Summer is in session for Penny and the Tigers


Fans of the Tigers have been waiting in great anticipation for the upcoming season. Every nugget of potentially bad news was greeted with uneasiness with the base.

For instance, Head coach Penny Hardaway previously stated that all players would be on campus by June 3 for the start of the summer sessions. However Precious Achiuwa, the five-star recruit that helped Memphis land the No. 1 recruiting class in America, was a no-show more than a week later. Some feared he’d decided to turn pro like RJ Hampton, the former Tiger target who’ll play professionally in New Zealand.

But fear not. Hardaway admitted there were paperwork issues that kept Achiuwa away, and he was expected to be in town June 12, though the TSD hasn’t yet confirmed his arrival. Hardaway is currently conducting his summer camps for various groups to assist in honing their skills. All players that are town have been a part of coaching in the camp.

The Tigers did conduct their first practice earlier this week. Boogie Ellis had to return to San Diego to graduate and should be back in town this weekend. The second official summer practice will occur this weekend and all players should be in full participation.

New coach hire

Cody Toppert was recently added as the new assistant coach, replacing Sam Mitchell. Toppert was an assistant and player development coach last season with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.

“Cody is just a brilliant guy,” Hardaway said. “I talked to him for about three weeks before the hire. I put him through all kinds of tests. He passed every test. He is a very smart guy.”

With the high caliber players on the Tigers roster, Toppert’s addition should pay dividends quickly. The Tigers have two projected Top-10 NBA draft picks on the roster in Achiuwa and James Wiseman, and others who may be one-and-done players themselves.

On the importance of getting another NBA guy on his staff Hardaway said, “It is very important. It is about the knowledge, but is also about those guys wanting to go to that next level. The more guys we can have around like that the better.”

New strength coach hire

Darby Rich is the new strength and conditioning coach at Memphis. He was previously at Texan A&M for the last six years. Rich is a former University of Alabama basketball player.

An all-state player at Riverside High in Greer, S.C., he spent five seasons at Alabama, serving as tri-captain his senior year (1992) with future NBA stars Robert Horry and Latrell Sprewell. He played on Crimson Tide teams that won the Southeastern Conference in 1989, 1990 and 1991 and earned SEC academic honor roll recognition three times.

“I got about 20 calls on Darby,” Hardaway said. “So many guys vouched for him and the video I saw of his workout, I was impressed with that. I knew we wanted our guys to be more dynamic this year. Darby guys have been doing it for such a long time at a high level. Some of the things he was doing are some of the things I want our guys to be doing.”

The Tigers will play four exhibition games at the Hyatt Baha Mar Resort in the Bahamas from August 12-19. The Tigers will play four games one on Wednesday and Thursday and one game on Saturday and Sunday.