It looks like the Memphis Tigers have found a new basketball coach and it is former All-NBA guard Penny Hardaway, according to a report from ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.
Hardway will replace Tubby Smith, who the school parted ways with after just two seasons. Hardaway has never coached at the collegiate level but he is well connected in the AAU game, as he has coached many of the top players in the country, including the No. 1 overall player in the 2019 class, James Wiseman.
Wiseman is a major Kentucky target and prior to Hardaway landing at Memphis, many believed the Wildcats were the frontrunner for 6-foot-11 center. When SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker spoke with Wiseman and Hardaway last month, it’s easy to see why there would be a connection, as Wiseman compares his game to former Wildcat Karl-Anthony Towns.
“[Wiseman] is at the top of Kentucky’s list right now because he’s skilled, his upside is very high, he’s coachable — which is big in today’s game — and he’s only going to get better,” Hardaway told Tucker. “He’s definitely NBA talent. I’m just glad he’s a junior, where he can kind of get out of that private school basketball mode where everything is nice and get a little grimier.”
Wiseman’s mother did rave about Hardaway, who has coached her son at the AAU and high school level. Wiseman and Hardaway won a state title this past weekend in Tennessee, the third in a row for Hardaway.
“Penny is my man,” Donzaleigh Artis, Wiseman’s mother, said. “He’s not just a basketball coach. He’s Penny. He’s teaching them boys what they need to know, on the court and off the court, to get to the next stage. To know Penny is really great.”
But Kentucky fans shouldn’t freak out yet, as one person close to Wiseman’s high school team told Tucker that “Some of these guys might (follow Hardaway) but James is going to Kentucky. That’s what he tells everybody.”
Hardaway was also the AAU coach for D.J. Jeffries, who is Kentucky’s lone 2019 commitment at the moment. Jeffries is the No. 26 player in the 2019 recruiting class.
Much has been made of Kentucky’s 2018 class, which despite having two 5-star commitments does not have a single top-10 ranked recurit or a commitment from any frontcourt player. The Wildcats signed three guards in shooting guards Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro and point guard Immanuel Quickley.
As for Kentucky’s current team, the Wildcats advanced to yet another Sweet 16, the seventh in John Calipari’s nine seasons. The Wildcats take on Kansas State on Thursday in Atlanta. Tip is scheduled for 9:39 p.m. ET and the game will air on CBS.