams and Jonathan Pierre officially remain on the roster but Teafale Lenard and Damaria Franklin have since departed the program.

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