Former NBA player Penny Hardaway will join CNN Senior Producer Wayne Drash and Lester Middle School basketball head coach Desmond Merriweather in a lecture and book signing. The event is sponsored by the University of Memphis Bookstore and will take place from 6 to 9 p. m. May 8.
Drash is the author of a book entitled “On These Courts: A Miracle Season that Changed a City, a Once-Future Star, and a Team Forever.” In his book, he discusses how Hardaway took the reigns when his friend, Merriweather, was stricken with cancer, and coached Lester to become a winning team.
Drash said that his experiences working with Merriweather and Hardaway made him feel more than welcomed to be in their presence.
Drash said that his book emphasizes how Hardaway stepped in to help a friend in need and gave back to the children who aspire to reach basketball stardom in the same way that he did.
“This is a story about a superstar who had everything: fame, fortune, a Nike shoe line,” he said. “He was once the most beloved player in the nation, with people mimicking Lil Penny, wearing his Foamposites and sporting his Number One jersey with the Orlando Magic. Yet, due to injury, he had a hard fall from the limelight.”
There was a special connection for Drash and Hardaway, even more than the fact that they played for a University of Kentucky basketball camp when they were 15 years old.
“Any time you spend a lot of time with folks, you feel a connection,” he said. “Penny and I are the exact same age. We grew up about three miles apart along Walnut Grove but my experience on the East side was a totally separate world than his,” he said.
Drash said that, though it may seem unlikely, he also had previous connections with Merriweather.
“Crazy at it seems, I also have a basketball connection with Desmond,” he said. “I guarded with him at a camp at MTSU many years ago. In addition, Dez and I are walking, talking encyclopedias of Memphis State basketball. “
Donna Collier, University of Memphis Bookstore manager, said that because Hardaway is such an important figure for the University and the city of Memphis, she hopes he can influence students to help out within their communities like he has done.
“It will be inspiring,” she said. “It would be great if it would inspire a sense of volunteerism.”
Collier said she wants everyone to find some time to listen to Hardaway, Merriweather and Drash as they discuss their chronicles of the Lester basketball team.
“I hope everyone will take a short break from their exam schedule to stop by,” she said.
Drash also said he thinks it will be a great way for students to bring their semesters to a close.
“Plus, it’s graduation week at U of M when we’ll be there,” he said. “For seniors, the Q&A session adds to their party as they set out on their life journey. Maybe “On These Courts” will inspire them to do greatness.”
University of Memphis junior and University-area resident Sherita Donald said that she could barely contain her excitement when she found out that an NBA and Memphis legend would soon be visiting her college campus.