There is no shortage of AAU teams sponsored by current and former NBA players. Lebron Jameshas his King James Shooting Stars; Chris Paul sponsors the CP3 All Stars, and Dwight Howardfunds the D12 Warriors to name a few. Player affiliated travel teams are pretty common today, but what is rare is for the elite NBA names associated with those teams to actually appear on the sidelines coaching the programs that represent them. Not the case when it comes to Team Penny. When you look over to the bench to discover who is calling the plays for the Nike sponsored squad you will see none other than the 4x NBA all-star himself, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway- an ex NBA player who hardly needs an introduction.
Penny might be the most readily recognizable coach in Nike’s EYBL circuit, but coaching withinPenny’s arms reach is a retired player whose professional career was just as venerable. A year before Penny would be drafted by the Golden State Warriors (and later traded to Orlando for Chris Webber) as the #3 pick in the NBA draft, his current assistant Todd Day (also a Memphis native) would go #8 to the Milwaukee Bucks after setting records under Nolan Richardson at the University of Arkansas.Day, a former 6’6 scoring machine, is known as one of the best high school players to play in the basketball hub of Memphis, TN.
“Todd was definitely top five to ever come out of Memphis, at least in my era, speaking from 1980 until the present.” Coach Retushas Spears(former Memphis prep and University of Houston Standout).
That alone says a lot about Day’s talent coming out of Hamilton High School as 1 of 11 Memphis area players all time to be named a McDonald’s All American- the second Memphis player ever behind Ron Huery (who would also go on to play at the University of Arkansas and in the NBA).
“In my opinion he was one of the few guys who could do it all. Before then, everyone had a specialty; either you were a guard, big man or a shooter. Now remember, this was before Penny- Todd was one of the first ones at 6’5 who could do it all. He could play outside with ease like it was natural for him- shooting from half court and dribbling like a guard.” Coach Retushas Spears
Day began his high school career playing at Kirby High School in Memphis, TN before transferring schools to play for his step-father, Ted Anderson, at Hamilton High School. There he garnered national recognition by earning All-District, All-State, and Tennessee Mr. Basketball honors.
Todd opted out of playing for his hometown Memphis tigers and made the trip across the border to play in Fayetteville, AR. Nolan Richardson’sRazorbacks welcomed Day with open arms. He and Lee Mayberrybecame one of college basketball’s most memorable back courts receiving the nickname “MayDay” as a testament to how well they played together. After taking Nolan Richardson to the Final Four, the running mates would later join teams in the NBA and both would be inducted into the Arkansas Razorback hall of fame.
After achieving so much on the court, (All SEC, All American, Final Four appearance, all time leading scorer at Arkansas, tied with Paul Pierce for most points scored in a quarter for the Boston Celtics, and 8 years in the NBA.) Day’s passion for basketball transitioned to the sidelines as he sought to forge a legacy as a coach. His coaching career began with the Arkansas Impact, a former Premier Basketball League team. From there, Day started his own AAU team-the Memphis Hawgs-before deciding to team up with former NBA teammate Penny Hardawayand form Team Penny. Day’s high school coaching experience began at Memphis Academy of Health Sciences where he also cherished the opportunity to coach his son. Next season he will take the reins at his Alma Mata-Hamilton High School as their next head coach. While there, he will inherit the task of maintaining a tradition at a school with legendary coaches, state championship banners and a legacy of producing elite players. Four days after falling short to the NJ Playaz in the EYBL championship after a controversial technical foul called against Team Penny, HWInsiders had the chance to catch up with Todd Day and talk to him about his playing and coaching career.
HWI: Who were the players in high school that you looked up to coming up playing basketball in the city of Memphis?
Day: Andre Turner was a big influence on my basketball career; he was the reason that I wore #10. I always liked his game and I followed the Memphis Tigers as a kid, so definitely he was one. Keith Lee was another, and I was also a big Milt Wagner fan.
HWI: You got the chance to play under your step-father and also the chance to coach your own son, tell us about those experiences?
Day: Playing for my dad was tough but it was fun. All the sacrifices that he made me make as a player ended up helping me in the long run, because once I got to college I was already prepared for the tough coaching that came along with being a collegiate athlete. As far as coaching my son, it was probably the biggest joy of my basketball coaching career, because I was able to pass on information that I learned from my father down to him and watch him produce on the court. That was a great thing for me.
HWI: How would you describe those matchups between Hamilton and Whitehaven with you going up against Ron Huery and his state championship squad?
Day: Those were the good old days. Whitehaven had a good veteran squad, and Ron was a few years older than me. It was
a point in our career at Hamilton that we had to prove ourselves as young guys and beating them put us on the map as a high school powerhouse.
HWI: What made you choose Arkansas over Memphis and did you ever consider going to the University of Memphis and pairing up with Penny?
Day: Coming up as a kid, I always pictured myself playing for the University of Memphis. But when it was time to make the move I felt that Arkansas was a better fit for me and the way I played. I also wanted to get away from the distractions of being from Memphis and all of the pressure that came along with that. It was a lot easier for me to go somewhere close where I could easily get back home and my family could see me play. So, I thought Arkansas was the best fit for me.
HWI: Old School players often say that players today aren’t as good or as tough as they used to be? How do you feel about that and how are players different from when you were growing up?
Day: I think the game now has been watered down. Everyone is teaching the same thing and the same style of play. There was a lot more diversity when I was coming up. You had guys who focused on being tough and who just rebounded. You had guys who were pure point guards. Now, everybody is just skilled, no one really has a position. I think the position focus of basketball is gone. Most of the good teams who win championships have good players at each position and I think that’s what has changed about the game since we played.
HWI: Why do you think Memphis basketball has consistently produced so much talent over the years?
Day: We have good high school coaches here and we have good AAU programs. That puts us ahead of the game. We are a big city but it’s really just a big town so everyone gets a chance to learn from each other. That’s what makes the basketball really good in Memphis and it is really good state wide in Tennessee.
HWI: When did you decide to join Penny and his traveling team?
Day: Penny and I were always friends even though we were rivals in college. I think our relationship really blossomed when we became teammates with the Phoenix Suns, he was going to a new place and I was the only familiar face that was there, so we got to know each other on a more personal level. I was doing AAU and he wanted to get into it, so I shut my AAU team down and Team Penny came from that.
HWI: How does it feel to have the chance to go back and coach for the team that you once played for back in the late 80s?
Day: It feels great. Going back home, yes I’m excited. Hopefully, the Lawson boys ( KJ and Dedric) will come back and I’ll have the #1 team in the state and we will be able to compete for a state championship.
HWI: Where do you see yourself ending your career and on what level?
Day: I would like to become a NBA head coach one day, that’s my goal. Right now, I believe I am better suited for the college game, so trying to get in college will probably be my next step. Everyone wants to get to the pinnacle of their profession so that’s what I’m looking forward to doing.
A special thanks to Todd Day for taking the time to partake in our legends series. Be on the lookout; we have many more legends to come.
x Martinis Jackson
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