The Memphis Tigers Men’s Basketball is in preparations to make a summer trip to the Bahamas. And Head Coach Penny Hardaway allowed media in to take a first look at what the Tigers will look like this fall.
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One of the major benefits to playing in the four-game exhibition tour is that Head Coach Penny Hardaway is allowed 10 extra practices under NCAA rules. With the number of new players on the roster, the extra practice time will assist in the team developing team chemistry.
For the vast majority of the players, this will be the first time they have ever left the country. Lance Thomas is looking forward to going to the beach for the first time since he was five. Tyler Harris wants to either jump off some type of boat or go jet-skiing. Alex Lomax wanted to get on a boat and get into the water.
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“I would love to go out there and have good bonding activities with the team,” said Lomax, adding that the competitive practices has helped the team draw closer. “I want to have a lot of fun, but still be focused. It is a business trip, but a fun vacation as well.”
The Tigers will depart on Aug. 12 and return on Aug. 19, with four games in between. The games are not expected to be competitive, but Hardaway is hoping his team meets some adversity.
“I want some of these games to be hard. I want to see what we do in adverse situations,” he said. “If we go beat everyone by 30 or more points, some of the guys may get a false sense of what it is like. I hope every game is a knockdown, physical (game) and (that) the let refs just let us play and see how the guys respond to that.”
Hardaway may not allow his players to participate in any high-risk activities. The trip will not be all work and they will do some team-building. Will it help determine a starting lineup?
“(The trip) gives you an idea of what is what,” Hardaway said. “We are trying to determine who is who and what lineups work well together.”
The Tigers only return three players that played any minutes last season Harris, Lomax and Isaiah Maurice. But the returning players aren’t threatened by the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation. The veterans have been giving the newcomers a crash course in playing basketball on the collegiate level.
But fans have been salivating over the possible combinations that Hardaway can put on the floor.
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James Wiseman is a lock to start next season. There will be fierce competition on the perimeter with Harris, Lomax, Lester Quinones, Boogie Ellis and Damion Baugh all competing for minutes. The ticket to more playing time may hinge on defense, though.
Over the summer Hardaway has been studying best defensive teams in the country, including Virginia, Texas Tech and Cincinnati. He’s studying how they defend the pick and roll and other team defenses.Last year’s Tigers ranked well in defensive efficiency, but Hardaway wants this squad to be one of the best in the country. So do his players.
“My entire life that is the first thing that coach (Penny) has been teaching me,” said Lomax, who has been mentored by Hardaway since sixth grade. ” I love defense. Defense makes offense better. If we come out with the mindset to play defense our offense will be ten times better.”
Harris wants to taste the glory of the NCAA tournament.
“Coach Hardaway said he made tons of money in his career, but he said being in the NCCA tournament and going on that run was some of the best times in his life,” Harris said. “I want to experience that.”
The Tigers have completed who they will be playing this season, but they are waiting on the Grizzlies to get their final dates for their season the Tigers will be able to lock in the dates and release their schedule.