Hardaway to make Tiger coaching debut Oct. 25 against LeMoyne Owen

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The wait is over . . . sort of.

Ever since The University of Memphis announced hometown hoops hero Penny Hardaway as its coach, excitement soared.

And when local prep stars like Alex Lomax and Tyler Harris began flocking to join his squad, the anticipation only accelerated.

Well, fans will get their first look at the Hardaway version of the Tigers Thursday (Oct. 25) in an annual exhibition game against the LeMoyne-Owen Magicians.

Another exhibition game is set for Nov. 2, a match against Christian Brothers University.

And while the games don’t count, the LOC game will be Tiger fans chance to see if Hardaway and his squad can live up to the hype.

What does he hope to see from his team?

“Excitement,” Hardaway told media Wednesday afternoon. “We want it to be fast-paced on offense and mayhem on defense.When people leave the game, we want them to say, ‘Hey, I enjoyed that game.’”

The team will feature returnees Jeremiah Martin, a preseason first-team American Athletic Conference selection; Kyvon Davenport; Mike Parks Jr., Raynere Thornton, Kareem Brewton, Victor Enoh and Evin Olds.

And despite only being hired in late March, Hardaway assembled a top recruiting class that will feature eight new players, including freshmen Lomax, Harris, Antwann Jones, David Wingett, Ryan Boyce and Jayden Hardaway.

Transfers Isaiah Maurice and Lance Thomas are also new to the roster. Center Karim Sameh Azab is undergoing treatments for leukemia and is not with the team.

Hardaway said Wednesday he hadn’t determined how he will use the players he’ll have available or who he will start.

“I might start one group the first half and start another group the second half,” he said. “I haven’t decided, so don’t hold me to that.”

And while he understands the hype around his presence on the sidelines, he expects the excitement of the game and the performance of his players will take some of the spotlight off of him.

“People are going to want to see my mannerisms, and how I respond to certain things,” he said. “Hopefully the team will be exciting enough that they won’t be paying as much attention to me.

“If the games are boring, then they might be paying more attention to me,” he chuckled.