Every season brings a myriad of coaching changes in college basketball.
For the most part, the Kentucky Wildcats have been relatively unaffected. They may have lost or gained a recruit here or there, but most of that impact has been situational. However, one man in this year’s coaching carousel could impact several prominent programs, with Kentucky having the most to lose.
Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway has been a coach on the rise in recent years, so much that his program, Memphis East High School, has now become a big attraction for high-profile basketball recruits.
Along the way, Hardaway also established Team Penny, which is a top Nike AAU program. Most recently, Kentucky’s own PJ Washington was a part of the program. Team Penny attracts top talent year in and year out, and Hardaway has become one of the biggest names out there in the AAU circuit.
Recently, Hardaway’s name has come up in discussions about the current job opening at Ole Miss, as well as another potential vacancy at his alma mater.
Former Kentucky coach Tubby Smith is really struggling to bring success to the Memphis Tigers program, and many believe this season will be his last. As an alumnus of Memphis and a prominent high school coach and community member in the area, it seems Hardaway may be the perfect person to take over for Smith.
Having Hardaway’s recruiting chops in college basketball would obviously be a blow to many top programs, as many expect that his connections within AAU would lead to him landing top recruits every year.
But as Ben Roberts at the Herald-Leader pointed out, the immediate impact on Kentucky would be the potential loss of some of their biggest current recruiting targets.
James Wiseman is the top player 2019 class, and rumors continue to persist that he may reclassify to 2018. According to all recruit experts, Wiseman has been a Kentucky lean since the very beginning. But considering that Wiseman plays for Team Penny AND is the star for Hardaway’s Memphis East squad, it is hard to see a scenario where he would not consider following Penny to a college position, especially if it is in Memphis.
Considering Kentucky’s recent recruiting woes, losing out on Wiseman would be a real dagger. The salt in the wound would be if five-star 2019 forward D.J. Jeffries, a Team Penny teammate of Wiseman’s, also followed Hardaway to his next position. Jeffries has openly discussed his admiration for John Calipari, and the 247 Sports Crystal Ball has Kentucky leading for his services at 83%.
However, if Coach Hardaway came calling, you would have to think he would be interested in joining Wiseman and his former coach.
Penny Hardaway’s presence in college basketball could have an immediate, negative impact on Kentucky Basketball. And with a little success, that may develop into a long-term problem for the Wildcats.
As much as I used to love the “Little Penny” commercials, the only college coaching seat I want to see Hardway in is the assistant’s chair next to John Calipari. But with so much head coaching buzz, him taking an assistant position seems unlikely at this point.
Also, if you didn’t get the “Little Penny” comment, check out a classic: