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Is Penny Hardaway About to Steal #1 Recruit Jalen Duren for Memphis?

For many years Emoni Bates was considered the crown jewel of the Class of ’21. The prep star had feature length profiles done in Sports Illustrated and was compared so some of the greatest high school players ever. But recently there’s been a prospect that has overtaken him at the top of the recruiting food chain, Jalen Duren. And and all eyes are where he will end up playing basketball this fall.

Duren was originally a Class of ’22 prospect, but now wants to reclassify. Either he’ll be able to do that and play college basketball in a few months, or he’ll play professionally. There’s also the possibility he gets his reclassification and decided to turn professional anyway. He’s currently getting his grades in order to be able to graduate this summer. Miami is a school that many experts believe he’ll choose. The Hurricanes hired one of his former AAU coaches. Kentucky is also in the mix. John Calipari has shown plenty of interest in Duren.

But there’s college basketball’s newest recruiting power lurking in the weeds. Memphis is also in a strong position for Duren, after his official visit last month. The 6’8″, 230 lb. power forward has been compared to Bam Adebayo and Derrick Favors.

Will he turn pro? He told Kentucky Sports Radio, “I don’t really look at the money too much, I’m not really a flashy guy who really needs the money,” he said. “People automatically think, ‘oh, they’re going to offer money, so he’s going to go there.’ I don’t think like that. It’s really about development for me, I try to preach that a lot. Everyone I talk to whether it’s pro or college, it’s about how they’re going to develop me. When I look at the money aspect, it’s not really about that for me. I don’t care too much about it.”

But the latest buzz is that Duren came away very impressed with Kentucky and Memphis’ presentations on his Name/Image/Likeness portfolio. The Tigers are especially dangerous in landing Duren. They’ve had recent success locking down top recruits in the class, landing five-star recruits James Wiseman and Precious Achiuwa in 2019, and then five-star Moussa Cisse in 2020. There’s also immediately playing time and a big role for him in Memphis, fitting seamlessly into the hole left by Cisse, who announced just days ago he’s transferring to Oklahoma State. 

Penny Hardaway has changed the fortunes of the program. He’s stepped into a powerful position in college basketball, as the aging legends are stepping away. In terms of name recognition, Penny is as popular as they come, and is royalty in the city of Memphis. He has the NBA career that can lure a prospect as well. At just 50 years old, he’s a relative youngster compared to the more established college coaches. But he also has some track record for success as a head coach at the high school and now college level, unlike Hubert Davis and Jon Scheyer, who will be taking over power programs.

Memphis is one of the finalists for perhaps the best prospect in the Class of ’21. If Duren chooses college basketball, there’s good reasons for him to choose the Tigers.

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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