The next two weeks will be critical for Penny Hardaway and his coaching staff.
No, there are no big games on the horizon. The potential outcomes of some games next season may be decided by the remaining unsigned high school seniors. The unofficial deadline for the late signing period ends on May 15, but some may wait until later this month to make their decision.
There are still five players the Tigers hope to have on the roster this season. Lester Quinones, Precious Achiuwa, Trendon Watford, RJ Hampton and Boogie Ellis are all at the top of the Tigers wish list. Arkansas Little Rock senior transfer Rajon Tucker is still coveted as well.
The only player who has announced when they are going to make their plans known to when they will make their announcement is Quinones, who will announce his choice on May 10. Quinones’ decision may have a direct impact on Achiuwa. Quinones and Achiuwa have publicly expressed an interest in playing collegiate ball together.
In various interviews, Hardaway has said he would like to have the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation this season. If the Tigers can win over even half of their remaining targets, Hardaway may get his wish.
At the “Ball is Life” All-Star game in Long Beach, Calif., Achiuwa, Ellis and Watford all made a showing but were tight-lipped about their collegiate plans.
According to 247sports.com and other recruiting services, both Achiuwa and Ellis are expected to play for the Tigers this season. Achiuwa is a 6-9 forward from Montverde Academy in Montverde, Fla. Achiuwa is widely regarded as a one-and-done type player expected to be a high pick in the 2020 NBA lottery.
A McDonald’s All-American, Achiuwa plays forward and has great ball handling skills, good strength, quality height for his position and tremendous leaping ability. He has had flashes of brilliance. He is more of a finisher than a creator. He has played with Quinones for several years and has expressed an interest in playing with him in college. So Quinones’ announcement may signal where Achiuwa will play.
Ellis, the four-star combo guard from Mission Bay, Calif., recently sent shockwaves through the college basketball world by de-committing from Duke and reopening his college search. Memphis was in contention to sign Eliis earlier and is rumored to be a finalist for the three-point marksman. Ellis won the three-point shooting contest at the Ball Is Life All-Star game.
Here are five of my projections for how these dominos will fall:
6. Lester Quiniones
He will announce and sign with the Tigers on Friday, May 10 at 4 p.m. at a location back in New York. He feels that he is the missing piece to assist the Tigers with their outside shooting. Quinones is a 6-5 shooting guard at IMG Academy. IMG Academy is where former Tiger Trey Draper is part of the coaching staff.
5. Precious Achiuwa
He will announce and sign with the Tigers. He wants to play with his good friend Quinones. He has been constantly recruited by James Wiseman. He will benefit by playing with a great guard in Quinones and a future top-five NBA pick in Wiseman.
4. Boogie Ellis
He will announce and sign with the Tigers. He feels that Memphis is doing something special and really wanted to sign with the Tigers initially and had a change of heart and will play under the direction of Penny Hardaway.
3. RJ Hampton
Despite reclassifying to this year’s class and with Memphis being the front runner, I don’t expect him to sign with the Tigers and will most likely sign with either Kansas or Texas Tech. He is a native Texan and he may feel the pressure to stay in the state.
2. Trendon Watford
The Tigers have been after Watford the longest. He has a great relationship with Mike Miller and he and his family have raved about Miller as a person and a coach. However, look for him to choose the LSU Tigers.