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Memphis basketball lands Illinois transfer Dain Dainja

Memphis has added to its frontcourt via the transfer portal. (Image Credit: Illinois Athletics)
By Roman Cleary - April 5, 2024, 11:01 am - 0 comments

Memphis now has two commitments from the transfer portal.

Sources tell Bluff City Media that Illinois forward Dain Dainja has made his pledge to head coach Penny Hardaway after visiting the school Tuesday. Dainja, who joins Tulsa guard PJ Haggerty in Memphis’ portal class, joined the open market on Monday afternoon.

The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 6.1 points and 3.6 rebounds in 38 appearances this season despite playing just 10.7 minutes per game. He put up 9.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per contest through 33 outings and 21 starts in 2022-23, during which he played 20.6 minutes per game.

Dainja, who started his collegiate career at Baylor, helped the Fighting Illini earn a Big Ten Tournament championship and a No. 3 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament. He even recorded 21 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks on 9-for-9 shooting in Illinois’ March Madness opener against Morehead State. Brad Underwood’s club ultimately advanced to the Elite Eight before being trounced by top-seeded UConn last Saturday.

Hardaway is losing both Jordan Brown and Malcolm Dandridge due to expired eligibility, so Dainja will likely have a wide-open opportunity for playing time at Memphis. He also has a good chance at producing the best statistics of his career while facing American Athletic Conference (AAC) competition compared to the Big Ten or Big 12. Dainja enters next season with two years of eligibility remaining.

The Tigers will send off five other players—Jahvon Quinerly, Nae’Qwan Tomlin, Caleb Mills, Jaykwon Walton and Jayden Hardaway—thanks to expired eligibility. They’re also losing Jonathan Pierre, Jayhlon Young and Carl Cherenfant to the transfer portal, so Penny Hardaway must fill at least eight roster spots this offseason with Haggerty and Dainja onboard.

Memphis now hopes to pair Dainja with forward Nick Jourdain, a rising senior who publicly announced his return to Memphis back in February. But sources have recently indicated Jourdain is still deciding his plans for next year. The Tigers can also bring back David Jones, Joe Cooper, Ashton Hardaway and Noah Stansbury. Four-star guard Jared Harris is the program’s only incoming high school prospect as of now.


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