Keon Clergeot is latest Memphis basketball defection – The Commercial Appeal


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  • Jimmy Hayslip

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The Memphis men’s basketball program suffered another defection Saturday afternoon. This time, it was one of the few players on last year’s roster that coach Tubby Smith actually recruited here.

Freshman guard Keon Clergeot announced via social media that he will not be coming back to Memphis next year, becoming the fifth player to seek a transfer since Smith’s first season with the Tigers ended last month.

“After discussing it with my family, I have decided that I will not be returning next year for my sophomore season,” Clergeot wrote on his Twitter account Saturday afternoon. “I wish nothing but continued success for the University of Memphis and Memphis basketball.”

Clergeot’s decision comes on the heels of Wednesday’s announcement that brothers Dedric and K.J. Lawson will also be transferring. Though Memphis subsequently picked up a commitment from junior college guard Kareem Brewton on Thursday night, it once again has five open scholarships for next season with Clergeot gone.

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More:Dedric and K.J. Lawson are transferring from Memphis

And there could very well be more roster turnover on the way. The Tigers are still awaiting word on the future of redshirt junior Markel Crawford, who is eligible to be a graduate transfer this year. If Crawford were to transfer, Memphis would have just three remaining scholarship players on campus for the time being — point guard Jeremiah Martin, forward Jimario Rivers and center Karim Sameh Azab — and only two of its top nine scorers from last season’s team.

Though Clergeot averaged just 3.8 points and 9.9 minutes per game as a freshman, his departure will hurt in more symbolic ways. The Winter Haven, Fla., native initially committed to play for Smith at Texas Tech last year before getting a release from his national letter of intent when Smith took the job at Memphis last April. The three-star prospect then signed in June after an official visit and became Smith’s first recruit at Memphis.

The highlight of Clergeot’s one season with the Tigers came on Dec. 21, when he came off the bench to score a career-high 23 points in a win over Incarnate Word.

Despite receiving fluctuating playing time throughout the year, the 6-foot-1 guard seemed to be a favorite of the coaching staff. When asked to describe a “Tubby-type” player during an end-of-season news conference less than two weeks ago, Smith first pointed to Clergeot.

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University of Memphis head coach Tubby Smith (left) chats with guard Keon Clergeot. (Photo: Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal)

“He comes pretty close to being that type of guy,” Smith said. “I mean every day, he’s giving it all he has. He’s over there taking charges. He’s on the floor going for loose balls.”

Memphis already has at least two recruits lined up to fill the void on the perimeter in Brewton and Birmingham, Ala., combo guard Jamal Johnson, the team’s top-rated incoming freshman next year. Point guard Chris Darrington, a top junior college prospect from Toledo, Ohio, is also on campus this weekend for an official visit along with Brewton and 6-foot-7 forward Kyvon Davenport of Georgia Highlands College.

More:With the Lawsons gone, how can Tubby Smith fix Memphis basketball?

Six-foot-8 forward Matt Stanley, a 2017 recruit from Cabot, Ark., who is currently committed to Division-II Ouachita Baptist University, earned a scholarship offer from Memphis last Wednesday and will visit campus in the coming days. Junior college forward Raynere Thornton is also scheduled take an official visit to Memphis beginning next Friday.

Northwest Florida State College guard/forward Ron Freeman, who previously played at Kansas State and had a scholarship offer from Memphis, reportedly committed to Long Beach State on Saturday.

More:Tiger Basketball Podcast: The Lawsons leave and the future of Memphis basketball


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