Photo Courtesy: UCF Athletics
By John Weis (’94)
Next UCF Opponent: Memphis Tigers (12-4, 2-1 AAC)
2021-2022 Record: 22-11 (13-5 AAC, NIT Championship)
Coach: Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway (5th year, 97-47)
Last Game: 1/7/23 Home vs ECU (W, 69-59)
Opening Tip: 1/11/23 7:00 pm, Addition Financial Arena, Orlando (TV: ESPNU)
Opponent at a Glance
Fresh off their weekend shellacking of SMU, the Knights are preparing themselves for battle as the Penny Hardaway-led Memphis Tigers come to town for a midweek tilt on UCF’s home floor.
If there is one word to describe the Tigers, it would be “experienced.” Their top nine scorers are all Seniors. The offense begins with 6’0” guard Kendric Davis (20.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 6.1 apg, 2.3 spg), the SMU transfer who was the AAC Player of the Year last year for the Mustangs.
Forward De’Andre Williams (15.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.4 apg) is an able sidekick. Alex Lomax is a 6’0” guard who averages 8.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg and 3.7 apg. Next are a pair of transfers. From UTEP comes 6’5” Keonte Kennedy (7.5 ppg, 2.7 apg); while 6’3” guard Damaria Franklin (6.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg) played at UIC last season.
Returnee Malcom Dandridge averages 6.2 ppg and 4.0 rpg; and forward Chandler Lawson, who played his high school ball under Hardaway, chips in with 5.8 ppg and 4.8 rpg. The coach’s son, 6’5” Jayden Hardaway, averages 5.7 ppg and 1.2 rpg. Georgia Southern transfer Elijah McCadden contributes 5.6 ppg and 2.9 rpg. The lone non-senior in the bunch is true Freshman Johnathan Lawson (Chandler’s younger brother), who averages 3.7 ppg and 1.9 apg).
“I’m looking forward to seeing the students back. I’m looking forward to seeing our Orlando community back. You should have no worries; our guys will give an amazing effort,” Knights Coach Johnny Dawkins said when asked about the upcoming battle with Memphis. “Our guys are fun to watch, they play hard and they play the right way.”
While Houston is still the clear pacesetter atop the AAC, UCF and Memphis are among a small handful of teams vying for second-best status and potential postseason status. This game will go a long way toward settling this discussion.
The ESPN matchup predictor gives UCF a 71.1 percent chance to win, but one has to think this number would go down a bit if Darius Johnson isn’t available.
The lone Memphis conference loss came at Tulane on New Year’s Day. Their two wins were against ECU and our bovine rivals at USF.
Through the first 16 games of the season, the Tigers are averaging 78.1 points per game and give up 70.3.
Volumes could be written here about Memphis Coach Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, who’s now coaching at his Alma Mater. The four-time former NBA All-Star returns “home” once again to Orlando, where he was part of one of the biggest NBA Draft Night trades in league history in 1993. When healthy, there was no one else in the league quite like him, a 6’7” point guard with unique athleticism for his size, incredible court vision and the unselfishness to make his teammates better. After several amazing seasons with the Magic, injuries robbed him of the athleticism that made him so great. But while it lasted, the Shaq-and-Penny combo was feared throughout the NBA, and the Li’l Penny commercials (voiced by Chris Rock) were a national sensation.
Earlier this year, the 51-year-old Hardaway signed a six-year, $15.5 million extension with the Tigers that runs through April 2028.
UCF has won just two of the 10 all-time meetings between the two teams. The Knights did capture one of the two regular-season contests last year, earning a 74-64 win in Orlando on January 12.
UCF and Memphis will face each other again, in Memphis on February 16.
Memphis is a school that has turned out numerous NBA players. Current ones include Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, Will Barton, Precious Achiuwa, James Wiseman and Jalen Duren. That’s a pretty good group!
John Weis is a freelance Writing/PR professional. His company, Weis Words (www.weiswords.biz) serves national clients such as advertising agencies, public relations firms and sports organizations, as well as small businesses and private individuals. A native Central Floridian and basketball enthusiast, he spent six seasons as Broadcast Coordinator for the Orlando Magic Radio Network early in his career. He graduated from UCF in 1994 with a degree in Communications and can’t wait for the Knights to move to the Big XII.