MEMPHIS, Tenn — Penny Hardaway smiled at the term "walk-on" being used to describe Tyler Harris.
"He's the best walk-on in the country," he said through a laugh. "By a long shot."
It is Harris' status now, but he is far from a typical walk-on. His game-high 18 points in Tuesday's win over Saint Louis marked a full-circle night for the junior guard.
"It felt like that is how it is supposed to be," Harris said. "It felt like a dream-like moment that I've already lived."
The Cordova product committed to the Tigers just weeks after Penny Hardaway was hired, ushering in "a new era in the city of Memphis," as the emcee put it at his 2018 signing day ceremony.
Harris drained 138 triples in his first two seasons at Memphis, but started just 15 games, prompting him to enter the transfer portal.
"He didn't really want to leave Memphis," Hardaway said. "He felt like he was in a position where there was going to be too many players, and he wanted to play."
He found a new school in Iowa State. Harris ended up playing similar minutes, as the Cyclones won just two games over the entire 2020-21 season.
Harris' father was also "a little sick," so he re-entered the portal and talked to Penny about coming back.
"I said Ty, I believe in you," Hardaway recalled. "It's going to be tougher this time around because we have so much talent, but I'm going to find a way to get you on the floor."
"I was already familiar with the system, the coaches the trainers," Harris said. "I knew there was going to be a lot of talent it was going to be hard to be on the floor, but I just wanted to be on a team that was going to win, and I knew here was the best bet for me."
So even though he is no longer on scholarship at Memphis, Tyler Harris is home.
"Back when I was at Iowa State, we weren't winning too much," Harris said. "A lot of times, when I look up, I'm just happy that we have a lot of talent and are winning games."