Smith and staff closing in on impact guards

Leroy Watson, Managing Editor
Tiger Sports Report

Anyone doubting Tubby Smith and his staff's recruiting ability should think again.

After pulling in a pair of junior college All-Americans (guard Kareem Brewton and forward Kyvon Davenport), the Tigers turned their attention back to the high school ranks and the Class of 2017.

The first target identified was 6'2” point guard Amauri Hardy out of Farmington, MI. Hardy initially committed to Oklahoma State and coach Brad Underwood. However, Underwood subsequently took the head coaching job at Illinois and Hardy decommitted from the Cowboys.

Since he had never signed a National Letter of Intent with OSU, Hardy didn't have to request a release from the school.

Hardy is a consensus three-star prospect, rated as one of the five best players in all of Michigan and one of the top 40 point guards in the country.

Arkansas has swooped in hot and heavy to recruit Hardy, hosting him on an official visit over the weekend. Though the visit went well, Amauri did not commit, leaving the door ajar for Memphis (or someone else) to sign him.

“We had a great visit,” said Ramsey Hardy, Amauri's father. “They really rolled out the red carpet. They were very prepared and know how to show a recruit a great time. We loved the campus and all the coaching staff. And they really played up the fact that they'd won a national championship.

“We were very impressed.”

Speaking of coaching staff, the men manning the sideline for Arkansas have all won big, which was not lost on the Hardys.

“(Coach Mike Anderson) is a really great guy, and of course he won a national title as an assistant at Arkansas,” Ramsey began. “But what really impressed me was the fact that they brought back Scotty Thurman and (Lee) Mayberry as assistants. They won a title there as coaches and both made the NBA.

“That really drives home the winning pedigree.”

Yet Amauri didn't commit. That's where things get really interesting for Tiger fans.

“I don't know, I really like the thought of my son playing for a legendary coach like Tubby Smith,” Ramsey Hardy admitted.

The Tigers will be getting an on-campus visit very soon.

“It probably won't be this weekend but the following,” Ramsey said. “We need to get it done quickly so we can make a decision.”

With a self-imposed deadline of May 17, that would likely leave time for only a maximum of two (2) other official visits for Amauri.

Yet another very intriguing guard prospect came open when Northern Arizona released Horn Lake PG Jitaurious Gordon from his NLI recently.

Gordon is a 6'1” guard who averaged 25.5 ppg as a junior and 26.2 as a senior at Horn Lake (MS) High. Though he is not rated nationally, he often elicits comparisons to Jarkel Joiner, the senior guard who averaged 36.4 ppg this season at Oxford (MS) High to rank #4 in the country in scoring.

Gordon has flown under the radar for much of his career but is a tough, defensive minded PG who can get into the paint at will where he finishes exceptionally or drops the dime to a teammate. His career-high point total in a game is 49 (versus Southaven) while his second-best total is 48 (Olive Branch).

Gordon's high school coach, Tori Harris, thinks his point guard would be overjoyed by a Memphis offer.

“Jitaurious would be so proud that Memphis even called him,” Harris began. “He's such a humble kid and that would be like a dream come true. He's just a guy trying to get out of Tunica, MS and would be honored to even get an offer from Memphis.”

Though there is no timetable yet for a visit to Memphis, Harris is ready to make it happen.

“I'll do everything I can to get him up there on campus if they want us there!”

Further updates on both recruitments as they develop.

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