Tag Archives: Penny Hardaway

East 2-Peats!!!

 

East HS State Champs
                                                                        East HS State Champs

 

I remember going to the 16AAA media day at Whitehaven at the start of the season and wondering a little if the expectations might be a bit much for this East team. Sure, I knew they were defending champs but I also knew that this year, there would be a  target big enough to fit on the side of the Fed Ex Forum on their backs, Every team in the city’s best shot, every night and it showed right at the beginning of the season. Melrose fought them hard in their first district game and was within 10 in the 3rd quarter of that game but after a 20 something to 4 run, East found it’s stride in that game and never looked back during the season.

By now we all know what the Mustangs led by Coach Penny Hardaway and Rocky Johnson did on Saturday, they repeated as TSSAA Triple A State champions beating Southwind in an all Memphis final for the second straight year in a row.  It wasn’t easy though especially the second game having to come back down from 6 a few times in the game against a good Oak Ridge team to win it with some big plays down the stretch from their trio of Moss, Lawson and Alex Lomax.  The title game I felt like was one that would be won in the 3rd quarter and I just knew that East would go on one of those runs  like they always do and win in by double digits because I just felt like Southwind was a good team but they didn’t have enough scoring to be able to keep up with East.

Let me say this, the story is amazing in a sense because this was years in the making. We remember the story of Desmond Merriwether and fast forward up to now and you just shake your head and say wow. These Mustangs have been to the state tournament 3 straight years and if you really want to think about it, players like Alex Lomax, Pig Washington and Nick Merriwether have been to the state 5 straight years with 4 state titles if you want to include Middle School in as well (Lester). This is a group that I will remember for as long as been doing middle school and high school coverage as one of the more memorable teams that I can recall.

Chandler Lawson- MVP of The State Tournament
                                                  Chandler Lawson- MVP of The State Tournament

 

Chandler Lawson was named MVP of the state tournament with Lomax, Moss and Malcolm Dandridge making the all tournament. Christian Jones, Mark Freeman and Carlos “CJ” Marshall were also members of the all tournament team for Southwind.  Southwind who won it a few years ago (2012) had a nice run to end the year I thought and Freeman and Marshall were their catalyst. Freeman will return next season along with Jones who played well in the state and Kameron Jones, a 6’7 touching 6’8 developing post who should start to draw interest from colleges this summer. Guard Quentin Williams who had some huge moments in the post season for the Jaguars will also return in a starters role and they should have big Kristian Williams back as well. Someone will have to take up the scoring slack for Marshall and rebounding of Robert Boyd in order for them to be in the running again next season but they will have as good a shot as anyone.

alltournament

East could return 4 of their 5 starters for next season and it will likely not only make them the state favorite again but also be in the running as a top 3-5 team in the country next season. Some are saying number possibly and that would be incredible for the school located in Binghampton. Could be see a 3-peat for East? One would have to think that they have a pretty good chance but we can wait till next season to give a definitive answer but for right now, congrats to the East Mustangs, your 2016-2017 State Champs.

Penny Hardaway and Rocky Johnson
Penny Hardaway and Rocky Johnson

MUS Summer Classic Provides Look Into 2016-2017 Season

 

Will Douglas Made His Name Known This Weekend (Pictured W/Ball)
Will Douglas Made His Name Known This Weekend (Pictured W/Ball)

 

Team camp month has come to an end after what I think is the best event during the month of June for high schools, the MUS Summer Classic . 20 plus high schools every year, great competition and most of all, a chance to take a look into the upcoming high school basketball season. Of course, some teams don’t have their whole compliment of players for whatever reasons, whether some kids are deciding to transfer, family vacations, working jobs or not playing because they saving themselves for the pivotal month of July for evaluation period that’s so important especially for sophomores and juniors. Sometimes though, events like this can make people get a high sense of hope depending of who they played through out the event but any who, let’s take a look who I thought were the best 5 teams at the Mus Summer Classic. Before I do that though, let me say this, this is by no means, who might start out as Top 5 teams in the city on my end as a team or 2 who could be in the discussion didn’t not play in the classic. So with that being said, let’s start the show.

1. Brentwood Academy (Nashville Tn) 6-0 – First, I wouldn’t normally do this, put a team from outside of the area in this discussion because well they not from here but the reason I’m doing so now is because, they came in and put everyone on notice, they are the team to beat not only in their classification but in the entire state at least until further notice. Reason why, well there are many but it’s starts with D and D, Darius Garland. He might be the best guard in the state and I know there are a lot of talented guards, 1 here who didn’t play over the weekend due to injury however, Garland particularly against East looked as good as any I’ve seen in the state. Handle on a string, poise, confidence, runs the show but still finds ways to score when he has to. They are very well coached by former a coach who many should remember in Memphis, Hubie Smith who was the helm of Bartlett at one time. Garland isn’t their only player though as they have several players who can hurt you in Jeremiah Oatsvall who is also one of the state’s best quarterbacks and a player who played on the national championship team coached by the late Desmond Merriwether a few years back. Cameron Johnson is a all state wide receiver who was once a top 30 player in the country in basketball as a youngster and Gavin Schoenwald, who was considered the number player in the country by many before a young man named Marvin Bagley came along and took over the crown 4 years ago. Did I mention that Johnson, Schoenwald and Garland have been playing together for 5 years or more so talk about continuity and cohesiveness and it’s them for sure. I’m not saying they can’t be beat but I think it’s safe to go ahead book for room for the state if your a Brenwood fan.

2. East High School (5-1) Took one loss to the team above in a great game on Friday night but make no mistake about it, the road to the state goes through the defending state champions once again. This a group that is definitely a little different though in terms of players than last year. I know what’s probably going through your head if your reading this, they have the same team and they have a lot of same pieces however, 3 of those pieces are new this year. Martrell Brooks and Kevon Mcmahon are new along with 6’6 Dude Mccollum. They must replace their two defensive stalwarts from last season, Courtney Carter and Teddrick McGhee and Kevon I think can do that along with Brooks who maybe than both players from last year  offensively. Mccollum brings versatility, length, scoring and rebounding and of course their main core is back for this year. Gatorade Player of the Year, Mr Basketball and Best Of The Preps player of the Year Alex Lomax didn’t play this weekend and was missed particularly in that game against Brentwood because of his defensive ability. TJ Moss, looked pretty good at times, hitting the 3 and showed the ability to play on the ball as the lead guard on occasions as well. Chandler Lawson was the subject of conversation a few weeks back about whether he would return or possibly prep school it at Oak Hill or IMG Academy but this weekend, he was with his team and showing why he’s one of the elite player in the country in 2019. Malcolm Dandridge, 6’8 improved game by game, at times looks like one of the better bigs in the city at that says a lot because he’s only a sophomore. His progression is key this year as he will play a lot beside senior Rodarius Washington, who cleans everything up on the glass and can be another ball handler when needed. Senior Nick Merriwether will be another player asked to give them quality minutes. Senior TK Smith didn’t play due to illness but will be counted on heavily once again as a primary guy off the bench for the Mustangs.  East is once again, the favorites to come out of Memphis but everyone is gunning to knock them off and they will have to be on their A game every night but I expect that from a Penny Hardaway coached team.

3. Christian Brothers High School (4-2) Played both Brentwood and East really close and was up 7-8 in both games in the 3rd and it wasn’t by default, they deserved to be up in those games and probably should have won. Memphis, let me introduce you to Will Douglass if you don’t know about him already. He’s arguably the best prospect in the class and it shouldn’t be a debate. 6’4 long, best on ball guy in the city of defense, great instincts playing passing lanes, scoring it more with confidence I haven’t seen, hitting the 3, Douglass did it all this week. He had 36 against Brentwood and almost beat them by his self, that’s just how well he played that game as I think it was his coming out party if you were there in attendance. When you mention Blake Williams, DJ Jackson, Chase Hayden, make sure you mention his as well in that top tier. 6’0 Ryan Schweitzer is as pure a  set shooter as you will see in the area off the spot up and is a lefty who will lead them in scoring on some nights along with Jacob Lyons, a strong 4-5, who can put it on the floor or play with his back to the basket and score it. Ben Spence, 6’6, will also be very valuable to his team as he seems to be their glue type, can handle some.They have seen their nemesis the last two season once already (Brentwood) so they know what to expect if they didn’t already but they are probably the best threat to beat them in the state on the private school side.

4.White Station High School (5-1) Only loss over the weekend was to Fayette Ware from a source on a controversial call that led to a 4 point loss but other than that, White Station was pretty good all weekend. A year old with a good group mixed with seniors and juniors, the Spartans will be in the mix in 16AAA this year and they will be there because of Aaron Strother, a 6’2 guard who can play bigger than his height and provide scoring, Adam Price who’s one of the better shooters in the city, 6’3 Michael Watkins, Braxton Winford and 6’2 Allen Hatchett who hit seven 3 pointers in the game against Fayette Ware showing improved outside jumper. He works as hard as anyone in the city on his game and it will pay dividends for him this year. Price is another player who I think can be among the best seniors in the city with his shooting.  Keep an eye on White Station this year.

5. Bartlett High School (5-1) No one really talked about them much this weekend but they quietly went into Saturday undefeated before losing to White Station in the evening game. Coach Real is quietly doing a good job and what they lack in size, they make up for in good guards  with Carlos Sandifer who had a 25 point game over the weekend, sophomore Jeff Walker who’s one of the better players in 2019 and senior Jalen Reed, a 6’1 who could be pretty good for Bartlett this year. Quentin Williams who was used a lot last year maybe counted on this year as well to score this year but they do have a few options that they can go to because of their guard depth. Questions about size will be persist but this is a team that can scare top teams.  Can this be the year that Bartlett makes a lot of noise in 14AAA? With Cordova on that side, not sure but you know, anything is possible in Memphis, night in night out.

Now that I’ve talked about teams, let’s look at the top 10 players from the event in my opinion. I have to say this, this is not a rankings list, just a list of player that I thought were the best players that I saw over the weekend.

1. Darius Garland 6’1 (Brentwood Academy 2018) Regarded as top guard in the state, did little to make people dispute it.

2. TJ Moss 6’4 (East High 2018) Top 3-5 scorer in Memphis

3. Will Douglass 6’4 (Christian Brothers High 2017) You can make a case now that he’s the best player in this class in Memphis.

4. Chandler Lawson 6’9 ( East High 2019) The most unique player in the state

5.Ryan Boyce 6’5 ( Houston High 2018) Was a little bothered by injured back but showed enough to make him appear here.

6. Desmond Johnson 5’11 (Kirby High 2017) Expect big numbers this year, leading candidate to lead city in scoring.

7. Jeremiah Oatsvall 6’1 (Brentwood Academy 2017) Shot maker, tough, heady player.

8. Cameron Johnson 6’1 (Brentwood Academy 2018) Athletic finisher, good mid range game.

9. Taeylr Gatlin 6’2 (Brighton High 2018) Big lead guard, great passer, excellent in transition with his vision.

10.Parker Stewart (Union City) Best shooter maybe in the state

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Decisions Decisions Decisions……

 

tigers

 

So the University of Memphis is in search of a new head coach after Josh Pastner took over coaching duties at the Georgia Tech on last Friday. Congratulations to all that made this possible, the fans, the media, constant newspaper articles, even more so after it was decided that he would be here for at least another year. A few weeks ago, the University decided that basically the way that they bank account is set up, they simply couldn’t afford to well, just fire him and leave themselves on the hook for 10.6 million dollars. The only way it could get done was for Josh to take another job and there for he would have forgo the money owed to him. For a while, this is what was believed and it was going to happen, Josh would get another year and everyone would be miserable again and the apathy would continue.  I mean why would Josh take another job and give up all the money? I wouldn’t, maybe I’m not in the position to make that statement but if it were me, I wouldn’t  have left Memphis off the hook by just taking another job because I want my chips with dip. So with all that being said, Josh decided to leave the University without his dip or chips which to me is kind of telling of the situation and atmosphere surrounding the program. In actuality, he will save them a lot of money and that money he saved them, can be used to try to get a big hire.

Memphis is a great job, people here are crazy about basketball and it shows in a big way. The air waves were lit up Friday all over the city, message boards, social media sports groups and personal pages were jumping with Tiger and Josh Pastner conversations. Most opinions were, thank God, our prayers have been answered, glad that clown is gone, he’s ran out program into the ground, good riddance. A few more opinions were a little rougher so I can’t share that here but just know that people definitely take basketball seriously here and rightfully so. I mean Memphis has been tournament 26 times since 1955, 8 sweet 16 berths and has appeared in the Final Four, 3 times. Worth mentioning though, 1982-1986 were vacated as well as 2008. So it’s apparent that we are a powerhouse when it comes to college basketball. That’s the culture that surrounds college basketball in Memphis, we are on the level of Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, we deserve more than what we have had with Josh.  I thought Josh did an admirable job  here and while not maybe up to our expectations, making the tournament 4 out of 7 years is pretty good. I know, I know, it’s not good enough, I mean, Memphis should be in contention for National Championships right? I mean we have been to so many Final 4s and made so many appearances in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 that we should be doing that at least once every 2-3 season’s right?

Could things have been better, sure, one would be naïve not to think that way. The transfers, unpredictable starters/rotations are among the many things that fans say were killing the hoop so to speak. Last season, their best player transferred just a month or 2 prior to players beginning summer workouts. A sometimes starter transferred before that (Nick King) to Alabama for unspecified reasons, I mean something has to be going on right? So many players, Kuran Iverson, Dominic Woodson and so many others, some on their own doing but most, probably just couldn’t take it and they left. Josh only cares about himself I’ve heard, he was all about what you could do for him but once you were used up, that was it. I’ve heard all of that along with other things but that would take forever to write that story.  For the most part, Josh did what I thought he would do here, be okay for a while but ultimately, I thought that the expectations placed on him would be his undoing and while it took a little while longer than expected, it happened. I just never saw him not taking his money and just rolling again, odd but it worked out good for Memphis.  In the end, it must have been tough for him and his family and he like anyone else, got tired and decided, it has to be a better place for me than here and when Georgia Tech came calling, he made the move. I remember sitting in the crowd at Memphis games during the season and hearing the things like your horrible Josh around me and that’s cool, everyone has an opinion but a lot of times, I was sitting near Coach Pastner’s wife and his young daughter. The things I heard, you wouldn’t believe I’m sure it made her uncomfortable because it made me feel weird as a man. The culmination of things I’m sure had to weigh heavy and it was just too much to lift.

You may not like my thoughts, you may not agree and that’s fine but here it is any way. It’s win win for us and for him because he gets to go somewhere that doesn’t have so much pressure come with it or as he said in his press conference Friday, be as “intense” as it is here. The jubilation and excitement on twitter was crazy Friday as  I saw former players taking up for Josh, others leaving post of “well well well”  and I will not say his name but all you have to do is look at twitter. If I’m an agent of a coach that maybe looking at the Memphis job, I’m looking at all of it and I’m taking notes. Do I really want this and the atmosphere? Crazy is actually an understatement and it could be a good thing, a coach may say I like that in a city that’s fanatical about it’s  basketball. You better win win win, no matter what or it’s going to be, I knew he couldn’t coach, we should have got this person. People will stop going to games to prove a point as it was pretty obvious this year that they did and the fans to me, not only turned on the coach but the players as well. It’s not about the coach to me, it’s about the student athletes and that’s who I felt the sorriest for this year, the seniors, Shaq Goodwin, Avery Woodson while not technically a senior but he graduated, I felt like this year could have been better support wise. The narrative of his interview in the Commercial Appeal pretty much fit the narrative of fans about the program but he did say some telling things about the fans as well. He mentioned going to away games and having 5 fans there and 3 of them not wanting to be there. He said he saw it go from Memphis Madness to not having it all and said that it was crazy, just watching it unfold. How many times can the players hear, hey guys I’m know I’m fighting for my job every game but it’s about wins without it effecting the psyche of the players at some point?

The coaching hire now begins as the administration said, a national search will be conducted and begin immediately but I will say this, I think Memphis is in a tight spot, who do you hire? You don’t want to get it wrong because well, you can’t afford to.  I suggest they get started because the guy as most indicate seems to be Greg Marshall at Wichita State and all they are doing is giving Wichita’s people a chance to talk to him and maybe possibly try to add more money to his contract. If he’s the guy, try and get your first choice and not your 3rd, 4th or 5th choice like well, Josh. The risk you run taking a little while to search is that you end up with and up and coming coach or an assistant type or maybe a guy who’s trying to repair an image like well,  John Calipari. Marshall would probably kill it here but fans, don’t get your hopes up and don’t get your hopes about Bruce Pearl either. I’ve always thought he was kind of overrated as a coach, Tennessee had a nice team when he was there back a few years ago, I don’t think it was a coincidence that he won with that group. Rah rah, sis boom ba only works for so long and this year he was 11-20 at Auburn so he really doesn’t excite me but hey, whatever floats the boat of those hoping and wishing but who knows, he might take it.I think Memphis ends up with a guy who maybe looking for a fresh start somewhere, maybe a guy like Andy Kennedy. Kennedy, I know has probably exhausted his stay in Oxford and might want to be somewhere else especially in the AAC, a nice conference but not that of the SEC which can be brutal. I could be wrong but we will see but besides Penny and Marshall, who else excites you?

I don’t know how far this goes, I’m just a guy who loves basketball here in the city  but coaching candidates, you better know what you getting into at Memphis and I don’t say it negatively, I say it honestly and without any hesitation. Memphis isn’t for the meek and it’s definitely not for anyone in the Josh mold. Recruiting, you better be able to get it done and you better win and do it fast. They may give you a year since it’s so late in the game for recruiting and all but believe me, that following year, you better be in the tournament. That’s another thing, the new coach, doesn’t have much of a recruiting class as their best recruit (Charlie Moore) decided this wasn’t the place for him once Coach Pastner left on Friday.  The new coach will have the team’s best player back from last year, Dedric and his brother KJ Lawson who will be a freshman again likely after only appearing in 9 games due to injury. He just had surgery and should be back to 100 percent by start of summer workouts. Alongside those two should be sophomore Jeremiah Martin, Markell Crawford who’s been rumored to be possibly on the outs but his status isn’t determined yet and Nick Marshall, who showed flashes of potential. What does Josh leaving now do to Avery Woodson who decided 2 weeks ago to leave? I heard he’s gone irregardless so maybe not much but hey, it’s thought.  Could he come back depending on the coaching hire? What about Penny Hardaway, would he take it?

I’ve been around Penny some, don’t know his thoughts on it but have heard somethings. Bruce Pearl? Hey maybe Penny can be under Pearl on the bench as an assistant, yeah that will work right? I say this to that, for anyone thinking that Penny will be an assistant, I have some beach front property I want to sell you in West Memphis. Do I think he would take the job as the head coach of the program? Yeah maybe so, I mean when you think of Penny, you of think of Memphis basketball. He’s a legend here, he’s revered more than maybe even Elvis Presley and that’s the thing that I don’t ever want to see tarnished. As the Memphis coach, that can happen here especially because the fans are so fickle. Lose a game that you’re not to lose and the nay sayers to Penny will come out on sports talk shows and message boards. The told you so types, see he can’t coach, he just Penny Hardaway and that’s the thing that bothers me about Memphis fans. One minute they love, the next, they hoping you get fired.  Not every Memphis fan is like that so I won’t label all however, a large part would be of that feeling. Larry Finch to me was like Penny back in the day. No, I don’t mean talent wise even though he was a big time player but as fixture of Memphis basketball. He played here, played college ball here, turned down the Lakers to stay in Memphis and play semi pro, and coached the Tigers  and was very successful before being fired a year after making the tournament. The year before that, he made it to the Sweet Sixteen but none of that mattered to fans. He gave his heart and soul to Memphis, had an opportunity to leave Memphis for a job and he stayed. He was Memphis basketball and what were his results? Well, we know how that story ended and I wouldn’t want that for Penny because he’s too good of a guy for that to happen to. Do I think it would be great for the University, yes yes and once again, yes. Penny can coach and he loves Memphis, it would rejuvenate the program, make people want to come back and support the product and give Memphis a big time hire that it surely needs.

Things are going to be interesting for sure though in these next few days, the rumors, the talks and finally the deal but will it be enough?  What if it’s not Marshall, Hardaway, Steve Forbes or Buzz Williams? Will you be upset by it? What if it’s Andy Kennedy or someone like that? What if they have to get an assistant? What if it’s person right up under their nose?  Memphis simply can’t get this wrong,  or it could set the program back even further. Lots of questions will be answered but I’m sure Tiger fans will be watching when the decision is made on the next Tigers basketball coach. To the future head coach of the program, may the force be with you.

 

East And Mitchell Bring State Titles!!!!

East Becomes State Leader In Titles With 7
East Becomes State Leader In Titles With 7

Do It For Dez, Do It For Ms Shaw, those were this year’s mantra for East High’s Basketball team and as you know by now, that was done on yesterday.  For those who may not know the story,  Binghampton legend and former coach of Lester and East died on last year after a long battle with cancer followed by Sharon Shaw. Shaw, the grandmother of Alex Lomax and loyal member of the community and team mom, suddenly during the summer. The season was dedicated to both and it came to pass as East defeated a good Cordova team, 64-60 reaching number 7 and taking over the state as the leader in titles in Triple A and it’s second title in 4 years but it wasn’t easy, not at all.

Up 36-21 after a great half by reserve junior TK Smith who scored 9 points along with TJ Moss who was good early, and holding one of the state’s best scorers to just 3 at the break, East was feeling good about their chances. They pushed the lead up to 18 after a Rodarius Washington steal under the goal produced a lay up plus the foul, it looked like it might have turned into a route in the 4th but that’s not what was on his mind of the WolfPack. Cordova went on a 17-3 run capped by an awaken Tyler Harris who’s Curry (Stephen) pretty behind the back move and rise with the deep 3 moved them closer, 58-53 late in the 4th. East had to make free throws down the stretch and after a missed free throw by Lomax, Cordova still had a chance to tie but they couldn’t get the 3 try to go down and Lomax was fouled again. Lomax was would go on to make 4 free ones and freshman Chandler Lawson was fouled with 18 seconds left where he made both. All year, the Mustangs didn’t fold in the final moments and it held true on Saturday for a 64-60 win a state title. “I’ve given enough speeches man, I just want to enjoy this” said Coach Rocky Johnson who brought the team down last year and came a game away from state. Penny Hardaway, who Coach Dez asked to come in and be coach years ago at Lester added, “All the hard work, it’s led to this, I’m really proud of you guys, I know Dez and Ms. Sharon looking down on us and they smiling, everybody get they fingers up, one time for D-MAC” Do it For Dez and Ms Sharon, now has turned into Did it for them both. Congratulations East, Triple A state Champs.

 

L-R (TJ Moss, Alex Lomax, Rodarius Washington, Chandler Lawson) All underclassmen
L-R (TJ Moss, Alex Lomax, Rodarius Washington, Chandler Lawson) All underclassmen

 

Mitchell Gets The 3 Peat!!!

 

Mitchell Throwing Up The 3 peat!!!
Mitchell Throwing Up The 3 peat!!!

 

It wasn’t pretty, both teams didn’t shoot it that well from the floor, it was a low scoring affair but it was the end that first year head coach Andre Turner wanted, a state title, his first at the helm and Mitchell’s 3rd state title in a row. The team’s had played each other 3 times before Saturday with Booker T Washington beating them for the city and district and Mitchell beating them in the regional and again on Saturday. I thought earlier, Mitchell just looked like they wanted the game more and late in the game it showed as well. I thought Coach Turner did a great job of it not being a track meet, his team was patient on offense and they leaned on state MVP Tevin Ollison who scored a game high 27 points. Ollison was the best guard in the tournament in Single A easily in my opinion and his college options should be flowing even more now. Mitchell got contributions all tournament long from who they relied on the entire season including Tyran Davis, Ladarius Lee and Tominique Marion, all who were named all tournament.  50-40 was the final, how sweet it is for the Tigers, 3 in a row, can they make it 4 next year? I wouldn’t bet against Andre Turner and his Mitchell Tigers next season.

 

Tevin Ollison (MVP)
Tevin Ollison (MVP)

 

Also, congratulations to Cordova and Booker T Washington on their year as well. Cordova honestly, I could see making another run back here next year. Tyler Harris, Blake Williams and Rod Brown will all return next year but replacing Jalen Dupree will be very hard. The Murray State commit is load inside and replacing his production might be a 2-3 person job. Coach Terrance Scales after the game said, “All year, all we heard about was East and Germantown, we wanted to prove that we belonged and we did that” For Booker T Washingotn, rebuilding will be even harder for them, they will lose a bulk of their scoring in senior guards Chauncey Blakely who is underrated in the city and Tyree Beason, their shooter but Tyrone Sumlin and Ethan Jones will return, both over 6’5. Booker T Washington always seems to come up with guards so it may not be a huge problem but losing guards of that caliber will be really hard to replace.

 

A Star That Never Shine? Or Did It?

Taurean "T-Head" Moy
Taurean “T-Head” Moy

 

When you have been around basketball your whole life you hear all kinds of stories. We have all heard about that one guy, who if had stayed out of trouble, could have  been big time, and maybe even made it to the league. It’s like every different part of the city has that one guy who is a super talented, “can’t miss” player. However, for some, their hoop dream just never panned out.  Most of the time, not making it is falls on them.  North Memphis, South Memphis, Orange Mound, these areas represent where some of the best players have come from, and those are just a few areas of Memphis that have had talented basketball players.

My cousin tells me about a player by the name of Danny McMillan from North Memphis who attended Northside High School. According to my cousin, he could do it all. McMillian could score with anyone, was a great passer and a great rebounder. What made him special was that could get it done whenever he wanted to and there was nothing any other player could do about. From what he and others told me, McMillian could give Penny fits on the court and I’m not talking about Penny from Good Times. I’m talking about the man in Memphis, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, the man who everyone is measured against once they get a name here.  No other Memphis player can compare to him since his days at Treadwell. However, McMillan may be just as good. I can’t say if he is as good as or better than Penny. Honestly, I don’t think there has been anyone better than Penny, but from those around him, McMillan was that type of talent. That’s just an example from North Memphis and every part of the city has or has had that type of guy.

We used to play ball behind the school when I was young and there would be this guy who would come up there.  At the time, he was probably in his late 20s maybe 30, old to us, but nevertheless, he was unbelievable.  He wore a torn up t-shirt, big huge Nikes and always had a 40 ounce in hand.  I’ll admit, the first time I ever saw him play I thought to myself, “who is this dude?” I mean he had bunny, I mean super bunnies, my friend threw him a lob and he went to the top of the square and got it, bad pass but he dunked it easily with two hands. He was hitting 3 pointers, dunking on guys, and doing it all like he had been playing for 20 years or more.

I know how this sounds. Sure, we were only kids and he a grown man. Of course he would be better than us. That didn’t make a difference because he did it to grown men, too. He wasn’t a huge guy, maybe 6’1 – 6’2, but he played like he was 6’8. He was the first person I ever saw, up close, do the off the backboard to himself in traffic, go get it, and finish it like no one was standing there. It didn’t matter if his opponent tried to block it or not, he was getting it off, draped all over him. I saw him hit every shot in a game to 24.  He made all 24 points with guys all over him. They talked crazy and all, but he would dominate them, anyway. He would do this consistently. I started to see him at the Mt Moriah basketball courts when I would play late night pick-up games. He was always wearing his torn up shirt, carrying a 40 ounce, and still killed on the court. One day I asked him, “Where did you play college ball?” “Nowhere”, he said. I said about high school career and he said that he went to Melrose but he never got a chance to play because his mom got sick and he had to get a job to support his family. Later, when he got fired from his job, he and older brother decided to rob a store and they got caught.  His crime earned him 6 years in prison. I wonder what he could have been if circumstances were different, would he be a hometown hero like Penny?

This is just one of many stories of a guy who could have been successful.  His circumstances, those he created and those he did not, stood in the way of making him great. No one knows for sure if success for him would be certain, but what is certain is that we will never find out. I don’t know if he was a sure pro, but with the stuff he could do, I know could have been a high major college basketball player. I think he was just as talented as a Tony Harris or Snap Hunter, who were also immensely talented.

Out of South Memphis, there is another story that you may be more familiar with. It is the story of Taurean Moy or T-Head as he is known around Memphis. I had a chance to meet him years ago, while I was at Southwest Community College. He was a down-to-earth, cool type of guy. I knew of his talents, and was supposed to attend a game that he would be playing in later that night. It was the legendary game against Manassas where Moy hit twenty-four 3 pointers for 83 points. It’s just my luck that I missed a game that went down in the history books as well as the stats sheets. That night Moy broke a national record which still stands still this day. Moy’s exploits before that game were already one of a mythical type, you know the mythical shooter who never misses, some guys you say are pure shooters, or “wet” that’s just what he was, he never missed. Lay ups were 3 pointers, and 3 pointers were lay ups. It didn’t matter if he was open or not, if Moy threw it up, it was good. He just had that “it” factor about him. He was a naturally gifted shooter and one of the best to ever do it Memphis. The way Moy played, everyone just felt like big things were in store for him. But there was just one catch. He couldn’t stay out of the way of himself.  The day after his 83 point game he was charged with assault and possession of marijuana.

One day he was on top of the world, the entire city was talking about his superstar feat . The entire country knew his name but twenty-four hours after one of the best high school basketball performances ever, he charged with two crimes and sent to jail. His team would go on to win the state championship that year (2001-2001) where he scored 26 points in the title game and set another state record for most 3 pointers made in the tournament. Just maybe, things were turning around for the young man, things were looking up but by now, you know this story doesn’t have a happy ending. Moy would go on to not graduate from high school never receiving his high school diploma and  later, he would get himself into more trouble outside of Memphis, while attending college in Nebraska. While I will not get into what his charges were, let’s just say it was enough to be sentenced to 36 months in prison.  It is sad to say but this is just another example of a young man with promise being reduced to a “shoulda, coulda, woulda” cautionary tale.

Moy was the star that never shined, as that is the name of the documentary being done on his life implies and although his story is tragic, it is one that could teach others? This man had so much talent but he seemed destined to do something that might derail an opportunity. His tale is so familiar. It is a familiar narrative of so many great players whose names we will never know.

Hopefully, Moy’s story is one that can teach those who maybe from South Memphis or North Memphis or East Memphis about what not to do and to give them a blue print of some of the mistakes to avoid along the way. Maybe Moy’s purpose was bigger than basketball. Just maybe, his life was meant to teach others. Is it possible that he can still make it as a basketball player? Maybe he will achieve success overseas or somewhere else on the professional level. It’s not likely at 33 years old, but maybe, for the greater good, Moy’s life went the way he did because he was meant to be a live coach. It is possible that his talents were meant to get him involved in the game that once garnered him so much attention for the purpose of helping others.

Experience is life’s best teacher and Moy’s experience has been filled with highs and lows, negatives and positives and maybe, his life as a basketball player didn’t go as planned because maybe he had a different purpose.  His story can be used to show young kids about life and mistakes and never giving up.  According to Moy’s Facebook page, he is now teaching young players the mechanics that made his jump shots legendary. He even came back recently and played in a Legends game held at Lemoyne Owen, where he played 1 year of college ball after getting out of prison with other local high favorites in a game spotlighting the city’s past basketball talent.

If there is a lesson that can be taken from any of the stories mentioned in this story, it is this; Life will throw you challenges along the way but you must be confident enough to get back up and take another shot. If not, it is possible that you will always wonder what would have happened if I you had taken that one more shot?  Moy is the best example because he is one person who was never afraid of that moment, the person who would take the 3 and  make the 3. That is Taurean “T-Head” Moy