There were some clear winners following the 2019 Memphis Madness.
Some liked the introduction of Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway. He was introduced with a video before emerging from a cloud of smoke on a platform above the student section. That got thunderous applause from the capacity crowd.
There was the introduction of the new court. The old court was retired after six years of use. Penny admitted to having some input in the design of the new court. The old court had the skyline of Memphis running from baseline to baseline. The new court has the Memphis logo and tiger stripes in the free throw lanes.
The entertainment was a winner. Not necessarily for the vast majority of the fans in attendance, but for current and potential future players for Memphis. James Wiseman said that Lil Baby, one of the hottest rappers out now, was his favorite act. Jalen Green, a top-five-rated player in the Class of 2020 has posted on Instagram that Lil Baby is his GOAT – “greatest of all time.”
Other potential recruits from 2020 and 2021 also dug the entertainment of Memphis Madness. Green even got a selfie with Grizzlies’ rookie PG Ja Morant, who was selected No. 2 overall in the 2019 NBA draft.
Lil Baby performed with MoneyBagg Yo and Future, one of the highlights for both the Men’s and Womens’ programs – players from both squads surrounded the rappers as they performed. Young Dolph and Key Glock, an up and coming young Memphis rapper, closed out the show after Damion Baugh won the dunk contest.
Along with Green, other highly touted athletes in attendance were Devin Askew, Kennedy Chandler, Maverick Miller (Mike Miller’s son), Moussa Cisse and others.
Earlier this year, after reeling in the No. 1 recruiting class in America, Hardaway welcomed the hype his team was drawing with a now famous line: “We want all the smoke.” He and the team are still embracing the “smoke” — team pullovers had “All the Smoke” printed on the back.
Earlier this week, Hardaway told The Athletic that he’d watched film of all of the top schools and he feels his team can win the national championship. Hardaway has not been afraid to say what is on his mind. He feels that this teams has the tools to win it all in Atlanta this season.
At last year’s Memphis Madness, James Wiseman and Precious Achiuwa – both projected to go to the NBA next spring – were in the stands as guests. This year, they were literally at the center of attention for the fans.
“It is crazy just being a spectator outside and seeing the atmosphere and playing in it,” Wiseman said. “It is really exciting.”
“The atmosphere was crazy,” Achiuwa said. “Coming into this year, I was thinking about how it was going to be. The fans did not disappoint today. We went out there and had some fun and I think everybody had a good time.”
Hardaway hopes to carry the Midnight Madness momentum into opening night.
“I am excited about tonight to get the guys in front of the crowd,” he said. “It was an unbelievable crowd. We are hoping to build from this, this season.”
Memphis will start its exhibition season in a few weeks. They will first play Christian Brothers College on October 22 at 7 p.m. followed by Lemoyne-Owen College on Monday October 28 at 7 p.m. Both games will be played at the FedExForum.