(Cape Girardeau, Mo.)- They call Memphis, Tennessee the home of the blues, and the birthplace of rock and roll. But in the sports world, the city is best known as a hotbed for top tier basketball talent. Five Southeast Missouri State players are Memphis natives: Tyler Stone, Jarekious Bradley, Nino Johnson, Darrian Gray and Antonius Cleveland. When the Redhawks play Memphis Saturday night, it will be a homecoming for the group.
"We just look at it like we know where we come from, we try to put on from where we are from and play for each other, we have a bond like no other," says Stone, a senior out of Memphis Central High School.
The man most responsible for assembling this pipeline of Memphis transplants is another Memphian, assistant coach Jamie Rosser.
"Actually I've been knowing coach Rosser since I was 10 years old, so he had a big impact and he knows my game, so I had to come here," said Gray, a graduate of Southwind High School.
"Coach Rosser really had a big role in me coming here," said Cleveland, who attended Germantown high. "I just trusted him and I just know I can get better as a player playing under him and coach Nutt and I just believed in the system."
Having played and coached in Memphis, Rosser's connections in the city have been key in recruiting.
"Memphis has always been a basketball mecca to me," he said. "Always great talent and it's home so I can go in there and I got a relationship with the parents and kids so it's a good recruiting tool."
But what is it about Memphis that makes it such a basketball factory?
"It's just something we do all the time," said Stone. "You go to Memphis, and guys want to play basketball all the time, day-in-day out, we got guys playing till three in the morning."
"We just come from the bottom, no one expects us to be on top, or no one expects us to be this great, or compete how we do, so we just try to shock the world and fit it while we can," said Johnson, who went to Memphis White Station.
When SEMO and Memphis tip off Saturday night, 11 combined players will be battling for backyard bragging rights, meaning the trash talk has already started.
"Actually Chris Crawford's (Memphis senior guard) already told my mom that they're gonna beat us by 20 so i'm actually ready to hold him," said Cleveland. "We've been talking, on Twitter and Instagram about how big this game is," said Bradley, who went to Memphis East. "It was Michael Dixon and a Memphis fan talking to me, we're gonna beat them by 20, okay we'll see when we get there."