UK Men's Basketball

Crystal Ball checkup: The Penny effect and some new UK-related predictions

Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen, left, and new Memphis basketball coach Penny Hardaway attend a news conference Tuesday.
Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen, left, and new Memphis basketball coach Penny Hardaway attend a news conference Tuesday. AP

The Penny Hardaway effect at Memphis is already a reality, and several basketball recruiting analysts are predicting it will pay off soon with some new additions to the Tigers’ roster.

The most immediate ripple from the official announcement of Hardaway’s hiring Tuesday was the decommitment of three-star point guard Alex Lomax, who was granted a release from his letter of intent to Wichita State.

Lomax — a top 150 recruit in the 2018 class — has played under Hardaway for years and was his point guard with Memphis East High School, which won a state title last weekend.

Wichita State Coach Gregg Marshall basically acknowledged in his statement on Lomax’s release that the player would ultimately end up at Memphis.

“I have a lot of respect for Alex Lomax and his family,” Marshall said in the statement. “When they chose Wichita State in the fall, over several other very nice offers, my staff and I were honored. Obviously, we take commitments to the Shocker program very seriously, but this is a very unique situation where a young man’s mentor and coach since the fifth grade has become a Division I head coach. Allowing him out of his (letter) without any kind of penalty is the right thing to do at this time.”

Recruiting analysts have logged Crystal Ball picks in favor of Memphis for Lomax and five other prospects from the 2018 and 2019 classes in recent days, including No. 1 junior James Wiseman — Kentucky’s top target — and top-10 senior Anfernee Simons, one of the top players remaining in the 2018 class.

Nike EYBL recruiting analyst Alec Kinsky was the most recent Crystal Ball picker to log a Wiseman-to-Memphis pick, doing so after Hardaway’s official announcement as the Tigers’ head coach. Kinsky helps run media operations for the Nike travel league, of which Hardaway’s summer club, Team Penny, has been a part of for several years.

Memphis predictions have also been logged for top 50 junior Chandler Lawson and top 150 junior Malcolm Dandridge, who, like Wiseman, both played for Hardaway at Memphis East this past season. 247Sports national recruiting analysts Evan Daniels and Jerry Meyer are both picking Memphis for Dandridge, though neither has changed their UK prediction for Wiseman, a 6-foot-11 forward who also played for the Team Penny program last summer.

Wiseman’s recruitment is almost certainly now a UK vs. Memphis battle.

Perhaps the most intriguing Crystal Ball development related to Memphis is the flurry of pro-Tigers picks for Simons, a post-graduate player at IMG Academy (Fla.) and the No. 7 overall prospect in the 2018 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

Simons — a 6-4 combo guard — had been looking at such schools as North Carolina State and Tennessee, but he was coached by Hardaway at the USA Basketball junior minicamp in October, and he’d be an instant-impact addition for the new Memphis coach. Meyer is among the analysts now picking the Tigers for Simons.

Complicating that recruitment is Simons’ eligibility for this year’s NBA Draft, where ESPN currently has him projected as the No. 19 overall pick in its latest mock draft.

Hardaway’s son, Jayden Hardaway — a class of 2018 shooting guard — is also expected to pick the Tigers.

It’s possible to predict “flipped” commitments on the Crystal Ball page, and — so far — no recruiting analyst has done that for D.J. Jeffries, who committed to Kentucky last week but played for Team Penny last summer and has been complimentary of Hardaway’s role in his basketball career. Jeffries, a 2019 recruit, has also told the Herald-Leader that he grew up rooting for John Calipari teams and a Penny-to-Memphis move would not affect his pledge to the Wildcats.

Another bit of positive news for UK has been the run of Crystal Ball picks in favor of the Wildcats for Ashton Hagans, a top-10 player in the 2019 class who might move to 2018 and play college basketball next season. Hagans, a star point guard from Georgia, recently decommitted from the home-state Bulldogs.

Meyer and national analyst Andrew Slater are among those predicting Kentucky.

A few other Crystal Ball notes:

▪  Kentucky-based analyst Dylan Prezkop has logged the first Crystal Ball pick for University Heights star KyKy Tandy, and it’s in favor of the Wildcats. Calipari watched Tandy play a couple of weeks ago and hosted him for a recruiting visit to Lexington last month.

▪  Former Louisville commitment Courtney Ramey has picked up a few Missouri predictions on his Crystal Ball page, including a recent one from Meyer.

▪  It’s been all Oregon lately on the Crystal Ball page of 2018 point guard Brandon Williams, who said after he decommitted from Arizona that he was expecting a call from UK. There’s been no sign that the Cats have started recruiting him.