Ex-star Wiseman opens up on Memphis exit

Former Memphis center James Wiseman told ESPN he was “crying every night” after the NCAA ruled him ineligible to play for the Tigers earlier this season.

The 7-foot-1 Wiseman exited the Memphis program in December, partway through an NCAA-ordered, 12-game suspension. The ban followed the discovery that Penny Hardaway, before becoming Tigers coach, gave Wiseman’s mother $11,500 for moving expenses when she relocated her family from Nashville to Memphis in 2017.

The NCAA ruled the transaction was a violation because Hardaway was considered a Memphis booster.

In an interview broadcast Friday, Wiseman said he was brought to tears nightly because of the “mental agony” of not being able to play for Hardaway and the Tigers.

“I just wanted to get on the court so much, because I just love the game of basketball,” Wiseman told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski in an interview that aired on “NBA Countdown.” “That really took a lot out of me. I was really like in the middle of a hurricane, really. I was like the eye of it. And that’s, like, the worst place you can possibly be in.”

Wiseman played in three games for Memphis after obtaining a temporary injunction, but he eventually dropped the pending lawsuit. Although the NCAA ruled he would be eligible to return Jan. 12, Wiseman left the school on Dec. 19 and announced his intention to begin preparing for the NBA Draft.

Also factoring in the decision was the NCAA ordering Wiseman to donate $11,500 to a charity of his choice.

“I couldn’t use a GoFundMe page that Jay Williams put out for me,” Wiseman said. “Couldn’t use any outside sources that related to that. I had to get it on my own. But that was pretty impossible because, I mean, I didn’t have the money. I was an average college student.”

Wiseman, who has moved to Miami to prepare for the draft, said he did not learn his eligibility was in question until after the Tigers’ season opener.

“I was pretty shocked,” he said. “(Before) the second game, I was in the courtroom for, like, two or three hours. I didn’t get to the arena until, like, 20 minutes before tipoff. It was pretty surreal, because I didn’t think I was going to be in the courtroom for that long. So, Coach P came in there, he was trying to prep me up for the game. But, at the same time, mentally, I was just out of it because it just took a lot out of me.

“It was really draining.”

Wiseman, widely projected as a first-round draft pick, said he and Hardaway remain on good terms.

“Me and Coach P have a great relationship,” Wiseman said. “We go way back. He was just telling me to keep going, keep pushing every day. ‘Keep cheering for your teammates … and everything’s going to work out.’”

Unranked Memphis is 18-8 overall and 7-6 in the American Athletic Conference this season.

“I wanted to have a great collegiate career. I wanted to win a national championship. I really wanted to stay at the University of Memphis,” Wiseman said. “I really love those guys. I really love my coaches. But throughout the course of the first two games, everything started to go down in terms of my mental (well-being). I was getting depressed. It was dehumanizing for me.

“I felt it was unfair because they notified and alerted me at the last minute. I didn’t really have any knowledge of (the violation) or all the ramifications behind it.”

–Field Level Media