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.
No. 1 prospect Jalen Duren ends suspense by committing to Penny Hardaway, Memphis
By ADAM ZAGORIAJalen Duren, the 6-foot-10 big man from Montverde (FL) Academy and the Team Final AAU program, ended the suspense Friday evening by committing to coach Penny Hardaway and Memphis.
Ranked the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2022, Duren is expected to reclassify to 2021 and enroll at Memphis for the 2021-22 season. He chose the Tigers over Kentucky, Miami, the NBA G League and the Australian NBL. He is already projected as a top-5 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, according to several mock drafts.
Duren had this to say of Memphis when speaking to ZAGSBLOG last month:
“The pro experience they have in Penny Hardaway and Larry Brown is tremendous. And Cody Toppert helped develop Devin Booker into an All-Star [with the Suns]. Coach Brown is a Hall of Fame coach and the pro experience is a huge factor. I like what they have over there. Since Penny came over, they’ve been building and they’re on the rise.”
Last month at Peach Jam, after going for 15 points, 8 rebounds and 6 blocks in the semifinals against the NY Rens, Duren came back with 17 points, 10 boards and three assists in the itle game win over Brad Beal Elite He was named to the All-Peach Jam First Team on ZAGSBLOG.
Montverde coach Kevin Boyle, who had seven players chosen in last week’s NBA Draft, believes Duren is a future NBA player who must continue to develop his offensive game.
“I thought Jalen really improved his motor, skills, basketball understanding and intensity,” Boyle said. “He is a terrific player and has the unique ability to trap and or switch on ball screens. His perimeter offense improved dramatically and after a year in college will be very comfortable facing the basket at the highest levels of competition. We appreciate his major contribution to our National Championship.”
One NBA scout who saw Duren at Peach Jam last month said of him:
“Jalen looks like a grown ass man right now. He plays almost as if he’s in a supporting cast and then the next thing you know he catches a ball in the dunker’s spot and he’s got his nose on the rim. I would want him to be more dominant but it’s obvious that he has the physical attributes and the athleticism
“You want him to demonstrate a skill set and an acumen outside of just being a dunker and a shot-blocker. I want him to be more dominant, truthfully.”
Memphis also remains in the mix for superstar Emoni Bates, who was ranked the No. 2 player in ’22 behind Duren before he announced Wednesday he will reclassify to 2021 and is considering Memphis, Michigan State, Oregon and the G League. He hasn’t set an announcement date and could pop at any time for one of his options after decommitting from Michigan State in April.
Duren and Bates are friends and were teammates briefly this summer with Team Final when they won the Southern Jamfest. After Bates returned to Bates Fundamental for Peach Jam, he sat behind the Team Final bench urging them on during their run to the Peach Jam title.
“I know how it is with this whole process thing,” Duren said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I wouldn’t put too much more pressure on him than he probably already has. Definitely if he decides to come play I know it would be amazing for college basketball, but that’s my guy off the court besides basketball, anyway.”
The addition of Duren — and potentially Bates — will amp up the pressure on Hardaway and his staff to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time. In three seasons at his former school, Hardaway is 63-32 with no NCAA Tournament appearances although the Tigers won the NIT title last year.
“I think that we want the pressure,” Hardaway told me in 2019 for Forbes. “…The pressure of having really good players and then putting that on us, and say, hey, you need to get here, we understand what that means, and we want that. That means that you have a great team and you have the opportunity to win a national championship when they start putting that type of pressure on you.”
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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.