Albuquerque Journal

Hardaway: NIL helps recruit to Memphis

Tigers land another top recruiting class

- BY TERESA M. WALKER

Penny Hardaway believes the new name, image and likeness rules helped him land another top recruiting class at Memphis.

Hardaway said Tuesday the NIL rules helped ease the strain on players weighing their options between earning money by going to the NBA’s G League or going to college. Now Hardaway can add NIL options when aggressive­ly pitching himself, his staff and what he’s building at his alma mater.

“You can come to college now and get deals for yourself and learn and develop at the same time,” Hardaway said. “You don’t have to go to any other level to get that.”

Hardaway, who had his first No. 1 recruiting class in 2019, lost five-star guard Jalen Green to the G League in 2020 after the first-round NBA pick was lured by money and endorsemen­t opportunit­ies. Hardaway made clear he disagreed with how the G League was approachin­g potential one-and-done players.

Thanks to the new NIL rules, that wasn’t a problem this offseason.

Hardaway convinced former NBA coach Larry Brown to go to Memphis to join his coaching staff, then hired a 16-year NBA veteran and champion Rasheed Wallace. They join assistant coach Cody Toppert, the Albuquerqu­e Academy graduate who is entering his third season on staff at Memphis.

Hardaway also finalized a recruiting class led by a pair of five-star recruits in Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren, two players who reclassifi­ed from 2022 to 2021, to earn his second No. 1 recruiting class at the American Athletic Conference program.

Hardaway’s sidekick Lil’ Penny from his Nike shoe commercial­s

during his playing days also pitched in. Lil’ Penny made an appearance in photos Bates posted on social media during his official visit to Memphis.

The Michigan native originally committed to Tom Izzo and Michigan State last year before changing his mind. The 6-foot-8 guard has been called a generation­al talent and projected to be the No. 1 overall pick when he’s eligible for the NBA draft in 2023 after turning 19.

He considered Oregon and the G League before committing to Memphis and Hardaway.

Hardaway joked the photo and coming out of retirement was Lil’ Penny’s idea.

“It’s a part of who I am, it’s a part of that what we do and how I made my name in the industry, in the NBA and with marketing and things of that nature and having Lil’ Penny here is selfexplan­atory,” Hardaway said. “It’s a part of my history. And it’s also funny as well.”

In the end, Hardaway believes the basketball side won over Bates and Duren even though Memphis hasn’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 2014. Memphis returns three of its top five scorers from the team that won the 2021 NIT championsh­ip.

“They really knew what they wanted out of this basketball thing,” Hardaway said. “And the developmen­t, the teaching and understand­ing, being around brilliant minds on the staff is what they really wanted.”

Wallace is eager to help the Tigers get whatever money they can earn through the NIL rules. He said former NBA players helped pave the way for him to make what he was paid once he arrived in the league.

“Now we paved the way for this generation to receive the dollars that they get,” Wallace said. “So it’s it just all goes hand in hand. So I want to see my young guys get that money so I can’t take this knowledge to the grave with me. And it’ll be an injustice to the basketball world and to the basketball gods if I did.”

 ?? NICOLE HESTER/ANN ARBOR NEWS VIA AP ?? Ypsilanti Lincoln’s Emoni Bates shoots during a high school game in Ypsilanti, Michigan, in December 2019. The five-star recruit committed to play for Penny Hardaway at Memphis.
NICOLE HESTER/ANN ARBOR NEWS VIA AP Ypsilanti Lincoln’s Emoni Bates shoots during a high school game in Ypsilanti, Michigan, in December 2019. The five-star recruit committed to play for Penny Hardaway at Memphis.

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