Penny Hardaway Landing Emoni Bates Proves the Memphis Tigers Coach Belongs in College Basketball

Penny Hardaway is making his case to be the best recruiter in college basketball. Emoni Bates has committed to the Memphis Tigers, adding elite talent to a potential national title contender.

The University of Memphis hired Hardaway as its head coach in 2018. Three years later, his alma mater boasts one of the most intriguing squads in the country.

Emoni Bates is a consensus top-5 prospect

Emoni Bates is one of the most talked-about college basketball recruits in recent memory. He was initially part of the Class of 2022 but reclassified to join the Class of 2021.

He’s ranked the No. 5 prospect in the class by 247Sports and No. 3 by ESPN. The Ypsilanti, Michigan native was highly sought after by several schools. He previously de-committed from Michigan State. Bates also held offers from Baylor, Florida State, Kentucky, Michigan, and other prominent programs.

The 6-foot-9 swingman earned Gatorade National Player of the Year honors as a sophomore in 2019. He recently dominated at the Nike EYBL Peach Jam. His stellar performance prompted LeBron James to shout him out on Twitter.

The Ypsi Prep Academy standout has drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant, mainly because of his slight build and elite offensive package.

Given his age, Bates cannot enter the 2022 NBA Draft, so there’s a possibility he stays at Memphis for two years.

Penny Hardaway put together a loaded recruiting class

Penny Hardaway recruit Emoni Bates on the floor at high school basketball game
Emoni Bates joins Penny Hardaway and the Memphis Tigers | Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Memphis Tigers are absolutely loaded, thanks to another top-tier recruiting class. Penny Hardaway already received a commitment from Bates’ friend and former AAU teammate Jalen Duren.

Duren starred at the prestigious Monteverde Academy. He’s ranked the No. 4 prospect in the class by 247Sports and No. 7 by ESPN. The big man brings physicality and impressive athleticism for his size.

Bates and Duren aren’t the only big-time talents in this recruiting class. Johnathan Lawson is a four-star wing from Memphis. Josh Minott, Sam Ayomide, and John Camden round out the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class.

The Tigers also welcome a host of transfers to the fold. Former Miami Hurricane Earl Timberlake is a future NBA player. They also landed Chandler Lawson from Oregon and Tyler Harris from Iowa State.

Memphis also returns vital contributors from 2020, including Lester Quinones, Landers Nolley II, and DeAndre Williams.

What does this mean for college basketball?

Memphis is a legitimate top-10 team in the country on paper. If the ball bounces in the right direction, the Tigers could be top-five. Hardaway has done it again. He had the No. 1 recruiting class in 2019 as well, featuring James Wiseman, Boogie Ellis, and Precious Achiuwa.

The Memphis Tigers are a legitimate factor in the college basketball landscape with Hardaway at the helm. The former four-time NBA All-Star has displayed a knack for spotting talent and getting them to commit.

Bates could’ve followed in the footsteps of players like Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, and Isaiah Todd and joined the G-League Ignite. Instead, he joined a collegiate program on the rise.

“I just felt like coach Penny could prepare me for the next level,” Bates told Jeff Goodman on The Field of 68. With a remarkable coaching staff, Memphis is now a significant player on the recruiting trail.

Penny Hardaway, Emoni Bates, and the Memphis Tigers have put college basketball on notice.

All stats courtesy of College Basketball Sports Reference

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