In this reoccurring series – inspired by Moneybagg’s fire single — the CHIEF breaks down each of the 2018 signees in Memphis HC Penny Hardaway’s inaugural recruiting class.  Get to know the new Tigers as we hit on five facts about each player in the order they committed.  Always feel free to chirp us at The BarnBurner if y’all have any suggestions or questions.  #GTG  #TimingIsEverything

Tyler Harris | PG | 5-9 | 150 lbs | Cordova | Memphis, TN

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In March 2018, four-star scoring phenom and Class AAA Mr. Basketball winner Tyler Harris aka “Mr. First 48” was all but committed to Baylor and Scott Drew — that “scoundrel” according to Jason & John — when Penny Hardaway took over coaching duties at his alma mater.  Once Penny prioritized Tyler, and in a matter of three weeks:

Without further ado, let’s dive into First 48’s FIVE [BIG] FACTS:

(1).  The Dopest of Nicknames.

The sport of basketball is amazing for many reasons, but one of my favorite reasons is that nicknames are still very much an integral part of the players and culture.  Tyler’s “Mr. First 48” nickname arises from the [count ’em] forty-eight points he hung up on Arlington by the way of [count ’em] ELEVEN deep balls in his junior year at Cordova.  The next year, he scored so many points on Craigmont (54) that Craigmont decided to just go ahead and forfeit the next three games against Cordova (just kidding, that part didn’t happen), but Mr. First 54 just doesn’t have the same ring to it.  In other words, Tyler spent his amateur career making the absurd look mundane.

I’d also like to proposition “Mr. First 48” as a Top 5 dope-ass nickname in the pantheon of Tigers basketball nicknames.  This brings me to an interesting question: what are the other four best nicknames?

  1. John Gunn aka “Big John” — As a freshman, post-man Gunn averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds a game and played a big factor in the University of Memphis’s impressive 20-7 record that included a trip to the NIT.
  2. Derrick Rose aka “D-Rose” — This one is a classic and a time-tested shortening of the guy’s real name to create the nickname.  Because of the incredible title game season D-Rose played a part in, and a certain free throw meltdown, D-Rose slightly edges out Darius Washington’s “D-Wash.”
  3. Ronnie Robinson aka “Big Cat” — One of the best rebounders in Tiger history, Big Cat teamed with Larry Finch to lead Memphis to the 1973 Final Four.
  4. Anfernee Hardaway aka “Penny” — Y’all knew I wouldn’t forget the HC.  His two-season scoring numbers are good enough to be tied for 12th-best all time and he set numerous other records in just 66 games.  Pure electricity.  Penny is Memphis.

(2).  An Uphill Battle.

ALo and Tyler have been inarguably linked well before they joined forces for the hometown team.  The process in bringing together two Memphis basketball rivals that both stand under six feet and play the same position (albeit stylistically are quite different) was never going to be easy.  Even their AAU sponsors — ALo’s Team Penny a Nike program and Tyler’s Team Thad with Under Armor — differed.

After the previous staff prioritized and missed on ALo, they turned their attention to Tyler with a desperate pitch.  Tyler took a well-covered official visit to Memphis in October.   Yada yada the rest of the Tubby story and, in March 2018, Penny holds the HC job with ALo as his second official commit.  Rumors abound that Tyler’s camp didn’t believe the two guards could function effectively together, and reports were strong that he was tantalized by the allure of leading Baylor as the Bears No. 1 option and playing in the Big 12.

Regarding the players’ purported rivalry, Harris explained to The Commercial Appeal’s Mark Giannotto, “I heard it, but I didn’t let it get to me.  I feel like I’m Tyler and he ALo. There’s no reason to dislike him. He’s a good player. I’m a good player.” As recent as April 2018, it seemed the two Memphis hardwood legends would not share the blue and gray.

Penny, however, wasn’t about to let that happen on his watch, even if it meant swallowing some pride and mending the fence with a coaching rival.

As chronicled by Mark Giannatto:

A meeting on March 26 occurred in a small Cordova locker room that was the size of a bathroom, according to Tyler Harris’ father.

Hardaway, still in his first week on the job at Memphis, wanted to recruit Tyler Harris. But first he had to bridge the gap with two of his coaching rivals in Scales and Hurd.  Frank Harris described the initial mood in the room as “standoffish,” with Hardaway and Hurd, “speaking to each other by throwing their head up.”

“The way (Hardaway) came in the room, I thought he may be a little intimidated,” Frank Harris said. “But he came in the room and commanded the room, like, ‘Hey, I’m the new coach at Memphis, and I want to coach your son.’ He told us all what he represent, what he stand for and what he want to do at Memphis. Keep most of the Memphis guys home.”

Penny didn’t stop with Tyler’s pops, AAU coach, and high school coach:

(3).  The Turning Point.

Despite these efforts, the deal wasn’t sealed until fairly late in the game, and was consummated in a chill-worthy fashion that should go down in Tiger basketball lore:

But the key moment for Hardaway did not come in a locker room meeting, or when he visited Harris’ mother at work, or even when Harris took one last unofficial visit to campus last Sunday. It happened on a phone call between Hardaway and Frank Harris.

“I know right now you not really sure to send Tyler to play for me,” Hardaway said, according to Frank Harris. “But I promise you, coach, I will do Tyler right. Just give me a chance to coach him. I’m going to do him right.”

“When a man put his word out like that,” Harris continued, “you’re going to always remember that and I’m going to always remember.”

Wow.  If that doesn’t hit you right in the feels, then you’re a damn reptile, man.

MORE:  Five [Big] Facts – Alex “ALo” Lomax

MORE:  FIVE [BIG] FACTS: Jayden Hardaway

MORE:  The CHIEF’s 2018 Memphis Madness Wish [and Do Not Wish] List

(4).  Bench Mob.

With Tyler firmly on the squad, the central question now arises: can two guards under 6-feet be on the court at the same time without drastic defensive deficiencies?  Many fans are under the assumption that ALo will start at PG and Tyler will come off the bench in some sort of super sixth man role to score in droves and excite the crowd like peak Jamal Crawford with a dash of Nate Robinson’s “oh by the way I may be 5-9 but I play like I’m 6-7” confidence and tenacity. 

Super sixth man may be an undersell.  Tyler is, put simply, a human supernova, and hoops in real life like he’s ON FIRE in NBA Jam.  He averaged a ridiculous 30.3 points (!!!) and 6 assists his senior year to lead the city while shooting 50 percent from the floor, 43 percent from the 3-point line and 91 percent on free throws.  His career total of 2,647 points ranks him 12th on Shelby County’s all-time scoring list.

He’s one of the few players in Memphis prep history that struck Steph Curry-esque levels of fear in his defenders.  When Tyler crosses mid-court, any shot is a good shot.  And the man is clutch too:

(5).  Backcourt Bros.

In September, footage surfaced on ALo’s Instagram story of him kicking it in the dorms and rapping along to music.  Mid-verse, and with no warning like the Fresh Prince bursting into Uncle Phil’s living room, Tyler dances into frame, hits the shoot by way of Blocboy JB, and the two guards happily sang the lyrics together with arms around each other looking like best friends (shoutout to David Wingett for the special guest feature).  On social media, they hype each other up, partake in some friendly shit-giving, have each others’ backs, and, in sum, look like the best of bros off the court.

“That’s big for the city of Memphis to see them two guys come together and do it for the city,” Hurd said to The Commercial Appeal. “Intelligent people, it makes sense.  AAU rival? That has nothing to do with college.  At the end of the day, it’s what’s best for the kids.  I don’t care about who Tyler Harris’ coach is.  As long as he’s in a good position, I support it.”

Try as Memphians might to create a storyline, it seems like these two will never be rivals.  Instead, they’re teammates playing for The University of Memphis.  As Tyler summarizes, the dudes are suiting up for the “same city” with the “same dreams.”

I think that’s easy to translate.

ALo and First 48 are playing to bring home a National Championship to Memphis.  And I’ll be damned if it won’t be fun watching these two home-grown Memphis boys do it for the 901 together.

Follow me @TheBarnChief and for other MEMPHIS content, check out the rest of The BarnBurner HERE.

[banner image: Talk Back Live Network]


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