Penny Hardaway Admits He ‘Misspoke’, Comments on Tennessee Cancellation

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    The cancellation of the game between Tennessee and Memphis on Saturday, along with the comments from Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway, has caused quite a stir in the college basketball world. The Tigers had to cancel the game just one hour before tip-off after two players, Tyler Harris and Landers Nolley II, had tested positive for COVID-19.

    On Sunday afternoon, Hardaway spoke to the media via zoom in what looked to be his own home. Among many things that were said, Hardaway admitted that he “probably just misspoke” about the Tigers’ vaccination status at the beginning of the season. As it turns out, Hardaway’s estimation of the 90 percent vaccination rate was a mere shot in the dark.

    With 17 players on the Memphis roster, including injured and redshirt players, the two positive results left the Tigers with only four players that could have been available, according to Hardaway.

    “Initially, when I talked to the guys earlier, you know, they were all talking about getting vaccinated,” Hardaway said. “So, I never even thought about it again after that. I was probably quoted as saying [90 percent] because I talked to a lot of the guys about it going into this season and what happened to us last season, so I probably just misspoke on that [percentage].”

    Now the big question that remains is if the game will get rescheduled or not. Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said on Monday that it would be “irresponsible” to schedule any game against a team with an unknown or high amount of vaccinated players. And frankly, with the SEC schedule looming for the Top 20 Volunteers, Tennessee does not need this game from a resume-building perspective as much as Memphis desperately does.

    See Also from RTI: Memphis Comments on Tennessee Game Cancellation

    “Really wish we could reschedule it,” Penny Hardaway said. “That’s on our wish list. We’re all for rescheduling. I’m hoping for the fans’ sake. Both sides wanted to see this game. We’ll work from our side. Even if we have to go back-to-back games or two games in three days. We wanted to get this game for a lot of reasons. It’s such a huge game, you can’t just throw it away.

    For as much as Hardaway supposedly “really” wants to reschedule the game, he also admitted that Memphis has not reached out to Tennessee to mend the situation and propose a rescheduling.

    “From my point of view, none of us from [the Memphis] side has tried to contact the University of Tennessee to see what could happen,” Hardaway said.

    Maybe Memphis does reach out to Tennessee in the coming days. But again, Barnes said on Monday that Tennessee just doesn’t have any interest as things stand now in order to protect the Vol players.

    We’re not going to risk scheduling a team we know has many unvaccinated players,” Barnes said on Monday according to 247 Sports’ Grant Ramey. “That would be irresponsible on our part. It could happen again. We wouldn’t do that, whether it would be Memphis or anybody else.”

    “We need to find a way to get it done,” Memphis HC Penny Hardaway said on Sunday. “If we can’t, then hopefully we can find another Quad 1 [game]. But we want the Tennessee game. That’s what the fans deserve.”

    Hardaway also addressed the rumors about Memphis trying to back out of the game against Tennessee.

    “There should be some compassion for the players and fans,” Hardaway said. “Nobody tries to miss a game, especially a game of this much importance to our state, to us and to our fans. We really wanted to play that game. We’re not ducking anything.”

    Tennessee will be back on the court this Wednesday night as the Vols host Arizona in Knoxville.

    Ric Butler is a Knoxville based sports media personality who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 2017. Most recently, he served as the lead writer for the website of a local radio station. Ric also helped create and host a daily radio show called “The Blitz." Ric’s passion for sports, smooth vocal, and infectious personality have made him popular with both his peers and Vol Nation. Originally from Dallas, Ric didn’t grow up riding horses to school. But he did dream of the big city lights. When not chasing down the latest Tennessee story, Ric can be found watching the WWE, often attempting their moves in an embarrassing fashion.