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
Antwann Jones | SG/SF | 6-6 | 210 lbs | Oak Ridge HS | Tampa, FL
After ALo and Tyler’s signings, Penny had his two top 150 area recruits, and many began to close the book on the 2018 class barring a few JuCo transfers and sporadic roster fill-outs. When a college staff is recruiting at a high level, though, fans should come to expect the unexpected.
(1). We signed who now?
Y’all know that scene in Scorcese’s THE DEPARTED when — after confronting Damon’s crooked rat cop on the roof — uncover cop DiCaprio escorts Damon by gunpoint down the elevator intending to ultimately bring him to justice? If you do remember that scene, you may also remember than the second the elevator doors open — BAM!! — DiCaprio’s brains are painted all over the elevator walls by an off-screen shooter. DiCaprio’s death is unexpected, jarring, and exciting — both literally and narratively.
By way of a long-winded movie reference, also unexpected was four-star Antwann Jones’ commitment to the Tigers, mere days after Tyler Harris joined the crew. There we were, enjoying a casual Sunday, when news broke that Twann, the 18th-ranked shooting guard, 92nd-ranked overall player and 11th-ranked prospect from Florida, was visiting campus. A few hours later:
— Antwann Jones 〽️ (@j5_twann) April 16, 2018
In a matter of a week, Twann became Penny’s third high school top-150 signee.
(2). Long Road to the 901.
Twann played a bit of college musical chairs as he made his ultimate decision.
Twann was previously sought after by the former head coach Tubby Staff. He originally committed to Oklahoma State in September before de-committing two weeks later when an OkSt assistant got fired in the wake of the much-publicized FBI investigation into college hoops corruption arising from the Rick Pitino-sized elephant in the room.
Twann then decided to sign with Texas A&M in November, but then received a release from his national letter of intent at A&M. Many believed his release was related to A&M’s desire to move away from more volatile player personalities, but I personally believe the CBB deities parted the waters so Penny could have another talented freshman in his first class.
(3). From Blue Chip to Memphis Blue.
Twenty-four months ago, Twann was considered a five-star prospect and the No. 1 shooting guard in the country. He’s now a four-star and the No. 21 shooting guard in the country, according to 247Sports. What caused the fall from 5-star distinction?
Dismissal from teams for rules violations. Arguments with coaches. You know, teenager stuff that crawled its way onto the court.
“I don’t want to put the blame on other people for my own mistakes,” he told The Commercial Appeal. “I got hurt twice, and I had some attitude problems, but that’s over with. I’m a completely new person since I’ve been at Memphis.”
Pride comes before a fall. As he bragged about his recruitment ranking, he then had to watch it slowly decline. It kept him from achieving his ultimate goal in high school, which was to become a McDonald’s All-American. Hindsight is 20/20.
Twann seems to use the former ranking as motivation, however, even going to far as to make the ESPN page his Twitter banner.
(4). Run & Gun.
What can we expect from Twann as a player? As ESPN summarizes, he’s “a big strong wing player that can put the ball in the basket. He has a good feel for the game and can do a little of everything as a player. Good athlete that is probably best attacking the rim off the dribble. Capable shooter from three[.]”
Twann is a do-it-all wing that can act as a guard and bring the ball up as well. Given his size and strength and ability to guard the opposing team’s wing players, I envision him starting at SF but playing like a 1 or 2. With Penny’s emphasis on a run-and-gun D’Antoni-esque offense, his lineups will likely feature 3-4 players that can grab the rebound and push the break. If a transition layup isn’t available, the offense will center on ball-handlers with triple-threat games to create 3s or lay-ins for his teammates — Twann is the archetype of this sort of player.
(5). Competitive Fire or Attitude Issues?
Reasons for Twann’s ranking fall and school commitment musical chairs ranged, but most folks settled on some sort “attitude issues.” The kid was confident and competitive — many interpreted these traits as cocky and uncoachable.
“I had to humble myself,” Jones admitted to The Commercial Appeal. “I had a really big ego, but now I’ve just come back to reality. I’ve realized that you can’t cheat the work and expect results. I have to put my head down and keep grinding.”
Importantly, Twann’s buy-in seems like it’s at an all-time high:
Everybody Go Wish My Coach A Happy Birthday very thankful for him believing in me always looked up to him before I ever knew I would play for him #TrulyBlessed #Humble #1Cent #Goat @Iam1Cent pic.twitter.com/ZMA3v26Uux
— Antwann Jones 〽️ (@j5_twann) July 18, 2018
Though he isn’t lacking in his trademark confidence:
Work Ethic Gotta Match My Talent 😈🎥👀🍿 pic.twitter.com/Nfru8o35CF
— Antwann Jones 〽️ (@j5_twann) August 22, 2018
“I’m 6-6, 210. Pretty athletic. I can pass, shoot, and dribble, so I’m pretty prepared for this level,” Twann informed the media this month. That’s all we need from you, young fella. Looking forward to watching you do it in the Forum this season.
It’s mind-blowing when Memphis fans realize Penny Hardaway is the Head Coach at The University of Memphis. That same dreamlike mentality, if not more, goes for the players.
“It’s still not real to me sometimes,” Twann said to The Commercial Appeal. “But when I see [Coach Penny], I know it means it’s time to go to work.”
[banner image: Hoop Seen]