In Memphis, virus setbacks and mixed play put high hopes in doubt

When a men’s college basketball game between Memphis and Tennessee became one of many large-scale sporting events canceled or postponed ...


When a men’s college basketball game between Memphis and Tennessee became one of many large-scale sporting events canceled or postponed Due to an increase in coronavirus cases, circumstances have raised new questions for Memphis coach Penny Hardaway about how many of his players have been vaccinated.

During the preseason, Hardaway said 90% of its players were vaccinated, but Tennessee’s cancellation revealed only four players were eligible for the game. Some players who had not tested positive themselves would not be able to play due to contact tracing, a restriction that only applies to unvaccinated players.

“I probably misspoke about this situation,” Hardaway told reporters on Sunday of his initial claim that more of his players were vaccinated.

The handling of the cancellation angered Tennessee coach Rick Barnes, who bristled at the rescheduling approach addressed by Hardaway and others. “We are not going to risk programming a team that we know which has a lot of unvaccinated players,” he said. told reporters. “It would be irresponsible of us.

The strand was the latest in a string of mishaps for a Memphis program that entered this season with high expectations but had several issues, including poor play. Tennessee, ranked No. 18 in the poll. The Associated Press, represented a great chance for the Tigers to argue that they should be in the realm of NCAA tournaments.

Hardaway, in his fourth season as his alma mater coach after being a star guard in the NBA, has yet to take the Tigers to the NCAA tournament, although they have won. the national invitational tournament in March.

Memphis’s record is 6-4, and making the NCAA tournament appears to be uncertain at this time. The team also suspended its activities until Monday due to the pandemic. This is not what the fans of the team had envisioned for this season.

“Everyone thought it was absolutely a tournament team, and it isn’t,” said Greg Gaston Sr., a play-by-play announcer from Memphis who also hosts a radio show in Memphis. , during a telephone interview. “And that would not only be hugely disappointing, but there are people who say if they don’t make the tournament this year Penny should lose her job.” (That’s unlikely, Gaston said, and Hardaway signed a five-year extension worth nearly $ 12.3 million a year ago.)

When Hardaway persuaded high school stars Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren to reclassify and enroll in college early this summer, then hired Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown and former NBA star Rasheed Wallace in his team, expectations for the Tigers have skyrocketed.

After all, Bates and Duren were initially the top two rookies in the 2022 class and were considering future NBA lottery picks. Duren made comparisons with Dwight Howard; Bates has been compared to a young Kevin Durant when he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in November 2019.

The Tigers entered the season at No.12 in the AP preseason poll, and various sports books had them among the favorites to win the NCAA tournament.

Still, after starting the season 5-0, the Tigers have lost four straight games, including a 19-point loss to Iowa State and a 2-point home loss to Murray State.

During the skid, Bates, 17, demanded to come out of starting lineup, and the locker room was apparently divided between veterans and freshmen. Hardaway didn’t hesitate to tear up their older players in comments to Athletic.

“Everyone’s trying to get into the NBA with the standings we had, but no one is willing to sacrifice minutes, touches, anything,” Hardaway said. “It was miserable.”

Bates competes with players who are often several years older due to his reclassification and due to a wave of fifth-year players and immediately qualifying transfers this season.

He’s a natural small forward, but Hardaway has chosen to play him as point guard to start the season. It didn’t go well. He often dribbles with his head down or dribbles in double teams and has made many questionable shots.

“There are a lot of punches you can get away with in high school or AAU basketball that you can’t get in college basketball no matter who you play,” Gaston said.

Bates is no longer widely seen as a sure-fire No.1 overall pick in 2023, the first year he would be eligible for the NBA Draft.

“Just because you’re 6-8 and can dribble the ball doesn’t mean you’re Penny Hardaway,” ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla said on a game broadcast.

In a 67-63 loss to Mississippi on Dec. 4, Bates shot 1 for 10 overall, 0 for 4 on 3 points. He was heckled by Mississippi fans after the game and had to be held up by his teammates on the way to the locker room.

In the team’s most recent game, a 92-78 win over then-number 6 Alabama on December 14, Bates finished with 7 points on 1 of 7 shots and three turnovers in 15 minutes. He didn’t play the last 14 minutes of the second half, while veterans like Tyler Harris, Landers Nolley, DeAndre Williams and Lester Quinones excelled, as did Duren, who took home freshman honors in the week in the conference.

“People are watching Bates wrestle at 17, and it’s not shocking that this has happened,” said broadcaster Gaston.

He pointed out that former Memphis star Derrick Rose “struggled at the start of the season” in his only year there before leading the Tigers to the 2008 NCAA Championship game.

“The hope is that Emoni Bates can figure it out,” Gaston said. “But I think people were more disappointed that Penny kept coming to him. The fact that Penny decided not to bring him in when the five on the ground were doing well says a lot about a lot.

This isn’t the first time Hardaway has coached a bustling high school star. He coached James Wiseman, 7-1, in an age group team before Wiseman followed Hardaway to Memphis for the 2019-20 season. Wiseman was suspended for 12 games by the NCAA because his family resented Hardaway’s moving expenses, and he left Memphis to train for the NBA Draft after just a handful of games. He now plays for the Golden State Warriors, but has yet to play this season due to a torn meniscus in his right knee.

Memphis officials have said they cannot make Bates or any other player available for this item due to the team’s hiatus. University officials said Tuesday they held a Sunday afternoon session with players and their families on “the implications of not being vaccinated.”

Hardaway, who said he had been vaccinated, said he hoped the thought of missing an NCAA tournament game would motivate more players to get the shot.

“Our season is going to be over, and that’s something they need to think about with their parents,” he said. “Obviously it could show its ugly face again. “

Hardaway’s comments assume, of course, that the Tigers end up in the NCAA tournament. The team hurt their general offer prospects by missing their chance to beat Tennessee. He might end up having to win his conference tournament’s automatic auction to enter.

As it stands, Memphis’ next scheduled game is the conference opener at Tulane next Wednesday, but Tulane has called off their last three games due to their own virus issues.

“Instead of racking up big wins, they racking up losses, which puts them in a bind when you go into conference,” Gaston said of the team’s play ahead of the Alabama win.

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Newsrust - US Top News: In Memphis, virus setbacks and mixed play put high hopes in doubt
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