The University of Memphis has done something they have never achieved in school history. They now have the No. 1 ranked men’s basketball recruiting class in the country for the 2019-2020 season. The Tigers beat out the likes of Duke University and Michigan State University, who are heavy favorites to win the NCAA tournament this coming season.
Most schedules for the 2019 season have yet to be announced, but East Carolina University (10-21, 3-15 AAC) will play each American Athletic Conference team at least once during the regular season. If Memphis is slated to play in Minges Arena, they will without a doubt be a handful to deal with. If the Tigers can win 22 games last season without their talented recruits for the 2019 season, they can achieve even more this season.
Head coach Penny Hardaway came into the program for the 2018-2019 season, and during his first season faced criticism from fans. The Tigers lost to the University of Houston (33-4, 16-2 AAC) in the AAC tournament, and failed to make the NCAA tournament.
They went on to play in the NIT tournament and defeated the University of San Diego (21-15, 7-9 WCC), but fell short again by losing to Creighton University (20-15, 9-9 Big East) in the second round.
Only being the head coach for one season, Hardaway’s first recruiting class is coming in this season and they certainly have some major talent headed into the season.
This incoming recruiting class has the likes of No. 1 overall prospect James Wiseman, five-star forward David Jeffries, four-star recruits Lester Quinones and Rejean Ellis, and Malcolm Dandridge.
Memphis also has No. 2 ranked grad transfer Rayjon Tucker, and homegrown four-star prospect Damian Baugh. Rounding up the already packed list is five-star forward Precious Achiuwa, who just committed to the program on Friday.
Their star-studded roster did not come without a cost, however. Five-star forward Trendon Watford was another recruit for Memphis was was expected to sign. Due to there no longer being any scholarship money left for the 2019 class, Watford ended up signing with Louisiana State University (28-7, 16-2 SEC).
This incredibly talented class will be a force to reckon with and a team that ECU will have to take on at least once during the season.
Although it appears daunting to have to take on this team, the Pirates are be more than able to put up a fight.
Though over five ECU players have entered the NCAA transfer portal, head coach Joe Dooley sees this as an opportunity to improve his team, rather than focusing on what the team is losing.
"I learned years ago in recruiting, don't just figure out who's helping you, try to figure out who's hurting you," said Dooley via press conference.
The Pirates have added transfer students Tyrie Jackson from Northwest Florida State (28-5, 10-2 NJCAA) and Tremont Robinson from Garden City Community College (13-18, 8-13). Jackson and Robinson are both guards, who signed last November. Along with those two, Logan Curtis also signed with the Pirates, who is a 6-foot-4-inch guard from Calvert Hall College High School.
This added depth should prove beneficial, as all three players are expected to compliment more experienced and proven players like junior guard Shaun Williams and sophomore forward Jayden Gardner.
Both players have proven their skills with ECU, and have accolades to back it up. Williams achieved the AAC Rookie of the Year during the 2017-2018 season. Gardner achieved a unanimous pick to the AAC All-Freshman team during this past season, and was averaging 16.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
Within the AAC, The University of Cincinnati, University of Central Florida (24-9, 13-5 AAC), Temple University (23-10, 13-5 AAC) and Houston all made the 2019 NCAA tournament. Wichita State University (22-15, 10-8 AAC) and Memphis both made the NIT tournament as well.
Heading into this coming basketball season, ECU will have tough AAC competition, but will certainly have the players and coaching staff to compete.