St. Jude patient Elechi and her mother talk with Penny Hardaway. (Photo: Terry Davis)

Penny Hardaway had been to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital before but never as the high-profile coach of the University of Memphis men’s basketball team. That he did on Thursday.

 

Penny Hardaway with Richard Shadyac Jr. (Photo: Terry Davis)

Hardaway — Penny to many — started his visit by talking with Rick Shadyac Jr., chief executive officer of ALSAC, the awareness and fundraising organization of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. A guided tour by ALSAC staffers followed, with Hardaway hearing some of the many success stories.

Hardaway is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, which partnered with St. Jude in 2015 for a four-year commitment of raising $1 million to further the work of the hospital on the behalf of children. The fraternity also created the Sunday of Hope program, which teams chapters with churches to secure donations for St. Jude.

The walls of St. Jude feature kids’ art that reflects their experiences at the hospital. (Photo: Terry Davis)

As he made his rounds on Thursday, Hardaway met Elechi, a St. Jude patient. With her mother in on the conversation, Elechi told him about her St. Jude. He told her about his first visit there as a college basketball player, noting the change and growth of the hospital.

Hardaway made his first trip to St. Jude during the 1991-92 season as a member of the Memphis State Tigers.

And when he comes back, he intends to have an assembled team of UofM Tigers with him.