College basketball recruiting: Jalen Duren commits to Memphis as top recruit reclassifies into 2021 class

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Memphis and Penny Hardaway landed yet another blue-chip talent on Friday night as Jalen Duren, a five-star center from Montverde Academy ranked in the 247Sports Composite as the No. 1 prospect in the 2022 class, picked the Tigers in a commitment ceremony while simultaneously announcing he is reclassifying into the 2021 class. Duren chose Memphis over a final list of suitors that included Kentucky, Miami and the professional route with the G League. 

Duren’s commitment marks the second time in the last four recruiting cycles that Memphis has secured a commitment from a top-two overall recruit in the country under Hardaway. The Tigers also reeled in Memphis native James Wiseman, the No. 1 recruit in the 2019 class, who played in only three games with the Tigers because of eligibility issues. Wiseman was the foundation of Memphis’ top-rated recruiting class in 2019.

It’s possible Duren could serve as a similar building block for Memphis in its quest to reel in another star-studded class. The Tigers not only emerged as a top contender for Duren within the last week — culminating with his commitment Friday — but have also entered the mix as a viable landing spot for five-star recruit Emoni Bates, who this week announced he is reclassifying to 2021.

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Memphis already has a strong 2021 class that ranks No. 1 in the AAC and 15th nationally, but adding Duren and potentially Bates to that mix would put them No. 1 nationally, according to 247Sports’ class calculator tool. Among the players incoming for next year include transfers Earl Timberlake, Tyler Harris and Chandler Lawson — all former four-star recruits — as well as high school top-100 prospects Josh Minott and Johnathon Lawson. 

Duren’s commitment marks what has been a remarkable few months of momentum for Hardaway, who at one point was linked to the Orlando Magic job before withdrawing from consideration. After a 15-7 regular season in 2020-21, Memphis won the NIT and has been one of the biggest forces on the recruiting trail both from the transfer portal and at the high school level. Next season could be the program’s best under Hardaway since he arrived in 2018.