Memphis Madness a raucous occasion for coaches, players and recruits

By Updated: October 05, 2018 11:35 AM CT | Published: October 04, 2018 4:54 PM CT

The Memphis Tigers basketball fan base had waited months for the moment. Since mid-March at least.

Or, in some cases, the glee began all the way back to whenever anyone first mentioned favorite son Penny Hardaway’s name as future leader of the Tiger hoops program.

Whatever the wait. Whatever the anticipation, it built to a crescendo in Memphis Madness on Thursday night. The roaring ovation and an atmosphere filled with pyrotechnics, a packed FedExForum and the hopes of a return to the Tiger basketball fans enjoyed in the past, was unleashed in the first official public event of the 2018-19 season.

Hardaway’s ovation started when the first-year head coach received his own intro video showing highlights dating to his playing days. 

The excitement increased as “Hardaway” by Derez De’Shon poured from the speakers and the song’s namesake approached his men’s basketball team.

FedExForum, filled to capacity for a Tigers-related event for the first time since 2014, was as loud as it could be as Hardaway disappeared into the arms of his raucous players. 

“It was an amazing feeling to actually come out,” Hardaway said. “I saw the boxers do that all the time. Floyd Mayweather and those guys. It got me hyped. The song was a great song but to have him come perform it tonight with the crowd going crazy was nice.” 

Native Memphis rapper MoneyBagg Yo opened the festivities with his hit song “Big Facts” on the black floor the Tigers borrowed from assistant coach Mike Miller. The men’s and women’s teams were introduced to a capacity crowd shortly aftert the performance. The women’s team was dressed in their practice jerseys while the men’s team wore black and white suits. 

University of Memphis students waited up to three hours to enter the forum. At one point, the line wrapped around the arena. Once inside, they made their presence known as pyrotechnics lit up the building. Head women’s basketball coach Melissa McFerrin said after the event that nobody does Madness like Memphis. 

“I just think this is the most electric atmosphere that you can find across the country,” McFerrin said. “I don’t think you can find any more rabid fans than the ones in Memphis who are awaiting the basketball season. Our fans here show us a lot of love.” 

No. 1 overall prospect James Wiseman arrived first in the seats reserved for recruits. The East High senior took pictures and greeted Memphis Tiger fans. When he was shown on the Jumbotron, the 18,000-plus Tiger fans erupted. Memphis faithful broke into a “We want Wiseman” chant. 

No. 8 overall prospect Precious Achiuwa, No. 26 overall Trendon Watford, No. 33 overall Jahmius Ramsey, No. 35 overall Boogie Ellis, No. 47 overall DJ Jeffries and No. 135 Malcolm Dandridge also attended. Hardaway’s class of 2019 ranks No. 66 in the nation with one commit. 

Other prospects like Briarcrest guard Kennedy Chandler and Lausanne guard Alden Applewhite were present for the kickoff to Hardaway’s inaugural season. The women’s team also had some recruits in the house.  

“I believe we did,” Hardway said when asked if he made a statement with recruits. “You want to give the recruits all that they want and more.” 

Guard Alex Lomax and forward Jamirah Shutes went to overtime in the skills challenge against a team of guard Kareem Brewton and guard Gazmyne Herndon. BlocBoy JB, another Memphis native, performed his signature song, “Shoot,” after Lomax and Shutes were named winners. 

Forward David Wingett showed off his shooting ability during the 3-point contest. He scored 16 then 18 points in back-to-back rounds. Both times the first person to greet him was assistant coach Mike Miller.

The dunk contest was judged by Andre Turner, Elliott Perry, Jeremy Hunt, Will Coleman and Chicago Bears receiver Anthony Miller. Guard Antwann Jones, guard Tyler Harris, forward Raynere Thornton and guard Ryan Boyce participated in the dunk contest.

It came down to Boyce against Thornton in the final. After several unsuccessful attempts from Thornton, it was Boyce’s turn. The former UAB commit started out 0-for-2 then missed his next two attempts. Boyce finally got one to go – it was enough for him to be named champion.

The blue and white scrimmage ended the basketball festivities. The team split into two squads, one coached by assistant Tony Madlock and the other by Miller.

Yo Gotti, another Memphis native, took the court to end the evening. The rapper congratulated Hardaway and said “901 for life“ after performing for a short time.  

The festivities and large crowd reminded Martin of why Memphis was his dream school. It reminded him of the games he attended as a youngster growing up in the city.  

“When I walked out and I saw everybody in the stands really filled up to the top that was like my best moment,” Martin said. “That’s one thing I’ll never forget. That’s probably the best thing from tonight.”  


Memphis Tigers basketball Penny Hardaway Memphis Madness
Jonah Jordan

Jonah Jordan

Jonah Jordan was born and raised in Memphis, graduated from the University of Memphis and has covered the Memphis Tigers for three years. When he's not writing, he enjoys golfing and eating barbecue.

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