Penny Hardaway landed five-star recruits Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren this offseason, which marked the second time since 2019 that he attracted the top recruiting class in the country.
Bates is a 6’8 forward who will almost positively be a one-and-done star. He was arguably the best scorer in this year’s high school class and should immediately play a major role as a volume shooter in this offense. At 17 years old, he’s young and reclassified from the 2022 class to the 2021 class, but he’ll be an immediate impact player.
Duren is a 6’10 interior beast with the ability to take over the game at either end of the floor. In many ways, he should live up to the former expectations of James Wiseman, who was a similarly-rated recruit. He should immediately average a double-double and is a potential top five NBA pick.
Timberlake is a 6’6 wing that transferred from Miami (FL). He averaged 9.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 steals in 27.4 minutes per game over seven appearances in his freshman season as a Hurricane. He will be part of the wing rotation.
Landers Nolley was Memphis’ most productive player last season and put up 13.1 points and 4.1 rebounds in 27.4 minutes over 28 games (25 starts). He should be a staple of Hardaway’s starting five and the former Virginia Tech transfer might end up leading the team in scoring.
DeAndre Williams is a 6’9 forward that averaged 11.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.2 steals in 26.1 minutes over 21 games (20 starts). His versatility and distribution skills in the frontcourt should be an important part of the team’s success.
Lester Quinones will enter his third season under Hardaway and could take over the sixth man role. He put up 9.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists per contest in 26.4 minutes over 28 games (28 starts) last season, but hit 40% of his three-point attempts.
Memphis’ most challenging non-conference opponent will be Alabama, who made the Sweet 16 last season. NIT participants Saint Louis and Western Kentucky are also on the schedule while Murray State might also give them a fight. Tennessee and Ole Miss are their other non-conference Power 5 opponents.
In all, this team has the potential to be special and should roll through the 18-game AAC schedule. My prediction: 27-4 (16-2 in AAC) and a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
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