UK Recruiting

Ex-UK basketball recruit DJ Jeffries announces commitment to Memphis, Penny Hardaway

Penny Hardaway compares UK target James Wiseman to past NBA players

Memphis East Coach Penny Hardaway talks about star player James Wiseman, a top UK recruiting target.
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Memphis East Coach Penny Hardaway talks about star player James Wiseman, a top UK recruiting target.

Former UK basketball commitment DJ Jeffries is staying close to home to play for his former coach.

Jeffries — a 6-foot-7 small forward from Olive Branch, Miss. — announced Saturday morning that he is now committed to Memphis, where he will play for former NBA star and new Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway, who was previously Jeffries’ coach on the Nike circuit.

The Memphis-area standout originally committed to Kentucky back in March — just a few days before Hardaway was officially hired to head the Tigers program — and Jeffries told the Herald-Leader at that time that his commitment to the Cats would stick no matter what happened with his mentor and former coach.

“Now that I’m committed, I just wish Penny and Memphis the best,” Jeffries said then. “Penny was a big help, because he taught me a lot during the summer. And I’ll still learn a lot from him this summer. But, now, I’m all about Kentucky.”

Jeffries reiterated his status at Nike’s Peach Jam event in July, but shortly thereafter became the first recruit in the Calipari era to back out of a commitment to the Wildcats.

He remained uncommitted for about three months before ultimately deciding on Memphis, choosing the Tigers over Mississippi State, Mississippi and other programs. He’s the No. 47 overall prospect in the class of 2019, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

Hardaway’s top recruiting priority at Memphis is another one of his former players, James Wiseman, who is ranked by 247Sports and ESPN as the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2019 class and played for Hardaway’s Team Penny program last summer before transferring to play for him at Memphis East High School this past season.

UK extended scholarship offers to Wiseman and Jeffries on the same day last fall, and Wiseman — a 7-footer originally from Nashville — has remained at the top of Calipari’s 2019 wish list. The UK coach visited him in Memphis earlier this week.

Wiseman has narrowed his recruiting list to Kentucky, Memphis, Florida State, Kansas and Vanderbilt, and he attended Memphis’ exhibition game Friday night as part of the final official visit of his recruitment.

He could make a college decision in time for the early signing period, which runs Nov. 14-21, but Jeffries’ commitment to the Tigers is not expected to have any impact on his own recruitment. Though the two players were teammates with Team Penny last summer, 247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels and other recruiting observers have told the Herald-Leader in recent months that the two recruitments are not intertwined.

Wiseman’s decision is expected to come down to UK and Memphis, however, and it’s a recruitment that’s been too close to call for the past several months.

“I’m indifferent on a leader with James Wiseman, in all honesty,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader this week. “I couldn’t pick one.”