- Memphis-based Team Penny took the floor with a handful of Top 100-caliber prospects during the opening session of Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League in Sacramento, Calif., over the weekend.
But Team Penny's real star power was on the sideline.
That's the domain of 14-year NBA veteran Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, the program's coach and founder.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, the former Magic, Suns, Knicks and Heat guard made over $120 million during his professional career. So what's Hardaway doing grinding it out at the high school club level, coaching two games a day in a transformed airplane hangar and traveling across the country with a pack of teenagers in tow?
"First of all, my love for the city and love for the kids," Hardaway said of his reasons for starting Team Penny. "This is my way of giving back to the community. This is an opportunity to get the kids from the neighborhood to come out and experience some things."
As competitive as the EYBL is, it's a far cry from the NBA Finals, where Hardaway helped lead the Magic in 1995. But don't tell him that. He's dialed in to the action, actively encouraging players and "lobbying" officials.
"I'm nervous because I can't go out there and play and affect the outcome," Hardaway said. "It's fun but I get nervous because you never know what kid is going to show up."
Two that did show up for Hardaway in Sacramento were star brother duo Keelon
and Dedric Lawson
, who recently announced plans to spend the 2014-15 year at Arlington Country Day (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Keelon, a 6-foot-7 rising senior already committed to the Memphis Tigers, posted 15.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game during the club's West Coast swing.
Dedric, a 6-8 wing regarded as one of the top prospects in the 2016 class, one-upped his brother with averages of 19.2 points and 11.6 boards per outing.
The Lawsons, who have earned some comparisons to Hardaway with their lanky frame and ability to operate on the perimeter, helped Team Penny go 3-1 in what looks to be a rugged Division B of the EYBL.
"Their skill set and the fact that they both play hard reminds me a little bit of myself," Hardaway said. "They are tough to guard and I really appreciate having them on our team."
Coaching in the EYBL isn't Hardaway's only high school basketball endeavor. He lends his name to a January showcase event in Memphis that attracts top local programs as well as out-of-state powers like Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)
, Simeon (Chicago)
and Whitney Young (Chicago)