When a males’s faculty basketball sport between Memphis and Tennessee became one of many high-profile sporting events canceled or postponed due to an increase in coronavirus instances, the circumstances introduced new inquiries to Memphis Coach Penny Hardaway about what number of of his gamers had been vaccinated.
Through the preseason, Hardaway stated 90 % of his gamers had been vaccinated, however the Tennessee cancellation revealed that solely 4 gamers had been eligible for the sport. Some gamers who had not examined constructive themselves can be unable to play due to contact tracing, a restriction that applies solely to unvaccinated gamers.
“I in all probability simply misspoke on that scenario,” Hardaway instructed reporters on Sunday about his authentic assertion that extra of his gamers had been vaccinated.
The dealing with of the cancellation irritated Tennessee’s coach, Rick Barnes, who bristled on the thought of rescheduling broached by Hardaway and others. “We’re not going to threat scheduling a workforce we all know that has many unvaccinated gamers,” he told reporters. “That will be irresponsible on our half.”
The flap was the most recent in a string of incidents for a Memphis program that got here into this season with excessive expectations but has had a number of issues, together with poor play. Tennessee, sporting a No. 18 rating within the Related Press ballot, represented an enormous probability for the Tigers to make a case that they need to be within the N.C.A.A. match subject.
Hardaway, in his fourth season teaching his alma mater after he was a star guard within the N.B.A., has but to take the Tigers to the N.C.A.A. match, though they did win the National Invitation Tournament in March.
Memphis’s file is 6-4, and making the N.C.A.A. match seems to be iffy proper now. The workforce has additionally paused actions till Monday due to the pandemic. This isn’t what the workforce’s followers had envisioned for this season.
“Everyone thought this was completely a match workforce, and it’s not,” Greg Gaston Sr., a Memphis play-by-play announcer who additionally hosts a radio present in Memphis, stated in a phone interview. “And it could be not solely massively disappointing, however there are those that say in the event that they don’t get to the match this 12 months, Penny ought to lose his job.” (That’s unlikely, Gaston stated, and Hardaway signed a five-year extension value almost $12.3 million a 12 months in the past.)
When Hardaway persuaded the highschool stars Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren to reclassify and enroll early on the college this summer time, then employed the Corridor of Fame coach Larry Brown and the previous N.B.A. star Rasheed Wallace to his workers, expectations for the Tigers soared.
In spite of everything, Bates and Duren had been initially the highest two recruits within the class of 2022 and regarded future N.B.A. lottery picks. Duren drew comparisons to Dwight Howard; Bates was in comparison with a younger Kevin Durant when he appeared on the duvet of Sports activities Illustrated in November 2019.
The Tigers entered the season at No. 12 within the A.P. preseason ballot, and varied sports activities books had them among the many favorites to win the N.C.A.A. match.
But after beginning the season 5-0, the Tigers misplaced 4 straight video games, together with a 19-point rout by Iowa State and a 2-point residence loss to Murray State.
Through the skid, the 17-year-old Bates requested out of the beginning lineup, and the locker room was seemingly cut up between veterans and freshmen. Hardaway didn’t maintain again in ripping his older gamers in comments to The Athletic.
“Everyone’s making an attempt to get to the N.B.A. off the rating we had, however no one is prepared to sacrifice minutes, touches, something,” Hardaway stated. “It’s been depressing.”
Bates is competing in opposition to gamers typically a number of years older due to his reclassification and because of a wave of fifth-year players and transfers immediately eligible this season.
He’s a pure small ahead, but Hardaway selected to play him at level guard to start out the season. It hasn’t gone effectively. He typically dribbles together with his head down or dribbles into double groups and has taken a number of questionable photographs.
“There are a number of photographs that you could get away with in highschool or A.A.U. basketball that you could’t get away with in faculty basketball, irrespective of who you’re enjoying,” Gaston stated.
Bates is not broadly perceived as a surefire No. 1 general choose in 2023, the primary 12 months he can be eligible for the N.B.A. draft.
“Simply since you’re 6-8 and may dribble the ball, doesn’t imply you’re Penny Hardaway,” ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla stated throughout the broadcast of a sport.
In a 67-63 loss to Mississippi on Dec. 4, Bates shot 1 for 10 general, 0 for 4 from 3-point vary. He was heckled by Mississippi followers after the sport and needed to be restrained by teammates on his solution to the locker room.
Within the workforce’s most up-to-date sport, a 92-78 victory over then No. 6 Alabama on Dec. 14, Bates completed with 7 factors on 1-of-7 taking pictures and three turnovers in quarter-hour. He didn’t play the ultimate 14 minutes of the second half, whereas veterans like Tyler Harris, Landers Nolley, DeAndre Williams and Lester Quinones excelled, together with Duren, who earned freshman of the week honors within the convention.
“Persons are watching Bates battle as a 17-year-old, and it’s not stunning that it’s occurred,” Gaston, the broadcaster, stated.
He identified that the previous Memphis star Derrick Rose “struggled early on within the season” throughout his one-and-done 12 months there earlier than he led the Tigers to the 2008 N.C.A.A. championship sport.
“The hope is that Emoni Bates can determine it out,” Gaston stated. “However I feel individuals had been extra dissatisfied that Penny stored going to him. The truth that Penny determined to not carry him in when the 5 on the ground had been doing effectively says a number of issues.”
This isn’t Hardaway’s first run teaching a hyped highschool star. He coached 7-foot-1 James Wiseman on an age group workforce earlier than Wiseman adopted Hardaway to Memphis for the 2019-20 season. Wiseman was suspended for 12 games by the N.C.A.A. as a result of his household improperly accepted transferring bills from Hardaway, and he left Memphis to coach for the N.B.A. draft after solely a handful of video games. He now performs for the Golden State Warriors, however has but to play this season due to a torn meniscus in his proper knee.
Memphis officers stated they may not make Bates or another gamers out there for this text due to the workforce’s pause. College officers stated Tuesday that they held a session on Sunday afternoon with gamers and their households about “the implications of not being vaccinated.”
Hardaway, who stated he had been vaccinated, stated he hoped the considered lacking an N.C.A.A. match sport would encourage extra gamers to get a vaccine.
“Our season’s going to be over, and that’s one thing that they’ve to consider with their mother and father,” he stated. “Clearly, this might rear its ugly head once more.”
Hardaway’s feedback assume, after all, that the Tigers find yourself within the N.C.A.A. match. The workforce harm its prospects for an at-large bid by lacking its probability to beat Tennessee. It could find yourself having to win its convention match’s computerized bid to get in.
As issues stand, Memphis’s subsequent scheduled sport is the convention opener at Tulane subsequent Wednesday, however Tulane has canceled its previous three video games due to its personal virus points.
“As an alternative of racking up massive wins, they’re racking up losses, which places them in a bind once you go into convention play,” Gaston stated of the workforce’s play earlier than the Alabama win.