Growing up as the middle child in a family of talented siblings has always presented its own opportunities, challenges, and experiences.
One thing that I always enjoyed the most, however, was watching my older brother play basketball.
I can still vividly remember being a spectator in those packed gymnasiums, observing my brother be a member of one of the most talented high school basketball teams in Memphis history.
I recall the enthusiasm of the fans and the overwhelming sense of pride that the entire city had for that team.
As an 11-year-old young man, I decided that I also wanted to represent my city on the basketball court and produce another one of the greatest teams that Memphis has ever seen.
I wanted to make my hometown proud.
A new era
I began this journey by attending summer camps at high schools in Memphis and the surrounding areas.
I joined AAU teams and soaked up all of the coaching and playing experience that was possible.
I worked as hard as I could, day in and day out, to grow my skill set and set myself up for the next level. I was determined to enter high school and contribute to a team that the city of Memphis would be proud of.
It was then that I met a man who would change my life forever.
I met my new high school basketball coach, Penny Hardaway.
Growing up as a basketball fan and admiring all of the greats, I knew exactly who was standing before me — a former NBA All-Star with a decorated 14-year career in the league who I was now going to have the honor and privilege of playing for.
This was the start of a new era.
A new era that put Memphis on the national basketball stage.
We won two state titles in my four years at East High, were runner-ups my senior year, and I emerged as a four-star basketball prospect.
Being a contributing factor to those titles was incredibly rewarding, but more than anything, I was so proud to say that we put Memphis on the basketball map.
While Memphis was back on the national stage and the city was beaming with pride, I had my sights set on a new mission — I wanted to continue this journey and play basketball at the college level.
During the spring of my junior year of high school, it was announced that Coach Hardaway would be leaving East High and become the next head men’s basketball coach at the University of Memphis.
It was a bittersweet moment for our school and our entire community.
As an individual with an incredible amount of trust, admiration, and love for Coach Hardaway, I longed to follow him to the University of Memphis.
I wanted to continue representing this great city and take my talent and skills to the next level of competition.
Just a few weeks into Coach Hardaway’s college coaching career, I was named as his first official recruit and signed to play for him at the University of Memphis.
Honestly, I could not have been more excited.
My dreams of playing at the next level were coming true — right here in Memphis.
The moment was incredibly surreal, and I was overwhelmed with emotions of excitement, gratitude, and of course, pride.
A bump in the road
All that stood between me and this opportunity of a lifetime was one final season of high school basketball. I was eager to finish what we had started and win another state title.
During that final season, however, I endured a season-ending knee injury. At that very moment, my dreams of playing college basketball felt as though they had slipped away.
I was certain that my career was over.
I quickly learned, however, that the commitment that Coach Hardaway and I had to one another ran much deeper than a knee injury, and he remained steadfast.
Throughout the rehabilitation process, Memphis and Coach Hardaway supported me every step of the way and did everything in their power to ensure that I would be back stronger than ever before.
And that meant the world to me, you know?
In January of my freshman season of college basketball, I made my return to the court and played in my first official game as a Memphis Tiger.
After a long rehabilitation process, I was grateful to be back playing the game that I love and was eager to demonstrate my ability to compete at this level.
Turning the page
While that period of time was incredibly challenging for me, I learned a great deal about myself as a basketball player and as a person.
There was not a single day that went by when I did not feel the love and support of my teammates, my school, and my city.
I learned that while the statistics, awards, and milestones are incredible, one of the most important roles as a senior leader is laying the foundation for those around me.
Alex Lomax, Jayden Hardaway, and I are the only three members of this team that have been with Coach Hardaway since the very beginning.
We take great pride in this program and the work that we put into it.
We have big goals, you know? And it takes everyone to accomplish those.
And for now, that’s all I’m focused on.
We’ll see what the future holds, but whatever happens, I want to continue making my hometown proud.