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Tennessee Basketball Recruiting: Memphis enters picture for top guard Anfernee Simons

2018 Hoophall Classic: Vermont Academy vs IMG Post Grad National David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis made a big move over the last week, ousting Tubby Smith and hiring Penny Hardaway to rebuild their basketball program. Hardaway returns to his alma mater and is expected to have an immediate impact on the recruiting trail. That, of course, will directly affect the Tennessee Volunteers.

It didn’t take long for the recruiting world to take notice of Hardaway. Today, Memphis started trending up for top guard Anfernee Simons, according to 247’s crystal ball projections.

Simons is Tennessee’s top target this recruiting cycle. Rick Barnes only has one scholarship open currently, with James Daniel exiting. That isn’t to say more spots won’t open up over the coming weeks, however.

The thing with Simons is that he’s actually eligible to go directly to the NBA. He graduated last year and has spent the last season at the IMG academy. Simons will be 19 years old and a year removed from high school, so he’s eligible to make the jump to the NBA if he wants to.

According to most, that’s still the most likely outcome for Simons.

Before Hardaway was hired at Memphis, Tennessee and Florida were receiving a near 50-50 split in crystal ball projections. Penny’s arrival has clouded those projections. Read into this what you will, but Tennessee did offer a four-star point guard today.

For now, Simons is the story of the Tennessee offseason. We’ll see how all this plays out, but the hire of Penny Hardaway has made things that much tougher for Barnes and company.