||Olympic #: 6
|Born: 7/18/72 (Memphis, Tenn.)
||College: Memphis State Univ.
|Height: 6’ 7”
||Weight: 200 lbs.
Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway is a wonderfully talented point guard whose shooting, passing and athletic abilities earned him a spot on the All-NBA First Team in only his second season in the league. Often compared to Magic Johnson, the 6-foot-7 Hardaway combines height, ballhandling and an accurate outside stroke into an exciting, all-around game.
A native of Memphis, Hardaway always seemed destined for roundball success. He was Parade magazine’s National High School Player of the Year in 1990, when, as a prep senior, he averaged 36.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 3.3 steals, and 2.8 blocks. He chose to attend nearby Memphis State, (now the University of Memphis) but had to sit out 1990-91 in order to become academically eligible.
Hardaway, who achieved a 3.4 cumulative grade point average in college, ripped up the Great Midwestern Conference for two seasons. Following his sophomore year, Hardaway was a member of the 1992 USA Basketball developmental team that scrimmaged daily against the 1992 Olympic team during its training in San Diego. As a junior in 1992-93, he averaged 22.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.4 assists; shot .477 from the field; recorded 2 triple-doubles; and set a school single-season record for points with 729. He was named conference Player of the Year, a First-Team All-American, and a finalist for the Naismith and Wooden Awards.
The Orlando Magic, who had secured Shaquille O’Neal with the No. 1 pick in the 1992 NBA Draft, won the NBA Draft Lottery again in 1993. The team took Michigan’s Chris Webber with the No. 1 pick and immediately traded him to the Golden State Warriors for Hardaway and three first-round draft picks. The Warriors had chosen Hardaway with the third overall pick in the same draft. (Shawn Bradley went to the Philadelphia 76ers at No. 2.)
In an effort to ease Hardaway’s adjustment to playing point guard in the NBA, Magic Coach Brian Hill started him at off guard for the first half of his rookie season. Hill eventually moved Hardaway to the point, and the 21-year-old rookie finished with averages of 16.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game. He made the NBA All-Rookie First Team and finished six votes behind Webber for the Rookie of the Year Award.
In only his second year in the league, Hardaway emerged as a top NBA guard. He averaged 20.9 points and 7.2 assists, started in the 1995 NBA All-Star Game, and helped the Magic to the best record (57-25) in the Eastern Conference. Orlando romped all the way to the NBA Finals before being swept by the Houston Rockets in four games. Proving his worth as a prime-time player, Hardaway averaged 25.5 points and 8.0 assists in the series against the Rockets.
In 1995-96, Hardaway continued his climb to stardom. Carrying the Magic the first six weeks of the season when Shaquille O'Neal was out injured, Penny finished the year with career highs in points, assists, and field goal shooting percentage. Playing in all 82 of Orlando's regular season games, he ranked as the NBA's 11th leading scorer, averaging 21.7 ppg., 11th in assists while dishing off 7.1 a game, and Hardaway ranked sixth in steals, picking opponents' pockets 2.0 times a game.