MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The time has finally come for the unofficial tipoff to Penny Hardaway’s first season as the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Memphis--Memphis Madness.
The event was sold out--with over 18,000 fans estimated to be in attendance.
“I’m just excited Memphis Madness is back in full swing,” Tiger fan Earline Jones said.
There were rumors of performances by some of Memphis' biggest music stars, and local rappers Yo Gotti, BlocBoy JB, and Moneybagg Yo performed during the event.
When Hardaway was introduced, he was accompanied by Atlanta-based rapper Derez De’Shon, who performed his hit song “Hardaway”--named for the Tigers' coach.
All of this happened because Hardaway is the head coach at Memphis, and that’s what people came to see.
But the U of M women's basketball team is looking at this as a big opportunity to create excitement for their program as well.
“Everybody’s excited for Penny, everybody’s excited for men’s basketball, and I think that Penny does a great job of making sure that men’s basketball and women’s basketball come together,” Tigers junior guard Taylor Barnes said.
It helps that Hardaway has always been a big cheerleader for the Tigers' women’s squad.
He’s been a guest coach in the locker room for the Tiger women, played in their golf tournaments and supported grassroots girls basketball in Memphis.
“Penny has always been an advocate for women’s basketball here at the University of Memphis. He’s now just more in a position to make his presence known in a lot of different ways. He’s assisted in our recruiting, and as you know he’s assisted in promoting this program along with his," U of M head woman’s basketball coach Melissa McFerrin said.
To get the Tigers back where they want to be in the national spotlight, they have to recruit the best.
Memphis Madness had an opportunity to showcase the program and the support it gets to some of the best high school prospects across the country.
The following nationally-ranked prospects visited the U of M for Memphis Madness:
No. 1 James Wiseman
No. 8 Precious Achiuwa
No. 26 Trendon Watford
No. 33 Jahmius Ramsey
No. 35 Boogie Ellis
No. 47 DJ Jeffries
(Rankings from 247Sports Composite)
A year ago Memphis wasn’t in play for any of these prospects, and Jeffries was committed to Kentucky.
The stars that came to Memphis Madness weren’t just the artists who performed, but also the elite basketball recruits who could turn the Tigers into a national powerhouse should they chose Memphis.
Former Tiger receiver and current Chicago Bear Anthony Miller was one of the judges for the dunk contest, along with former Memphis basketball players Will Coleman, Elliot Perry, Jeremy Hunt, and Andre Turner.