Memphis Athletics

Memphis’ Karim Sameh Azab dies after leukemia battle

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Memphis junior Karim Sameh Azab has died after a nine-month battle with leukemia, the school announced Thursday.

He was 22 years old.

“The University of Memphis is deeply saddened by the passing of Karim Azab,” Memphis President M. David Rudd said in a statement. “It is never easy when someone so young has their life cut short. Karim showed great courage battling with tremendous fight and determination.

“He was proud of being a Tiger, and Karim will be missed immensely. Our thoughts are with his family, as well as his friends, teammates and fellow UofM students, faculty and staff. The spirit of Karim will never be forgotten at the University of Memphis.”

Azab experienced discomfort in his shoulder last March, and it ultimately led to his diagnosis. He had been undergoing treatment. He was awarded the Coach Dave Loos MVP Award “celebrates those who eude strength, perseverance and determination in the fight against cancer.” It is named for former Memphis player and assistant Dave Loos.

The 6-foot-10 Azab came from Giza, Egypt to attend high school in North Carolina. He also played for the Egyptian National Team in the FIBA Africa U18 team in 2014, winning a gold medal.

He sat out the 2016-17 season at Memphis while awaiting NCAA clearance and appeared in 15 games last season for the Tigers.

“It is with great sadness and personal heartache that we mourn the passing of Karim Azab,’ Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen said in a statement. “Karim was a wonderful young man who was excited to be a part of the University of Memphis and Tiger basketball. My prayers and thoughts go out to Karim’s parents and family.”

Tuesday’s Things To Know: Badgers return to form, futures of Georgetown and Illinois on display and Izundu’s big night for Miami

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There were only two top-25 teams in action Tuesday night, but there was still plenty of solid hoops action around the country with rematches, youth vs. youth and sterling individual performances. Here’s everything you need to know about what went down.

1. Wisconsin resurgent

The 2017-18 season was as disappointing as any for Wisconsin in some time. The Badgers were under .500, missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years and were just generally uncompetitive in the Big Ten after years of consistently being one of its best programs. Given how Greg Gard inherited the program, that made this season an important one in Madison.

The Badgers look to understand that.

Wisconsin got 30 points from Ethan Happ, 22 from D’Mitrik Trice and 19 from Brad Davidson, who added a little flavor to the victory. The issues last year for Wisconsin were many, but so often the main problem was Happ being left to do everything himself. If the Badgers can consistently get help around Happ – while he continues to reassert himself as one of the country’s best players – Wisconsin should be back in the NCAA tournament and pushing for a spot atop the Big Ten. There’s a long way to go and Wisconsin finishes off November with a difficult slate of games, but the early returns are positive for Gard and Co.

2. Georgetown beats Illinois in fun battle of two young teams

I don’t know that either Georgetown or Illinois will be all that good this season. In fact, I would venture to guess neither is all that great once we hit the middle of winter. They did, however, play a super entertaining game Tuesday night.

Georgetown outlasted the Illini, 88-80, in Champaign as part of the Gavitt Games in a back-and-forth game that featured fun, mistakes, highlight plays, more mistakes, breathless action and, yup, some additional mistakes. Still, it was apparent that both teams have young talent that can take them places, whether it’s this year or in the future.

The Hoyas’ starting backcourt of freshmen James Akinjo and Mac McClung combined to score 31 points and dish out 11 assists while making game-winning plays down the stretch. On the flip side, they also tallied a combined eight turnovers. There was good and bad from the two youngsters, but the positive well outweighed the negative and the potential of both was on major display. Patrick Ewing looks to have this thing pointed in the right direction in D.C.

For Illinois, it was Chicago product Ayo Dosunmu starring. The point guard put up 25 points on 9 of 15 shooting, including 3 of 4 form deep. He was electric and at times unstoppable. Fellow freshman Giorgi Bezhanishvili had 12 points, five boards and four assists. Brad Underwood’s four non-senior starters combined for 17 of the Illini’s points on the night while sophomore reserve Da’Monte Williams had 11 of those points. The future look good for Brad Underwood, too.

3. Izundu puts up numbers, Louisville impresses, Mays throws down and Temple knocks off Georgia

Ebuka Izundu had a night that’s not often seen. The Miami big man went for 22 points and 17 rebounds while shooting 11 of 13 from the floor. It was just the 13th time since 2010 that someone put up at least 22 and 17 while shooting 84 percent or better from the floor. So that’s pretty good. So, too, was the Hurricanes’ 96-58 win over Stephen F. Austin to improve to 3-0 on the season.

Louisville wasn’t all that good in Chris Mack’s debut, but the Cardinal looked significantly stronger Tuesday in a 1014-54 win over Southern. Jordan Nwora scored 20 points off the bench, and Louisville shot 58.2 percent from the floor as a team.

LSU defeated Memphis, 85-76, but more importantly, the 22nd-ranked Tigers got 19 points and one thunderous dunk from Skylar Mays.

Georgia shot 50 percent from the floor, but turned it over 20 times and lost to Temple in Philadelphia. The story, though, was the Owls’ duo of Quinton Rose and Shizz Alston, Jr., who both tallied 25 points as they improved to 3-0 in what will be coach Fran Dunphy’s final season leading them.

Mays scores 19, No. 22 LSU tops Memphis 85-76

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Skylar Mays scored 19 points, transfer Kavell Bigby-Williams added a career-high 14, and No. 22 LSU held off a relentless effort by first-year coach Penny Hardaway’s Memphis squad, 85-76 on Tuesday night.

Each of LSU’s three freshmen starters — Naz Reid, Ja’Vonte Smart and Emmitt Williams — scored 11 points. Williams also grabbed 10 rebounds for the Tigers (3-0), who trailed briefly with about 13 minutes to go before surging ahead for good with a pivotal 12-1 run that included back-to-back 3s by Mays and Reid. Smart set up Reid’s 3 with a behind-the-back bounce pass from the right wing.

Bigby-Williams, a transfer from Oregon, never scored more than 11 in a game for the Ducks, and is expected to be relied upon primarily for defense this season. He made all seven of his shots, all from close range, including an emphatic dunk that gave LSU a 10-point lead with seven minutes remaining.

Memphis freshman Tyler Harris, who missed all six of his shots and didn’t score in his debut, was 6 of 13 on 3s and finished with 20 points in his second collegiate game.

Jeremiah Martin scored 15 points and Kyvon Davenport had 10 for Memphis (1-1), which remained within single digits for most of the game.

Mays scored from all over the court, mixing in a soaring, driving one-handed dunk with his usual array of perimeter shots. He hit three times from 3-point range.

LSU had trouble distancing itself from Memphis most of the night but appeared in control for most of the final 10 minutes, when its highlights included a roundhouse dunk from Williams and Reid’s double-pump, back-to-the-basket, no-look scoop off the glass that made it 74-64 with 4:35 to go.


Memphis: The way Memphis played on the road against a ranked team provided an early indication that Hardaway’s first season at the helm could turn out better that the fourth-place finish predicted in the AAC preseason coaches’ poll. When Harris found his shot from the perimeter, it opened up opportunities inside for Davenport and Martin.

LSU: The Tigers’ dramatic upgrade in talent was evident in the fact they led 48-39 at halftime despite Tremont Waters, their best player from last season, not scoring at all to that point. Mays also asserted himself more, scoring more points in the first half than in either of his previous two full games while throwing down a monster first-half jam. Waters finished with eight points and eight assists. LSU’s top freshman reserve, Darius Days, had nine points and six rebounds.


Memphis hosts Yale on Saturday night.

LSU hosts Louisiana Tech on Friday night.

POSTERIZED: LSU’s Skylar Mays throws down against Memphis

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Skylar Mays just lowered the boom in Baton Rouge.

The 6-foot-4 junior delivered an absolutely filthy dunk in the first half of No. 22 LSU’s home game against Penny Hardaway and Memphis on Tuesday night.

That’s a dunk that a certain former Hardaway teammate and LSU alum could appreciate. Mike Parks, Jr., the poor soul who stepped in front of Mays, probably not feeling very appreciative, though.

Time for Penny Hardaway to transfer hoopla into hoop wins

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Penny Hardaway has revived the excitement in men’s basketball Memphis. Now it’s time for the Tigers’ first-year coach to transfer the hoopla into wins.

He’s been both Pied Piper and promoter, but whether Hardaway and his staff can be as successful coaching as they have in renewing interest in the program will be the real validation of his hiring.

“What does coaching consist of?” said Hardaway, who coached East High to a third straight state title last season before taking the Memphis job. “Is it something different from what I’ve been doing?”

Of course, the answer is yes — and he understands that.

“There’s going to be situations that you get into that you’re going to need help, for sure,” Hardaway added. “But for the most part, I think coaching is just understanding who you have and your team, understanding yourself and understanding the situation.”

Hardaway’s college coaching initiation will be Nov. 6 against Tennessee Tech after a couple of dress rehearsals against area teams LeMoyne-Owen and Christian Brothers University. Memphis hired Hardaway last spring after letting Tubby Smith go after community interest and fans dwindled at Tigers’ games.

Memphis is hoping its favorite son can pick up the pieces.

“I was always on the cusp of whether I should come to the university or not …,” Hardaway recently said. “Now that I’ve made the decision, it’s made me realize this was something I always wanted to do and never really put it into the forefront.”

In Memphis, just the name Penny creates high expectations at Memphis. In the American Athletic Conference, confidence in Hardaway has the Tigers picked to finish fourth. Nationally, excitement and projections are a bit more tempered for a program that went 21-13 last season.

One of those differences coaching in college is recruiting, but Hardaway’s roster already reflects what his hiring has meant for Memphis.

His freshmen class includes guard Antwann Jones from Orlando, Florida; Memphis products Tyler Harris and Alex Lomax, along with Ryan Boyce and Hardaway’s son, Jayden. The sixth member of the class is sharp-shooter David Wingett from Nebraska, a Native American and member of the Winnegabo Tribe.

While this year’s freshmen are impressive, the recruitment of next year’s class may present a clearer barometer of the early buzz surrounding Hardaway. Among the 18,000 who attended Memphis Madness — the first time the Tigers had a capacity crowd for an event at FedExForum since 2014 — was James Wiseman, considered the nation’s top recruit by many.

“We Want Wiseman” chants rose from the crowd for the prospect who played for Hardaway at East High last season.

And Wiseman wasn’t alone among the recruits attending the big show that included rapper Yo Gotti. Top 50 prospects Precious Achiuwa, Trendon Watford, Jahmius Ramsey, Boogie Ellis and DJ Jeffries were there as well. Jeffries, who pulled his commitment to Kentucky in July , committed to Hardaway and Memphis last weekend.

As for his coaching strategy, Hardaway’s staff consists of two former NBA players (himself and Mike Miller); a former NBA coach of the year (Sam Mitchell with the Toronto Raptors); and former Ole Miss assistant and Hardaway’s former backcourt mate in college (Tony Madlock). He considers that a lot of knowledge on the Tigers’ bench.

Not to mention a group of coaches who can sell recruits on firsthand knowledge of know what it takes to get to the NBA, and to succeed at that level.

“I’m not the kind of coach who feels like they know everything and ‘Don’t say anything to me,'” said Hardaway, who played for four NBA teams over 15 seasons. “I’ll take their advice, but it’s up to me to make the final call.”

As busy as Hardaway has been revamping the roster, he’s also toughened up the Tigers’ schedule. They play LSU, Oklahoma State and possibly Villanova and Florida State in a November tournament with other nonconference games including South Dakota State and a visit from No. 6 Tennessee on Dec. 15 before diving into league play. And Memphis will host the American conference tournament in March.

Hardaway, 47, provided a few hints of how he wants to play with conditioning work on the opening day of practice. He wants the Tigers to run with not a lot of half-court sets and a pressure defensive scheme.

“We’re going to be a high-energy team,” he said. “I like to speed teams up. I don’t like them to get in their rhythm. I like to keep teams off balance.”

Whether that works remains to be seen. But until then, the Memphis fans see only a return to the university’s heyday, including a time when Hardaway was running the Tigers and flashing through the air, making spectacular plays.

They hope the promise of his coaching ability is akin to his promise when he signed as a Tiger player.

“They’re showing their appreciation for me coming back,” Hardaway said of the reaction from the Memphis fans. “Trying to help rebuild and put the university back to where it has always been — and that’s on top.”

Memphis grabs four-star 2019 wing D.J. Jeffries

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Memphis landed another quality prospect on Saturday morning as four-star Class of 2019 wing forward D.J. Jeffries pledged to the Tigers.

The 6-foot-7 Jeffries has been a known national prospect since his freshman year of high school as he’s the No. 48 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2019 rankings. A native of Olive Branch, MS, Jeffries often found himself playing with Memphis-area grassroots programs, as he’s a familiar face when it comes to Memphis recruiting.

A solid athlete with some skill, Jeffries should be able to come in and potentially impact the Memphis rotation right away. Previously committed to Kentucky, Jeffries is a huge grab for head coach Penny Hardaway as it now gives the Tigers a second four-star pledge in the Class of 2019 as he joins four-star forward Malcolm Dandridge. Considering how Hardaway has done with recruiting the spring Class of 2018, and now with the Class of 2019, he’s done a great job of quickly bringing in local and regional talent to restock the Memphis roster.

Now that Jeffries is committed, the big focus will turn to Class of 2019 five-star center James Wiseman. Considered by some to be the No. 1 prospect in the class, Wiseman is a Tennessee native who played for Hardaway at Memphis East High School. Memphis is a finalist for Wiseman along with Kansas, Kentucky, Florida State and Vanderbilt.