Go Tigers Go, Baby!

By Alex Lomax

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This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

I’m a Memphis boy through and through. I was born here, grew up here, and now I play basketball for the Tigers. When I tell people about this, it almost sounds fake, like some storybook tale that’s too good to be true. However, my journey here was anything but that. It has tragedy, triumph, death, and everything in between.

Learning from Coach Penny

In sixth grade, I was coached by Coach Penny. 

As a young kid, I had no idea who he actually was—other than a good coach, obviously. 

As I got older and learned more about the history of basketball and Memphis basketball, I realized how lucky I was to be coached by Penny Hardaway as a kid. 

I’m kind of glad I didn’t know how big a deal it was. Maybe it would’ve gotten in my head, or perhaps it would’ve changed our relationship. 

Instead, I just played hard for a coach who was helping me get better. 

Thanks to his guidance, I was ready to play high school ball. 

Remembering Desmond Merriweather

I started playing for Coach Desmond Merriweather who impacted my life greatly.

He really helped me transition my game to the high school level.

I was looking forward to learning more from him but after a long battle with colon cancer, he passed away at age 41; just a few games into the season.

Nothing in life prepared me for Coach Merriweather’s passing. The grief, the anger, the sadness—it was overwhelming. Having to deal with that as a 15-year-old was tough, but that’s life. It can be unfair, cruel, and unjust. 

It’s all about how we adapt to these challenges, how we rise, and how we overcome them. And that’s what we did at East High. 

Coach Penny took over, and we honored Coach Merriweather every step of the way. 

Rest in peace, Coach!

Becoming Memphis material

At East High, I continued to grow as a player.

So much so that one summer, I had like 15 offers to play D1 basketball.

I always felt like I had what it took to play at the next level, but this summer really solidified it.

Initially, I committed to Wichita State, but once Coach Penny was announced as the head coach at Memphis, I knew I had to go there.

Not only is he a great coach and a Memphis legend, but he’s also been my coach ever since I can remember. I mean. How many kids get the chance to work with a legend for such a long time? I just couldn’t miss out on that opportunity.

A chance to turn around the hometown program with the hometown legend?

Yeah, let’s do it!

Nothing in life prepared me for Coach Merriweather's passing. The grief, the anger, the sadness—it was overwhelming. Having to deal with that as a 15-year-old was tough, but that's life. It can be unfair, cruel, and unjust. It's all about how we adapt to these challenges, how we rise, and how we overcome them. And that's what we did at East High.

Setbacks and breakthroughs

Becoming a Tiger was the best decision I’ve ever made. Playing for my city gives me a sense of pride and joy that is indescribable. I hope people see that I’m giving my all every time I play, that I’m going 100 miles an hour for Memphis.

They’ll be able to see it this season with fans coming back. I cant wait to see our arena packed and ready to go. The energy is going to be incredible!

But it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. It was tough transitioning to D1 basketball.

The game was so much faster and more physical. It took me some time to really get in the groove of things.

Last year, I was playing some of my best ball. Unfortunately, with nine games left, I came down with an ankle injury and had to watch from the sidelines.

To not be on the floor, unable to help my teammates, was almost as painful as the ankle itself. The injury challenged me both physically and mentally. I had to learn to be patient and give my body the time to heal.

I spent a lot my off-time in the film room, learning the intricacies of basketball in a different way to keep improving.

It wasn’t easy, by any means, but I really think this injury was both a blessing and a curse. I learned a lot about myself and had to adapt to a challenging situation.

But let’s be real, I’m glad to be back on the court and help out this fantastic team.

Here at Memphis, we all play for one another. There are no egos here, you know?

It’s one of the things we stand for, and I have to lead by example.

This year, I’ll be rocking the number #10. Lots of legendary players have worn this number, like Andre Turner, and it’ll be an honor to represent the same jersey number.

It’s going to be an exciting year, man. And I can’t wait to give it my all.