Emoni Bates and Earl Timberlake among top 5 takeaways from Memphis basketball's pro day
Emoni Bates called it “another day at the gym.”
Jalen Duren called it "just another day at practice.”
Memphis basketball coach Penny Hardaway, on the other hand, had a different take on what Wednesday was like for his Tigers team.
“This is like Disney World for these kids today,” Hardaway said after the Tigers conducted a more than 90-minute practice session in front of more than 75 personnel members associated with NBA franchises.
The scouts and front office executives were inside the Laurie-Walton Family Basketball Center for the second Memphis basketball pro day in the last three years. Every NBA organization was represented, and some sent more than a half-dozen scouts to observe the Tigers.
“What they’re looking for is the athleticism of some guys, their shooting ability, how you play without the ball, how you sprint the floor, how you set screens, body language when things don’t go your way,” Hardaway said.
Here are five takeaways from the second pro day at Memphis.
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MEMPHIS BASKETBALL PODCAST:Do Tigers have more depth than any other team in the country?
Emoni Bates’ showing
Bates, the 17-year-old, 6-foot-9 guard, is already a known scorer, so much that Hardaway calls him "Buckets."
Bates made plenty of them during Wednesday’s workout. Bates exhibited his ability by creating shots and taking advantage of plays designed to feature him.
But his goal was to show a different side of his game to scouts.
“That I can get my teammates involved,” he said. “That I can be a leader. That I can control the offense and that I don’t have to score for my team to be able to win. Everybody knows I can score, so I want to show that I can make everybody else around me better.”
Which he did. In the four-on-four portion of the practice, designed to mimic game situations, Bates displayed the willingness to involve his teammates – which happened to be Duren, Josh Minott and Jayden Hardaway on Wednesday. He also showed the capacity to run the offense as a point guard.
While Wednesday was reserved for on-court activity, the Tigers spent Tuesday being put through combine-style testing and drills to register various measurables. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony posted Bates’ numbers from Tuesday on Twitter, creating some buzz on social media
Bates’ wing span measured at 6-7¼, his hand width and hand length both came in at 8¼, his vertical jump was listed at 24½ and his approach vertical — calculated after a running start — hit 31½.
Memphis’ increased depth has been one of the most dramatic changes the team has undergone since last season.
The Tigers have 18 players on the roster, five of whom are non-scholarship, including Tyler Harris, who spent two seasons in Memphis before transferring to Iowa State, where he was a starter last season.
In his three seasons as coach, Hardaway has always had a penchant for utilizing every weapon at his disposal. It doesn’t sound like that will be the case this season.
“I’m thinking right now, the way we want to play is like 9- or (10-man rotation),” he said. “I mean, it’s not going to be a free-for-all, 12 of 13 guys. It’s gonna be the toughest nine or 10 guys that are willing to play the game the right way on both ends of the floor that will be the guys.”
Earl Timberlake update
Hardaway told reporters following the Tigers’ first preseason practice Earl Timberlake, a 6-6 sophomore guard, was held out because he was still recovering from neck surgery to alleviate a shoulder issue that sidelined him for most of his freshman season at Miami.
On Wednesday, Timberlake was a full participant at pro day. Hardaway said it was his third practice with the team post-surgery and the fifth time he has practiced since arriving on campus.
“He still has to get the kinks out, but he’s going to be very special for us,” Hardaway said.
IARP update coming
Memphis will receive an update on the timeline of its pending NCAA infractions case on Monday, a spokesperson for the Independent Accountability Resolution Process confirmed to The Commercial Appeal on Tuesday.
The Tigers' case, which centers on former preseason All-American James Wiseman, was the first to be accepted by the IARP's Infractions Referral Committee in March 2020.
Hardaway said Wednesday he doesn’t know what to expect from Monday’s announcement.
“Like I’ve stated before, I just feel it’s unfortunate what happened, how it played out,” he said. “(But), you know, I can’t talk about the case, so we just have to wait and see exactly what they have to say.”
What impressed Penny Hardaway most
Hardaway walked off the floor Wednesday most impressed by the Tigers’ unselfishness.
“Usually, when you have a lot of scouts, it’s one guy that wants to take all the shots or a couple of guys," he said. "But they really played the right way all day and I was proud of that.”
Reach sports writer Jason Munz at [email protected] or on Twitter @munzly.