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Local Pro-Am attracts top basketball talents in Memphis

After the discontinuation of the "The Bluff" a popluar summer basketball league here in Memphis, two Memphis locals created the Shelby County Pro-Am.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — For three years, the Shelby County Pro-Am has continued to grow in community attendance as people pack into local community centers to see former and current fan favorites in Memphis basketball history.

For many familiar names in the Memphis basketball scene, "The Bluff" was one of the most anticipated local summer leagues for college and pro players visiting home.

However, just before the pandemic, the bluff was discontinued, sparking a partnership between Tayloe Taylor and Nicholes Tuggle, the co-founders of the Shelby County Pro-Am league. 

“The plan was to kind of recreate the bluff and get guys playing back in the summertime at a high level,” said Tuggle. 

So far so good. 

Three years in and the pro-am has not only attracted former tigers like KJ and Dedric Lawson but current tigers including the younger lawson brothers and one of the newest faces on the Memphis roster, 

Kao Akobundu-Ehiogu.

“It gives the guys the opportunity to play against older guys, guys that are already pros,” Tuggle added. 

“Loading the summer league up with some of the best talents so that they can compete and get better before they go back to their professional careers overseas or in the NBA,” said Taylor. 

Players like Jayden Hardaway also participate in the weekly competition, helping to prepare him for the upcoming college season 

“It definitely helps, you know, it gets really physical out there. All year everything you’re put through is put to the test because you have to play through the contact,” said Hardaway. 

Hardaway said he also enjoys the ability to become more familiar with the Memphis community.

With the games free to the public, he said it gives kids that may not make it to a tiger's games at the forum, a chance to see him and a few of his teammates up close and personal.

“It’s fun to come and show that support back to the fans and the people who love basketball and also gives me a chance to come out here and show off my game,” said Hardaway. 

Because of the type of players in the league, Taylor also mentioned how the league for many players is based on invitation to lessen injury risk.

“When you’re in a pro-am you don’t want to mix your pro-am with guys who don’t really respect the game. So that was the main thing to get 85 to 90 percent all pros sprinkle in 5 to 10 percent of college players that way everyone can make each other better and we can go and have a good season as a professional,” said Taylor. 

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