Jalen Duren acknowledges the fan support as he exits the court following the Tigers battle with SMU in the semi-final game of the AAC tournament. (Photo: Terry Davis/The New Tri-State Defender)
Terry Davis

Jalen Duren, who anchored the paint for the University of Memphis Tigers basketball team last season, now has an NBA Draft, first-round shot at helping the Detroit Pistons secure its frontcourt.

During Thursday evening’s draft, Duren was selected No. 13 by the Charlotte Hornets before a trade to the Pistons.

“I am just definitely excited,” said Duren, who made an immediate impact as a freshman with the Tigers. “I don’t know if everybody knows, but I heard the pick was going to Detroit. So just happy to be in the NBA. Ready to get started.”

The U Of M has been a gateway to players pursuing a professional career in the NBA. While the Tigers did not have a first-round draft pick last year, they did have two first-round picks in 2020 with James Wiseman and Precious Achiuwa.

Duren led the Tigers team in scoring (12 points per game), rebounding (8.1) and blocked shots (2.1).  He started 29 games, helping Memphis reach the second round of the NCAA tournament. He was named the American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year and was named to the AAC first team.

“I’m looking forward to playing against everybody, playing at the highest level, all great players, all the greatest players in the world,” he said. “I’m definitely just excited to see everybody.”

Josh Minott takes it to the hoop for the Tigers (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The New Tri-State Defender Archives)

Duren’s Memphis teammate, Josh Minott, was selected with the 45th pick and will play for the Minnesota Timberwolves.  He is a project pick and will be looked upon as a long-term development player. NBA scouts fell in love with him because of his upside during their visit to the campus last fall.

Minott improved during the season, stepping up to help keep the team afloat when it was beset with injuries. He was named to the AAC All-Freshman team.  He was the only freshman in the nation to have 30 assists, 25 steals and 20 blocks while playing fewer than 15 minutes a game.

The Tigers’ Lester Quinones, who declared for the NBA Draft, was not selected. He signed a two-way contract with the Golden State Warriors. He will be playing in the NBA summer leagues and has a spot on their G-League team.

Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway talks to Lester Quinones during a timeout. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The New Tri-State Defender Archives)

Quinones was one of the best defensive players in the nation.  He routinely was assigned to guard the other team’s most dangerous player. Consistent from three-point range, he caught the attention of NBA scouts.

The Tigers will be without several players from last year’s roster. In addition to Duren, Minott and Quinones going the draft route, Tyler Harris, Earl Timberlake, Sam Onu, John Camden and Emoni Bates all entered the transfer portal.  Bate’s name has been active on Twitter and the possibility of his return to the school has been increasing.  He will announce his decision by the end of the month.

Memphis currently has six scholarships available. Pending results from The Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP) may be coming down in the next few weeks. A slap on the wrist is expected, with no post-season ban. Sanctions could include scholarship reductions, a suspension of head coach Penny Hardaway and a monetary fine of the University.