MEMPHIS — T-minus four days and counting before the season tips off for Penny Hardaway and his much talked about and extremely talented Tigers.
Since the signings of five star freshman Jalen Duren and Emoni Bates this summer, the expectations have been on the up and up for a Tiger team out to build on last year’s NIT Tournament title and after a couple of months of practice, Memphis Madness, and two easy exhibition wins, it all starts for real on Tuesday against Tennessee Tech.
“Everybody’s really pumped up. I feel like the whole city is really excited to see what we can do,” Duren said. “I feel like this is going to be a great year, honestly. That’s where the excitement comes from. The guys are coming off a great year, last year. They just won the NIT. So we got the returning guys coming in with the new guys. I just feel we got a great group of guys that the city is behind.”>
“We lost some good pieces, some valuable pieces but we gained some valuable pieces as well,” Hardaway said. “To be ready for the game, instead of practicing against one another. I mean the exhibitions were good but to have an actual game is going to be a lot better.”
But there still is the nagging cloud of uncertainty hanging over the program that is the NCAA and the IARP investigation into the U of M’s handling of James Wiseman.
Tuesday tips off the season and still no word on any possible sanctions.
But is Penny worried heading into what’s expected to be one of the best seasons in Tigers hoops history?
“You know what, I haven’t even thought about it. I really haven’t. I’ve really just been locked in so hard on this team and wanting to win, that what’s going on with the NCAA hasn’t really crossed my mind. I can honestly say that. We’re just pushing forward. There’s nothing that we can do about what the NCAA has. They have it and whatever they’re going to do, they’re going to do. I can only worry about my team and keep pushing forward. Obviously, you’d rather it be after the season, if it’s going to be any kind of decision, so it doesn’t disrupt what we have. But if it happens, we just have to deal with it. Whatever the outcomes are.”