NBA All-Star Penny Hardaway was one of the most notable players in the league from 1993 to 2007. Before he retired, he played as either a point or shooting guard for four different teams, including the Orlando Magic for six seasons and the Phoenix Suns for five. Now, the father of three is head coach of the University of Memphis men's basketball team, and his 21-year-old son Jayden Hardaway is one of his players. The rising star, who was raised by his mom, Nikki Ward, in Miami, is heading into his third season as a Tiger. To see find out more about Penny Hardaway's son, his basketball career so far, and their relationship on and off the court, read on.
Jayden is going into his junior year as a guard on the NCAA team.
Jayden just finished his sophomore year at the University of Memphis. According to his official bio, he played in all 28 games this past season for an average of 10 minutes. He also scored nine points in the season opener against South Carolina State during his freshman year.
The athlete racked up an average of 12.1 points per game during his junior year at Miami Palmetto High School in Florida. He transferred to East High in Memphis for his senior year and helped his team win a state championship.
Jayden didn't play much his freshman year, but worked hard to improve.
Jayden did a lot of hard work off the court leading into his second college season. Speaking to The Daily Memphian in December 2020, he said that he pushed himself to "focus on [his] body" and better his basketball skills.
"I talked to my dad about being great in my role, playing unselfish, making plays, being aggressive in situations like playing out of closeouts or like just beating your man off the dribble if you have a mismatch," he said. "I've just noticed how to take advantage of those situations more this year."
Jayden's efforts did not go unnoticed. His father told the outlet how proud he was of his son for making some major improvements. "He's gotten way stronger and way bigger, so now he can take the physicality of the game," Penny explained. "And then secondly, his confidence grew. You know, he came into the first practices and he started dominating from the first day to show the guys that he wasn't just going to back down because he was a coach's son."
There was another factor that came into play with Jayden's attitude. He changed his jersey from No. 25 to No. 1, which was the number he wore at East High School as well as Penny's number for the Orlando Magic. A former University of Memphis guard, Tyler Harris, wore No. 1, but he transferred to Iowa State in Spring 2020.
"It's just like a certain level of confidence that just comes with me wearing my number again," Jayden said. "I kind of feel like myself again."
And for more entertainment news sent to you directly, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Jayden's first college start meant a lot to him and his dad.
Jayden was put the starting lineup for the first time for a February 2020 game, which was an important decision for his coach. With the Tigers playing against the University of Connecticut, the game was also a fundraiser for Autism Speaks, an advocacy and research organization. As Jayden was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as a child, that added additional significance to his first start on the college level.
"First of all, I put him out there because I felt like he could stretch the defense," Penny explained during an episode of the Coach Penny Hardaway Radio Show (via Commercial Appeal). "He's not going to play big minutes anyway because he's a jump shooter and he's a playmaker. But also because he was born autistic."
Penny also said that "around the third or fourth grade," Jayden began showing fewer symptoms of ASD. The coach called him "a walking miracle" and said that the UConn game was a meaningful moment "between father and son."
Jayden doesn't want to be known just as "Penny's kid."
"People say I'll never be as good as my dad or whatever, and I just want to be the best Jayden possible," he explained in a March 2020 segment of UNINTERRUPTED. He also noted that he tries not to worry about being as accomplished as his father.
Jayden admitted that he's felt somewhat trapped by his father's legacy, however. "I'm always called, 'Penny's kid,' because they just idolize my dad so much down here," he told Commercial Appeal in 2017 about living in Memphis. "I'm Jayden. I'm not Penny's kid. I am, but I don't want to be identified as that. I want to be my own person."