MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Memphis men’s basketball coach Penny Hardaway set the tone a few weeks back when he said the Tigers wanted “all the smoke.”
His players are keeping that same energy.
“Just compete in practice and just getting ready for us to just demolish teams with our talent,” freshman guard Lester Quinones said Tuesday.
This was the first time all seven freshmen spoke to the media since arriving on campus for workouts.
The players that make up the top recruiting class are focused on one thing – a national championship.
The talent is there, including two projected NBA lottery picks in center James Wiseman and forward Precious Achiuwa.
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“Soon as you step in the gym you got talent from Tyler (Harris) to James (Wiseman),” freshman forward DJ Jeffries said. “Everybody trying to make each other better.”
The guys said this is already happening with competitive workouts.
The motivation to perform is strong for Wiseman.
“Bring this Memphis program back to where it was in ‘08 when Derrick Rose was here,” Wiseman said. “Just trying to create a new tradition here.”
Fellow East High graduate Malcolm Dandridge echoed the same sentiment.
“We're doing big things for this city,” Dandridge said. “Bringing back Memphis basketball. Making the city proud.”
Building team chemistry will be huge with a nearly brand new roster. Players started the process even before workouts with a group text.
“Just being together and being together as family,” guard Boogie Ellis said. “That's really what's going to get us there. Us being together as one.”
Guard Damion Baugh said the team isn’t worried about the outside expectations and hype.
“One step at a time,” Baugh said. “One game at a time. No matter what we do, don't worry about the outside. Just us, just us.”
With talent and focus, the Tigers aren't shying away from the goal of cutting down the nets next April.
“The team wants to win,” Achiuwa said. “If the team wins everybody wins individually and collectively.”
Jeffries, like his new teammates, was used to being the main focus at Olive Branch High. They’ll have to adjust at the college level.
“My ego left since my last game in high school,” Jeffries said. “I knew it was going to be different.”
So much of the Tigers’ success will depend on the play of Wiseman. He’ll be the top-rated freshman entering the season.
And he’s ready to prove it.
“We've got the talent to do it,” Wiseman said. “So, we just gotta leave our egos at the door and just trust each other and we can be able to make it happen.”
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