Mason Miller blocked the shot, starting the fastbreak that ended with T.J. Madlock storming toward the rim Saturday during a second-half surge at the Memphis in May Invitational grassroots basketball event.
Their fathers, new Memphis men’s basketball assistants Mike Miller and Tony Madlock, looked on from the stands together for the first time this spring after weeks spent on the recruiting trail for the Tigers.
“It’s definitely unique,” Tony Madlock said. “It’s awesome to have somebody that I work with and go see every day, and then for our sons to continue to grow as basketball players, it’s been interesting to see.”
While Madlock and Miller are teaming up to help new Memphis coach Penny Hardaway in his quest to elevate the Tigers’ basketball program back to its previous heights, their sons are both playing up a year as teammates on Hoop City Basketball Club’s under-16 team this spring and summer.
Mason Miller and T.J. Madlock were also on the same AAU team a year ago, but both agree this time around feels different. Their friendship is growing stronger now that their fathers are working together for the first time.
T.J. Madlock looks and walks just like his father, and the two also share similarities on the basketball court. Much like Tony Madlock at Memphis State almost 30 years ago, T.J. is a quintessential floor general who prefers to set up teammates; even though his improving outside shot is also a weapon.
He’s completing his freshman year of high school in Oxford, Miss., where Tony spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach. But the 5-foot-11 point guard is already a coveted commodity on the Memphis area high school basketball scene.
Tony Madlock said Saturday that he’s been bombarded by inquiries from area coaches hoping T.J will enroll in their high school for next season now that the family is moving back to Memphis.
In the same vein, T.J. Madlock said he can feel the excitement surrounding Hardaway’s hiring every time he comes to visit.
“Everywhere we go, they’re saying congratulations to my dad and he’s getting a lot more recognition than before,” T.J. Madlock said. “My whole [extended] family lives up here, so we come up here a lot. But now it’s crazy. He’s been a coach for a while, so he coaches me and I just learn from him and listen to whatever he says.”
Mason Miller just finished up his freshman year at Houston High School in Germantown and he’s already taller than his 6-foot-8 father, who completed his 17-season NBA career following the 2016-17 campaign. Mason, a left-hander, also inherited Mike’s 3-point shooting touch and he’s working on getting to the rim more.
He’ll need to add strength moving forward, but his ability to shoot from outside and athletic bloodlines (his mother played volleyball at Florida) make him a tantalizing prospect.
“I didn’t pressure him into anything. As he’s gotten older, the more and more he’s wanted it,” Mike Miller said. “He’s finding his own niche, and that’s what I really want. He enjoys the game of basketball, actually loves the game of basketball, and it’s fun to see him grow.”
Mike Miller noted now that he and Tony Madlock are assistants at Memphis, it will allow Mason and T.J. to be around the Tigers’ players more and “hopefully they’ll continue to build a bond.”
But the presence of Madlock and Miller in Memphis already comes up “whenever they walk into the gym” for one of Hoop City’s practices or games, Mason Miller said.
While Tony Madlock and Mike Miller are restricted from watching AAU games or practice outside of college basketball’s live evaluation periods in April and July, NCAA rules permit them to watch their sons play whenever they want.
Lausanne’s Alden Applewhite, a 6-foot-5 combo guard who might be the best recruit in the Hoop City program, said “it gets us better because every practice you have a college coach in there with you. You always work because you know people are watching you.”
Applewhite added that Mason Miller and T.J. Madlock often discuss this uncommon connection, with two fathers working together to rebuild a college basketball program and two sons trying to burnish their reputations on the basketball court right here in Memphis.
Everyone involved realizes it’s a situation worth savoring.
“They’re going to be great players,” said Hoop City Basketball Club director Ernie Kuyper, who is also Mike Miller’s cousin. “They’re coaches’ kids, so they know how to play. Whatever level that is, I’m not sure. But they’re going to be a great addition to a college basketball team, whoever is lucky enough to get them. I hope it’s their dads.”