Memphis loaded its roster and coaching staff with big names. Now it’s time for the Tigers to find out just how good they can be.
The No. 12-ranked team in the preseason will host Tennessee Tech in its opener on Tuesday.
The Tigers brought in arguably the top recruiting class in the nation, headlined by Montverde Academy big man Jalen Duren and wing Emoni Bates. Both are considered potential first-round picks in next year’s NBA draft.
Coach Penny Hardaway added Hall of Famer Larry Brown and longtime NBA star Rasheed Wallace to his staff.
“There’s so much experience on this staff,” Hardaway said. “Coach Brown coached nine NBA teams, I played 15 years in the league, Sheed played 16 and Cody’s (assistant Cody Toppert) coached in the NBA. We’re definitely all happy to be able to look at this roster and have so many options.”
Duren, who scored 15 points against Lemoyne-Owen College in a preseason game, is considered a potential lottery pick. He’ll likely start at center for the Tigers.
Bates made his preseason debut against Lane College and had 12 points, four rebounds and three assists in 21 minutes. The 6-foot-9 Bates could be used as a point forward.
The top returning player is Landers Nolley II, a preseason All-American Athletic Conference first-team selection. He averaged a team-best 13.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 steals per game last season. Nolley also led the club in 3-point shooting (38.7 percent) and free-throw shooting (80.3).
Forward DeAndre Williams (11.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists) and guard Lester Quinones (9.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists) also return to the starting lineup.
Last season, the Tigers finished 20-8 and won the National Invitation Tournament, defeating Mississippi State 77-64 for the championship. Nolley was chosen as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
That’s not the tournament the Tigers are aiming for this season.
We know what we want to be,” Hardaway said. “We want to be an NCAA Tournament team, and everyone understands that’s the focus and everyone’s working really hard.”
The Golden Eagles finished last season with a 5-22 record, including nine consecutive losses at the start of the year.
Tennessee Tech’s top returning player is guard Jr. Clay, its leading scorer last season at 17.3 points per game. HIs backcourt partner, Keishawn Davidson, averaged 11.1 points and 4.4 assists.
Tech’s roster includes 10 returning players, five Division I transfers and two freshmen.
“We feel like we have enough depth with 17 total players on our basketball team, so it’s going to come down to how much work we put in and how well we get along,” said John Pelphrey, who is entering his third season as the Golden Eagles’ coach. “That’s what we’re actively trying to do right now, just put in the work and really develop deep-rooted relationships.”
Pelphrey will start figuring out his rotations in the opener.
“There are a lot of challenges there for us to learn, grow, and get better from,” he said. “It starts right off with a real challenge in Memphis. … It’s just a big opportunity for us to go out and compete and find out where we are and what we need to get better at.”
–Field Level Media