PHILADEPHIA, PA (WMC) - One of the first things Penny Hardaway said when he got to the University of Memphis last Spring was he wanted his players to believe.
He wanted them to believe they could win the American Athletic Conference and compete with the best.
So Penny didn't take it too well when the Tigers were picked to finish 8th in the preseason conference media poll.
Penny’s peers feel differently. The first coaches preseason poll came out Monday at the AAC media day and the Tigers are picked to finish fourth. They even got a first place vote.
“It’s an awesome feeling," Hardaway said. "With this league and all of these coaches, I respect anything they say and do, and for them to rank us 4th is showing us respect. Especially with a new coach, new team, and in a very tough league, so I’m happy they ranked us 4th, but that doesn’t mean we’re gonna finish there. I’m proud they gave us that much respect.”
Point guard Jeremiah Martin, the only Tiger top make the preseason all-conference first team, feels the same.
“When they picked us 8th, it was like ‘man what else do we have to do?' It’s always room for improvement. We’re grateful for our 4th place pick but you’re not winning until you get the #1 pick, so we still got to strive,” Martin said.
Martin was joined at AAC media days by teammate Kyvon Davenport.
The two seniors are roommates, but they’re pretty different. Martin grew up playing basketball and it’s been a big part of his life, but Davenport has only been playing the sport since 9th grade.
Davenport never watched the game and said he still doesn’t really watch it. So he had no idea how big of a deal his new head coach Penny Hardaway was, or even his assistant coaches like Mike Miller and Sam Mitchell.
“I didn’t know. I didn’t know until he actually got here--a legend or none of that, because I didn’t watch it, so I had no clue until I started watching highlights, and looked all of them up. It’s crazy how they were all great," Davenport said.
Hardaway doesn’t take it personally.
“That’s not shocking because you have to know Kyvon, but he is a beautiful kid," Hardaway said. "This trip has really helped he and I, because we sat down yesterday and we talked a lot. I told him that this is great for he and I because most of the time coaches don’t have the time to sit with a guy everyday. So he’s learning me, and hopefully now he knows who I am.”