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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Monday / December 10.
  • Larry Brown says Penny Hardaway is ‘way ahead’ at Memphis

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    NEW YORK — Larry Brown came close to joining Penny Hardaway’s staff at Memphis, and now he thinks the former NBA guard will thrive as a head coach at his alma mater.

    “I think he’s way ahead and then he hires [associate head coach] Sam [Mitchell] and he has Mike Miller and all these kids want to be in the NBA and you got all these NBA guys,” Brown, the only man to win an NBA and an NCAA title as a coach, told me Tuesday morning at Columbia University where he is coaching the USA East Coast All-Star team.

    “But the way I think Penny is personally, the way he relates to people, makes you feel good about yourself. I think he’ll do really, really well,”

    Hardaway has already made waves on the recruiting front and seems poised to do more. D.J. Jeffries decommited from Kentucky on Monday, and many observers think the 6-foot-7 Class of 2019 small forward will ultimately land at Memphis. He played for Hardaway on the Nike-sponsored Team Penny AAU club.

    James Wiseman, Jeffries’ teammate on Team Penny and then the Bluff City Legends and the No. 1 player in 2019, has released a list of eight schools but everyone expects it to come down to Kentucky or Memphis.

    Meantime, Memphis remains in the hunt for other Class of 2019 stars including Trendon Watford, who played for the Memphis-based Hoop City Basketball Club during the last live session in Las Vegas. The team — which also featured Wiseman (until an injury sidelined him), Chandler Lawson and Kira Lewis — was formerly sponsored by Miller and is run by Miller’s cousin, Ernie Kuyper.

    “I don’t recall ever seeing a situation where multiple coaches on one staff have ties like this to the summer programs that their major recruiting targets are playing for,”  Eric Bossi, a national basketball analyst for Rivals.com told Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com. “To their credit, it looks like they are using those ties. And I can’t imagine we’ll see anything like this again any time soon — or maybe ever.”

    Ernest Watford, Trendon’s father, told me they remain “open to other schools recruiting him” despite Watford having issued a list of his top eight schools, including Memphis.

    Trendon Watford also told Parrish that he and Wiseman have discussed playing for Hardaway at Memphis.

    “Of course,” Watford said. “Me and James have talked about it.”

    That doesn’t surprise Brown, who believes Hardaway will be a force to be reckoned with on the recruiting trail — and on the sidelines.

    “One, the city [of Memphis] has always had great players,” Brown said. “The [American] Conference I think has gotten better. It might not be like when Penny was there and they had Cincinnati and Louisville and Marquette. That was phenomenal, but it’s getting better.

    “And I think the fact that he was an AAU coach and paid his dues, instead of just all of a sudden getting a job, I think he’s way ahead.”

    Photo: Commercial Appeal

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.