Damion Baugh, D.J. Jeffries and Boogie Ellis (l-r) have opted to seek playing time elsewhere. (Photos: Terry Davis)
Terry Davis

The University of Memphis’ high of winning the NIT Championship had not run the course of a full week before the downer news that three of team’s players – all eligible to return – have moved to hoop somewhere else next season.

Damion Baugh, Boogie Ellis and D.J. Jeffries have decided to test the transfer market.

The trio was part of head coach Penny Hardaway’s No. 1 recruiting class from a couple of years ago.  Two other members of that class – Precious Achiuwa and James Wiseman – are playing in the NBA. Malcolm Dandridge is the lone remaining recruit from the group.

After limping into the season with a 6-5 record, the Tigers finished the regular season on a winning roll and barely missed making the NCAA tournament.  Under new rules for the NCAA, any player can transfer and play immediately.

Baugh, whose role was not clearly defined, really wanted to play the point guard position. The Nashville native, who played with Team Thad in AAU, was one of the key defensive players off the bench for the Tigers.

Ellis, who is from the West Coast, won the American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year award.  After his announced decision, Ellis posted this: “Thank you for taking a west coast kid, and accepting me as one of your own. Love you always, MEMPHIS”

A starter early in the season, Ellis’ role shifted to coming off the bench. Down the stretch of the season, he was vital to the Tigers’ winning ways. He averaged 10.2 points a game, made 51 three-pointers but did not show the consistency of the long-range sniper that Hardaway had sought in recruiting him.

Jeffries was expected to be a key force for the Tigers in the just-concluded season. He began the season in the starting lineup and later became part of the first wave off the bench. He showed flashes but did not string together consistent games.

The team’s third-leading rebounder (5.1 rebounds a game), Jeffries averaged 9.9 points. Initially a Kentucky commit, he chose Memphis after Hardaway was named head coach.

Baugh, Ellis and Jeffries join Lance Thomas and Ahmad Rand, who transferred this past season. That leaves Hardaway with six open scholarship positions. Landers Nolley II and DeAndre Williams, his two best players in the just completed season, came via the transfer portal.

Williams was regarded as Memphis’ best player. Nolley was first team All-AAC and was the Most Outstanding Player in the NIT.

The NCAA will announce next month the rules for recruitment. There haven’t been any on-campus visits or in-person visits since the pandemic.

Hardaway also faces choosing a hire to fill the assistant coach position Tony Madlock is vacating to take the head-coaching job at South Carolina State.