The Memphis Tigers have hired Penny Hardaway to fill their empty head coaching job, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.
After firing Tubby Smith it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Memphis would hire Hardaway, who was a star at the school in the 1990’s. Following his career at Memphis, Hardaway was drafted third overall in the 1993 draft and played 15 seasons in the NBA.
Since his playing days, Hardaway has taken to coaching with success. His AAU team is among the best in the country, and since taking over the head coaching job at Memphis East High, he has won three consecutive Tennessee state titles.
His success as a coach has made his teams an attractive destination for top players, including several UK targets in the upcoming classes.
One such target is James Wiseman, the No. 1 rated recruit in the class of 2019 by most recruiting services. Wiseman was the first player in the 2019 class to secure a UK scholarship offer last fall. He’s an extremely gifted big man who has already started showing his immense potential.
Wiseman has not made it a secret that he likes the Kentucky Wildcats, but he has a close relationship with Hardaway. He switched to Hardaway’s Team Penny AAU squad and transferred from his Nashville area high school to play for Hardaway at Memphis East. Wiseman’s game has developed under Hardaway’s coaching and the two reportedly have a close relationship.
Could that relationship be enough to pull Wiseman to Memphis over Kentucky?
Someone close to Wiseman told SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker that, while some of Hardaway’s players will follow him to Memphis, “James is going to Kentucky. That’s what he tells everyone.”
Recruiting expert Evan Daniels also said he isn’t ready to change his Kentucky prediction while speaking with Ben Roberts of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
“Honestly, I don’t know that I would switch them (Kentucky) from being the leader,” said Daniels. “But you do have to respect that Penny Hardaway is going to Memphis, and he’s coached him for a year. So they’re certainly going to be a factor in it.”
Obviously nothing is set in stone until a decision is made, but Wiseman has been outspoken about his respect for Calipari and the Kentucky program.
I don’t see that changing in the coming year, but Hardaway’s hire at Memphis makes them Kentucky’s top competitor in the running for Wiseman.
One of Wiseman’s AAU teammates has already committed to UK. D.J. Jeffries, the number 26 recruit in the 2019 class, is Kentucky’s first commitment for 2019. Jeffries has been outspoken about his dream to play for Calipari at Kentucky.
“Since I was a kid, I always dreamed of playing for Coach Cal. So this is just a dream come true.”
While Jeffries’ commitment isn’t binding until he signs in November, he’s made it clear that he’s with the Wildcats.
“Penny was a big help, because he taught me a lot during the summer. And I’ll still learn a lot from him this summer. But, now, I’m all about Kentucky.”
Penny Hardaway is a huge hire for Memphis and he has the real potential to alter the recruiting landscape in the 2019 class and beyond with the relationships he has developed through AAU and his high school coaching experience.
While Jeffries seems secure in his commitment to UK, James Wiseman is still up in the air. This recruitment will be one Big Blue Nation will want to follow as it heats up this coming fall.
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