Penny Hardaway, Memphis basketball seniors stay patient with Tigers freshmen – The Commercial Appeal


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In the first regular-season game of the Penny Hardaway era at Memphis, the Tigers defeated Tennessee Tech Tuesday.
Jason Munz, Southern Miss Sports Writer

Just before Tennessee Tech could inbound the ball beneath the Memphis basket midway through the second half Tuesday night, Tigers assistant coach Sam Mitchell jumped up from the bench to stand next to head coach Penny Hardaway. 

“David!” Mitchell projected to get the attention of freshman David Wingett on the other side of the floor. “You have No. 24.”

The assistant even held up his fingers toward Wingett in case he wasn’t loud enough. 

Perhaps it was just another coaching moment in the midst a 76-61 Memphis win, but it’s also a reminder of something that’s easy to forget with the star power of this coaching staff. As well as Memphis’ freshmen played in the team’s two exhibition games, they are still freshmen. Part of the first-year coaching process Hardaway will endure this season must revolve around inconsistency from his young players and making sure they are ready come conference play in January.

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Although the Tigers boast five seniors, Hardaway’s team elevates with the depth at guard the freshmen provide, especially in the up-tempo style the coach wants to play.

Hitting their stride around the end of the year was something Hardaway noted after the Tigers’ final exhibition game last week. The room for growth was evident in Memphis’ regular-season win over Tennessee Tech, but there was no sign of any panic.

One 15-point win into the season, why would there be?

In fact, it was rare if Hardaway reacted strongly to a turnover or a bad shot. 

“We’re playing a lot of freshmen, so when you’re playing freshmen you have to keep them calm and not get them overexcited,” Hardaway said. “So I’m going to stay even-keeled while I’m out there coaching and not really get too animated.”

The Tigers’ freshmen made just five of 24 shots and had four turnovers. 

Freshman guard Alex Lomax finished with eight points on 3-of-9 shooting, and freshman guard Tyler Harris did not score.

“Alex, he struggled tonight,” Hardaway said. “He wasn’t his usual self. That’s just part of being a freshman. Things like that are going to happen with the freshmen, and I’m sure they will bounce back.”

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Memphis senior Kyvon Davenport scored a career-high 30 points against Tennessee Tech Tuesday.
Jason Munz, Southern Miss Sports Writer

 

Memphis’ seniors, on the other hand, played more than 50 percent of the team’s total minutes and scored 78 percent of the Tigers’ points. 

There were only two nonfreshman or nonsenior players who played Tuesday, Isaiah Maurice and Victor Enoh. They combined for 18 minutes. 

“For the upperclassmen, we just have to lead more, and be more crisp, and be there for (the freshmen),” senior guard Jeremiah Martin said. 

Martin said he feels like a big brother to Harris, who after two scoring outbursts in the exhibition games, finished 0-for-6 Tuesday. All of Harris’ shots came from behind the 3-point line. 

“He’s going to be great,” Martin said. “It’s a long season, and he has a long career. He’s a freshman, and this was his first game ever. I just told him he’s fine, and if he needs me just let me know.”

What better chance for the Tigers’ freshmen to bounce back than with a strong performance on the road against LSU? The LSU Tigers have five freshmen of their own. 

“Freshmen were being freshmen tonight,” Hardaway said. “That’s part of being a freshman, and you have to understand what’s going on. I’m sure now they are going to work even harder and be ready for the LSU game.”

Memphis (1-0) travels to face LSU (1-0) at 6 p.m. Tuesday (SEC Network).

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