The defending NIT Champion Memphis Tigers have yet to make it to the NCAA Tournament under Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway. They have gone 63-32 in his first three seasons there but only have the two NIT appearances. Memphis has not gone dancing since 2014. That is not good or acceptable for such a storied program. But that tourney drought should end this season. The Tigers look really good.
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The Memphis Tigers
For starters, Memphis returns three starters. Deandre Williams was the second-leading scorer and rebounder in his first year at Memphis after transferring in from Evansville. His 5.9 rebounds per game were eighth in the American Athletic Conference. He has been called one of the most underrated players in the AAC. Lester Quinones is one of only two players that started all 28 games last season. The junior was tied with Williams for second on the team in rebounds. Landers Nolley II is the third returning starter and the best of the group. Upon transferring from Virginia Tech, he had big improvements in shooting percentages across the board.
Before we look at the incredible recruiting class, let’s look at the transfers. Tyler Harris has come back home after going to Iowa State for a year. He played his first two seasons at Memphis before spending that year away. Harris will most likely come off the bench. Earl Timberlake is an interesting one. He was a top 40 player in the class of 2020. In his freshman season at Miami, he only ended up playing in seven games due to injuries. But he looked good in them even though it was a very small sample size. Chandler Lawson had two solid years at Oregon before deciding to come home to Memphis. Joining him is his younger brother Johnathan, who I will get to in a moment.
The talk of the town in Memphis right now is, of course, the nation’s number one ranked recruiting class. The six-man class includes four top 100 recruits, three in the top 50, and two in the top 5. The headliners are, of course, those two. Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren. Late this summer, both of them were reclassified into the Class Of 2021. Emoni Bates is an incredible player who I simply cannot say anything negative about him. He was the first sophomore to ever win the Gatorade National High School Player Of The Year award in 2020. Duren will automatically be one of the best centers in the country from day one.
Josh Minott is also a top 50 recruit. Johnathan Lawson is just inside the top 100. He was originally committed to Oregon to play with his older brother Chandler before both of them decided to go home to their hometown school. Sam Ayomide and John Camden are also parts of this class.
The one big problem with this year’s Memphis Tigers team is their lack of a true point guard that is starting-caliber. It is perhaps their Achilles heel. They have Tyler Harris and a guy like Alex Lomax, but I highly doubt that either of them will usually start. Hardaway will probably try either Bates or Timberlake at that spot. We will have to wait and see how that works out for them.
C – #2 Jalen Duren (#5 overall recruit on 247 Sports)
PF – #12 DeAndre Williams (11.7 PPG/ 5.8 RPG/ 3.4 APG/ 2.2 SPG)
G – #3 Landers Nolley II (13.1 PPG/ 4.1 RPG/ 1.8 APG/ 1.1 SPG)
SG/SF – #0 Earl Timberlake (9.3 PPG/ 5.0 RPG/ 2.4 APG/ 1.7 SPG)
SF/PG – #1 Emoni Bates (#4 overall recruit on 247 Sports)
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