Memphis Basketball: Impact of DeAndre Williams transfer for Tigers

Forward DeAndre Williams will be applying for a waiver and hopes to be immediately eligible for Memphis Basketball next season.

The player movement wheel continues to churn in college basketball, especially for the Memphis Tigers, which are in the midst of a massive personnel overhaul from a season ago. The latest development is an addition, as Evansville Purple Aces transfer DeAndre Williams picked Penny Hardaway’s team as his next collegiate home on Friday evening.

Williams isn’t a graduate transfer and will be coming into Memphis as a junior, meaning he could be forced to sit out the upcoming season. According to Evan Daniels, however, Williams will seek a waiver that allows him to suit up in 2020-21. Williams picked Memphis over Arkansas, Baylor and Kentucky.

The forward was a standout on the transfer market, despite the circumstances under which he found himself in the portal. For starters, he played for a terrible Evansville team last season, one that lost their 19 games of the season. Williams wasn’t always part of that losing, as back injuries limited him to 18 games in 2019-20. Still, he managed to average 15.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game as a sophomore.

If Williams receives a waiver to play this season, Memphis’ chances of competing with the Houston Cougars in the AAC increase tenfold. None of the Tigers’ returning players averaged as many points or rebounds as Williams did last season. In fact, none of the Tigers averaged a better three-point shooting percentage than Williams’ 45.5 percent conversion rate, although that came on just 33 attempts. There are plenty of talented players returning to the Tigers next season, particularly on the perimeter, but Williams might be the one worth building an offense around.

There is a chance that his fit in the frontcourt will be awkward, though. Williams is two inches taller than rising sophomore D.J. Jeffries – arguably the best returning Tiger – and weighs significantly less. In an ideal world, they both player power forward. With no obvious starting small forward, Williams likely slides down to fill that role.

If Williams doesn’t receive that waiver, Memphis might be just as well off. The Tigers don’t have any commits this season outside of junior college power forward Ahmad Rand, so they’ll be counting on their young stars developing this season. But in 2021-22, players like Jeffries, Boogie Ellis and Lester Quinones will be rising to the ranks of upperclassmen. Additionally, Virginia Tech transfer Landers Nolley II will become eligible, adding a star into the fold. Memphis would likely be set for a legitimate Final Four run.

There is a possibility Williams won’t want to wait until 2021-22 to play college basketball. He’s already older than most of his counterparts and would be 25 years old at the start of the 2021-22 season. By then, he might prefer to weigh his professional options, should they be presented to him.

Next: AAC breakout candidates for 2020-21

But for now, the Memphis Tigers can celebrate another big victory on the transfer market. DeAndre Williams is coming to Memphis and another roster of big-name players awaits Penny Hardaway for the coming seasons.