What a weird season for the Memphis Tigers. Coach Penny Hardaway and his staff assembled the top ranked recruitment class that never really came to fruition — due to NCAA violations, personal decisions, and injuries. The season provided some great highs like beating in-state rival Tennessee in hostile territory, and also terrible lows like the tremendous loss at Tulsa.
With everything that went on, the highly-touted freshmen (that stayed with the team) were given ample opportunity to showcase their abilities and prove that they were worthy of their respective rankings coming out of high school.
Speaking of ranking high school players, that is no easy task. Some players don’t always translate to the collegiate level while others surpass the expectations that have been set for them by coaches and analysts. One day on a whim, we decided that we wanted to see how the Tigers’ freshman class compared to those who were ranked similarly to them coming out of high school.
We used the 247Sports composite rankings to assemble a list and compared each of the Memphis freshmen to the 5 players ranked above and below them to see how they performed in their frosh season.
I did a medium-level dive on each of the players and compiled a notebook-style overview on this wide-ranging group of athletes. Before each group, you can find the discussed players plus their year-one statistics, with the leaders in each category in red and the Memphis player in blue.
With all this knowledge at your fingertips, how would you say that the Memphis freshman performed? Were they appropriately ranked? Let us know on twitter @The_BarnBurner.
We recorded a full podcast with discussion around this topic that you can listen to HERE.
Also, I felt like we didn’t need to discuss Wiseman and the very top of the class, so we didn’t.
247Sports Player Rankings 10-20
10) Tyrese Maxey
Maxey was second on Kentucky in scoring with 14ppg. He reached double figures in scoring 6 times and was the only Freshman to start the majority of the games. Maxey led the team in total minutes. He is not the most efficient player, shooting only 29% from three on 113 attempts. Maxey was selected to the All-Freshman team for the SEC
11) Kahlil Whitney
Whitney averaged 12 minutes a game and entered the transfer portal after appearing in 18 games and earning a slash line of 3.3p/1.3r/.4a
12) Matthew Hurt
Hurt was a part of a crew of six freshmen that Coach K brought in to replace the stellar rookie class that he assembled last season with Zion Williamson at the helm. Hurt started 22 games and he shot 39% from three on 3.5 attempts per game. He was the most efficient scorer on the Blue Devils this season with an offensive rating of 122.8. Also he was impactful on the defensive side of the ball with a defensive rating of 96. In total he averaged 9.7 pts, 3.8 reb, 0.9 ast.
13) Josh Green
The freshman guard came into the season with the second highest recruitment rank on this star-studded Arizona freshman class and averaged 12 points 4.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists. He started all 30 games he appeared in for the Wildcats. He averaged one three point make per game and shot 36% from deep. He was third on the team in total points scored behind fellow freshmen Zeke Nnajji and Nico Mannion.
14) N’Faly Dante
After watching Dante on the EYBL circuit last year, he might have been the freshman I was most excited to watch at the collegiate ranks this season. He did not start the season immediately with Oregon due to some NCAA eligibility issues. The Ducks have such an experienced roster that Dante did not see the floor much, averaging 13.6 minutes per game. The center put up 5.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in that time.
15) Precious Achiuwa
Memphis fans fell in love with Achiuwa this year as he admirably rose to the challenge of filling the alpha dog role that was supposed to be held by James Wiseman. He wasn’t the most efficient scorer and struggled from the charity stripe, but he was pretty much the only guy that Penny could count on to score night in and night out. Precious led the Tigers in points, rebounds, and blocks at 15.8/10.8/1.9 respectively. Achiuwa anchored the tough Tigers defense that held opponents to the 5th lowest shooting percentage in the NCAA. The Tiger forward showed an endless motor and elite athleticism. He began to showcase his ability to bring the ball down the floor and shot 33% from three on 40 attempts.
16) Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
Robinson-Earl, a 6-9 forward, started all 31 games for Villanova and averaged 10.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2 assists. He was third in minutes on Jay Wright’s 24-7 team. Robinson-Earl was a beast on the defensive boards, boasting a DREB% of 23%
17) Bryan Antoine
The top-20 freshman guard saw limited minutes this season at Villanova and only appeared in 16 games due to a shoulder injury sustained during his senior year of high school. There seems to be a slight record of guards not getting minutes (see Jahvon Quinnerly).
18) Trendon Watford
Watford, a versatile 6-9 forward from Alabama, did not disappoint in his freshman season at LSU. He averaged 13.6 points and 7.2 rebounds while soaking up nearly 32 minutes per game. Most of his damage on offense was done near the rim, where he shot almost 70%.
19) Samuell Williamson
In a limited role for Louisville, the 6-7 guard saw the floor in 31 games, but only averaged 4.4 points and 2.5 rebounds in 15 minutes. This Chris Mack roster was home to too many returning guys like Nwora and Enoch who stole the show.
20) Isaiah Mobley
Mobley, a 6-10 forward averaged 6.2 points and 5.3 rebounds at USC. He shot pretty terribly from the line, only hitting 52% of his 71 free throws on the season. His shooting away from the basket could use some work, but close to the rim he converted on over 65% of his attempts.
247Sports Player Rankings 33-43
33) Johnny Juzang
Juzang appeared in 28 games for Coach John Calipari this season. He started twice and averaged 12 minutes per game. He had averages of 2.9 points, 1.9 rebounds, .3 assists but played a limited role for the Wildcats, only impacting 14% of offensive possessions.
34) DJ Carton
The Ohio State guard cut short his season to step away and tend to his mental health. He did play in 20 games and scored 10.4 points and dished out 2.8 rebounds per game in that span. Carton shot an impressive 40% from three on a trio of attempts per game.
35) Will Baker
Baker played only 8 minutes per game in 23 appearances for Texas.
36) Isaac Okoro
The Second team All-SEC forward put up 12.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2 assists while boasting an impressive 116 ORTG and shooting and EFG of 51%. His draft stock climbed at Auburn throughout the season and he has declared for the NBA draft and is expected to go in the lottery.
37) Cassius Stanley
The Duke guard played in and started 28 games this season and averaged 12.6 Pts, 4.9 Reb, 1.0 Ast. Stanley shot a solid 36% from three and was second on the team in rebounding behind only big man Vernon Carey. Stanley was selected for the All-Freshman team for the ACC.
38) Boogie Ellis
This was not quite the debut season that Memphis fans expected from Boogie Ellis, a one-time Duke commit. For a player who was supposed to be a lights-out shooter, his 32% from three and 34% from two left much to be desired. On the bright side, he did start to look much more comfortable towards the end of the season. He will be a guy that Memphis needs to take a big leap next year.
39) Rocket Watts
Watts was a Michigan State freshman who started 16 games and ranked 4th on the Spartans in minutes. He did have the worst +/- of anyone who played substantial minutes for Tom Izzo with a -.2. However, he did contribute 9 points per game, but on 8.9 shots.
40) Zeke Nnaji
In Nnaji, an Arizona forward, we have the Pac-12 Freshman of the year. He is a physically imposing player at 6’11” 240lbs. Nnaji was a very efficient scorer with an EFG of 57.8% and he shot an encouraging 76% from the free throw line. Most of his damage was done near the rim, but he did step out and take a few three pointers, but shot a hair under 30% from deep. His advanced numbers are insane with an offensive rating of 120 and defensive rating shy of 93.
41) Jalen Lecque
He skipped college to enter the NBA draft and went undrafted last summer. He signed a deal with the Phoenix Suns and has spent most of his professional time in the G-League.
42) Addison Patterson
Played only 11 minutes per game and averaged 4.6 points for Oregon.
43) Drew Timme
Timme has an insane PER of 25 and scored 9.8 points per game on only 6 shot attempts. He played many of his minutes behind Killian Tille and Filip Petrusev for this loaded Gonzaga frontcourt. Classic Few.
247Sports Player Rankings 47-64
47) De’vion Harmon
The Oklahoma Sooner guard started 22 out of 31 games this past season and struggled from the field with an EFG% of 44.7% on only 3.5 shot attempts per game. He was the 4th leading scorer on the 19-12 team from Norman.
48) Anton Watson
Watson only appeared in 15 games for Gonzaga as he battled a shoulder injury, which ended his season in January. The 6-8 Watson did start in a third of the games he played in and shot 54% from the field.
49) Zach Harvey
Harvey played only 9 minutes per game for the AAC top-seeded Cincinnati Bearcats. Next season he won’t have to play behind the Cumberlands (Jarron and Jaevin) so he should see an uptick in his playing time.
50) Alonzo Gaffney
Gaffney only played in 17 games and averaged 7 minutes per game, not seeing the floor much in his freshman campaign at Ohio State.
51) Kai Jones
The 6-11 freshman was a part of the most used lineup for Texas down the stretch and ended the season with a 20 point, 7 rebound performance against Oklahoma State. Though he only averaged 16 minutes per game, he made an impact on the defensive end with a 6.8 block percentage and earned 1.1 blocks per game.
52) DJ Jeffries
The former Kentucky commit was the steal of the recruiting class for Memphis and performed much more like a top 20 freshman than one looking up from the wrong side of 50. Though he only played in 19 games due to injury, Jeffries made his mark on the court on both sides of the ball. He averaged 10 points per game and shot 39% from three. His long frame and versatility present a challenge for opposing teams. Jeffries will be the best returning player on the Memphis roster next season.
53) Jalen Wilson
Only played two games for Kansas due to an ankle injury in November.
54) Harlond Beverly
In 20 minutes per game at Miami (FL), Beverly scored 7.2 points per game along with 2.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
55) Aiden Igiehon
Played in 13 games for Louisville with no stats worthy of mentioning.
56) Casey Morsell
The guard averaged 4 points and .7 assists in 22 minutes per game for Virginia, the slowest team in the country that boasted the most efficient defense.
57) Justin Moore
Moore stepped on the court for Villanova and made an immediate impact. Though he was the third highest rated freshman in the 2019 recruiting class for Jay Wright, Moore played the third most minutes on the Wildcats’ roster and averaged 11.3 points and 3.1 rebounds on a blazing 39.6% shooting from three on 5 attempts per game.
58) Lester Quinones
If you have heard about his short shorts once, you have heard about them 50 times. Quinones came to Memphis and became a guy that fans could really get behind. Though he had his share of freshman bumps, he played tough on both sides of the ball. His most notable performance of the season was when he essentially shut down Anthony Edwards when Georgia was visiting Memphis. Quinones is an outspoken player on social media and likes to get folks riled up, but he’s a fun player and averaged 10 points per game and Memphis will look to him to be a vocal leader in the years to come. The conference took note of his play and named him to the All-AAC Freshman team.
59) Max Agbonkpolo
Only played 7 minutes per game in 24 appearances for USC.
60) Pavel Zakharov
Zakharov is a 6-11 player who was hidden too deep on the Gonzaga depth chart to see minutes.
61) Malik Hall
6th in Minutes for Tom Izzo’s Spartans with nearly 16 per game. He averaged 9 points and 2 rebounds on 38% shooting from the field.
62) Romeo Weams
The 6-7 forward started every game this season with DePaul. He averaged 8 points and 4.9 rebounds. He was especially impressive on the defensive end with a 3 percent block rate and 2.4 percent steal rate.
63) Terry Armstrong
Playing in the NBL.
247Sports Player Rankings 101-120
101) Josh Nickelberry
Nickelberry didn’t see the floor much for Louisville. Only played 3.7 minutes per game in 15 appearances.
102) Jalen Cone
Cone was the 4th leading scorer for the Hokies with 8 points per game. The guard played in all 32 games this season.
103) Toumani Camara
Camara chipped in 6.6 points and 4.3 rebounds for Tom Creen’s Bulldogs and was 6th on the team in minutes.
104) Jaylen Forbes
Forbes played 10 minutes per game in 30 appearances at Alabama.
105) Jalen Gaffney
The UConn guard scored 3.9 points and dished out 2.1 assists in nearly 20 minutes per game.
106) Malcolm Dandridge
Big Malco struggled on the offensive end of the court and was very turnover prone. However, on defense, he looks like he will be a key anchor in the paint for Penny’s Tigers in the future.
107) Jaden Shackelford
The 6-3 guard was the second leading scorer for Alabama with 15 points and 4.5 rebounds. He was efficient with an EFG% of 53.1 and he took over 25% of the Crimson Tide’s shots on the season. He drilled 35% of his 235 three pointers on the season.
108) Al-Amir Dawes
Dawes earned the second most minutes for Clemson and put up 9 points per game as well as 3.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists.
109) Tyrell Terry
As the second leading scorer for the Cardinal, Terry contributed up 14.6 points and 4.5 rebounds. He took 152 threes on the season and drained 41% of them. In addition, Terry led Stanford in minutes.
110) Robbie Beran
Beran is a 6-9 forward who played almost half of the minutes for Northwestern on the way to earning 5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.
111) Dontaie Allen
112) Cole Bajema
Played 3 percent of the minutes for Michigan.
113) Rylon Jones
Jones was the third leading scorer for Utah and averaged 9.6 points and 2.9 rebounds per game in 28 appearances. He shot 38% from three on 4.6 attempts.
114) Franz Wagner
Wagner was dynamite from inside the arc, hitting shots at 61% rate on the way to putting up 11.6 points and 5.6 rebounds for Michigan.
115) Damion Baugh
Due to his extreme athleticism, Baugh was very hyped by the media coming into the season. There was an unreached expectation set for him that was more fitting for a top 30 player than one on the outside of 100.
116) Tyrell Jones
Played 3% of minutes for Auburn.
117) Gerald Drumgoole
Averaged 9 minutes in 21 games for Pitt.
118) Jaelen House
House averaged 3.9 points and 1.9 rebounds at Arizona State
119) Dahmir Bishop
Played 10% of minutes for Xavier.
120) Jaylin Williams
Played 100 total minutes for Auburn and scored 34 points and secured 25 rebounds.
@Subbi232 and @barnburnerslim contributed to this article.