Basketball

Memphis Tigers men’s basketball lands top prospect Jalen Duren

Memphis Tigers men's basketball lands top prospect Jalen Duren

Jalen Duren, one of the top players in high school basketball, announced his commitment to Memphis on Friday night. He will reclassify into the 2021 class and suit up for Penny Hardaway’s program for the upcoming season.

Duren chose the Tigers over a final list that also included Miami, Kentucky, the NBA’s G League and the NBL in Australia.

“The developmental aspect attracted me to Memphis,” Duren told ESPN. “I feel their plan for me both on and off the court fit me best — to help me as an all-around player on the court and with the business side off the court. I built a great relationship with coach Penny Hardaway. He was a great player in the NBA and has developed others to get there. We had some good conversations and I trust him. I watched the way he interacts with others, he is a very humble guy.”

Hardaway recently added Hall of Famer Larry Brown to his staff as an assistant coach, a hire that appealed to Duren.

“I spoke with him a few times,” Duren said. “He has been a very successful NBA head coach and he has done it all. I look forward to picking his brain, working with him and the rest of the staff.”

A 6-foot-10 big man from Delaware who played at Montverde Academy in Florida last season, Duren was ranked No. 2 in the 2022 class. He’s coming off a July in which he led his Team Final grassroots program to the Nike Peach Jam championship. Duren had 17 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in the title game win over Brad Beal Elite.

In 15 games with Team Final in July, Duren averaged 13.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.

Duren also helped lead Montverde Academy to the 2021 High School Nationals championship, the school’s fifth national championship in nine years. Duren had nine points and nine rebounds in the title game and averaged 12.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in three games at the Nationals tournament.

He also won a gold medal representing USA Basketball back in 2019, helping them win the 2019 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. Duren averaged 10.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in six games in Brazil.

Duren was the most dominant player this season from a power perspective. No one could match his physicality. It starts on the glass as he rebounds with an NBA-ready frame by carving out space with girth, enormous strength, broad shoulders and secure hands. He is a two-handed rebounder and has explosive bounce to emphatically put back misses with thunderous dunks. He also blocks shots with an intimidating nature.

On the block, he gets deep position and can go to a drop step or a jump hook. Duren is a strong and highly effective screener and can finish off ball-screens. His shooting touch is dependable from 12 feet, and he has displayed a nice turnaround shot on the block. He also has underrated vision and accuracy in his passing game.

As a traditional center or power forward-type, his offensive range and repertoire down low will need to be addressed in the offseason, but look for Duren to be a potential double-double player at Memphis, a one-and-done prospect and a first-round pick.

Duren is Memphis’ highest-ranked commitment since overall No. 1 prospect James Wiseman picked the Tigers back in 2019. Hardaway landed three five-star prospects in the 2019 class, one five-star in the 2020 class and now has another five-star in the 2021 class.

Hardaway’s 2021 class now features three ESPN 100 prospects, with Duren joining Johnathan Lawson and Josh Minott, as well as Sam Onu and John Camden. The Tigers also brought in three high-major transfers: Earl Timberlake (9.3 PPG at Miami), Tyler Harris (7.5 PPG at Iowa State) and Chandler Lawson (4.4 PPG at Oregon).

That group of newcomers joins three returning starters — Landers Nolley II, DeAndre Williams, Lester Quinones — from a group that beat Mississippi State to win the NIT Championship.

Duren’s addition puts Memphis firmly inside the preseason top 25. The Tigers also remain in the mix for Emoni Bates, the No. 1 prospect in the 2022 class who announced earlier this week he planned to reclassify into 2021.

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