Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint
By David Cordova
On May 10th, there was a good crowd present at the SUSA Sports Complex in Happauge, Long Island to witness the commitment of their native son, Lester Quinones, who had blossomed into a big-time college prospect.
In high school, Quinones was rated as the No. 81 prospect in the Class of 2019 by ESPN and No. 64 by 24/7 Sports. At IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, this past season, he averaged 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists as a postgraduate player. Towards the end of his recruitment, he had a final five list of big-time schools such as Maryland, Michigan, Indiana, LSU and Memphis.
When all was said and done, he chose the Tigers. When asked about his decision, he replied, “It’s just my relationship with Coach Penny Hardaway is just great, we have a really, really strong relationship. I feel like, out of all of the head coaches, me and him just connected on a different type of level. We joke around a lot, but we know when to get serious and stuff like that, so I feel like, just me and him, and my family, we just connected on a different type of level.”
On what he’ll bring to the Tigers next season, he replied, “Well, a lot of people know me for my ability to shoot the ball at an elite level, but I feel like I’m bringing more as far as the defensive end, my passing, just being in the pick and roll with James Wiseman, I feel like it could be very, very tough at that next level.”
Quinones will be playing for a great coach in Hardaway, who was once an NBA All-Star and is a cultural icon in the basketball world, due to his years with the Orlando Magic in the mid-1990’s and the Nike commercials with Chris Rock. Even now, in the present day, Hardaway is still able to connect with the youth through basketball. Years after his retirement from pro, he coached middle school basketball, AAU basketball on the Nike EYBL circuit with his own program, Team Penny, and won several state championships as the head coach at Memphis East High School.
And also, Quinones is a part of a loaded recruiting class that includes two McDonald’s All-Americans in Wiseman, a native of Nashville, Tennessee who played high school ball for Hardaway at Memphis East, and Precious Achuiwa, who is also a New York native. Other players coming in are D.J. Jeffries of Misssisippi, Rejean “Boogie” Ellis of San Diego, California, Malcolm Dandridge, who also played for Hardaway at Memphis East and another in-state recruit in Damion Baugh.
With such a loaded class, which some rate as the No. 1 incoming freshman class over schools such as Duke and Kentucky, there is no doubt that Memphis has returned to national prominence on the college basketball scene and plan to get back to where it was back in 2008, when John Calipari, now the head coach at Kentucky, and NBA All-Star Derrick Rose, led the Tigers to the national championship game.
But first things first, the Tigers must handle business in the American Athletic Conference, which has been in existence since 2013 and is one of the best conferences in college basketball today. Once they conquer the AAC, chances are high that they will make a splash in the NCAA Tournament.
And then this season, Quinones will be able to play his first college game in New York on Thanksgiving Day, November 28th, when the Tigers will square off against North Carolina State in the Barclays Center Classic in Brooklyn.
“With us being in the American Athletic Conference, I feel like we can really dominate with those five freshmen, we all play right away. I feel like we have a chance to be a really special team next year,” said Quinones.Since he’s enrolled at school, Quinones has been in the weight room and working on his game. Very soon, the college basketball scene will get to know more about the kid from Brentwood, Long Island. And when they do, it will be a joy to watch.