James Wiseman Leaves Memphis to Prep for NBA Draft; Reportedly Will Hire Agent

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2019

PORTLAND, OREGON - NOVEMBER 12: James Wiseman #32 of the Memphis Tigers walks up court during the first half of the game against the Oregon Ducks between the Oregon Ducks and Memphis Grizzlies at Moda Center on November 12, 2019 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

James Wiseman's college basketball career is over. The Memphis star announced Thursday on Instagram that he's leaving the school to prepare for the 2020 NBA draft:

"Ever since I was a little kid, it's been a dream of mine to play in the NBA. Throughout this process, I've asked God to ordain my steps and lead me in the right direction. God is my lord and salvation, and throughout this process he has comforted me. This was not how I expected my freshman season to be, but I'm thankful for everyone who has supported my family and me throughout this process."

Jalyn Souchek @Local24Jalyn

BREAKING: James Wiseman announces on Instagram that he has leaving the University of Memphis to pursue NBA. https://t.co/qurL9aLbxp

Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported Wiseman plans to hire an agent.

The New York Times' Adam Zagoria shared statements from the school and head coach Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway:

Adam Zagoria @AdamZagoria

Penny and Memphis statements on James Wiseman https://t.co/kbjrCpC8sv

Wiseman was the No. 1 player in the 2019 recruiting class, per 247Sports' composite rankings. His commitment to Memphis was a coup for Hardaway, who's looking to make the Tigers a national power again.

He suited up for Memphis just three times, averaging 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. He was widely expected to head to the NBA after his freshman season, but his abrupt departure puts an obvious damper on the Tigers' 9-1 start.

Wiseman was the team's leading scorer and rebounder, albeit in limited action.

His decision comes as he was still serving a 12-game suspension issued by the NCAA, which was tied to $11,500 Hardaway gave his mother, Donzaleigh Artis, in 2017 to help the family move to Memphis from Nashville, Tennessee. Hardaway was coaching in high school and the AAU circuit—where Wiseman had played for him—at the time.

Some viewed Thursday's news as a referendum on the NCAA and another sign of how more players are pursuing alternative paths to the NBA:

Jon Rothstein @JonRothstein

Wiseman's decision aligns with what we've seen recently with many top prospects: Most are much more concerned with starting their "professional clocks" rather than playing college basketball. https://t.co/9gveGusyWl

Jason McIntyre @jasonrmcintyre

Have to wonder how many recruits in the Class of 2020 consider going the pro route - Australia is hot! - so they can profit for a year before going to the NBA. James Wiseman probably wishes he did what RJ Hampton did. Play vs pros, make money, then nba

Michael McCann @McCannSportsLaw

By turning pro, James Wiseman can now sign an endorsement deal and profit from his name, image and likeness without any worry about impact on his NCAA eligibility. This is a disappointing development for Memphis fans, but a reminder that amateurism rules could use some updating. https://t.co/wkMYajELwx

Leaving Memphis now shouldn't hurt Wiseman's draft stock too much. The 2020 class lacks a standout star similar to Zion Williamson a year ago, and the top-end talent doesn't appear to be materializing.

In his most recent mock draft, Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman projected Wiseman as the No. 3 overall pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"Between his broad shoulders, length and bounce, he's a walking easy basket and rim protector who's able to play high above the rim for finishes, offensive putbacks and defensive plays in the paint," Wasserman wrote. "The Cavs would take their chances on his post game, mid-range touch and pick-and-roll coverage improving over time."

ESPN Stats & Info noted Kyrie Irving appeared in 11 games for Duke before the Cavs selected him first overall in 2011. That's the smallest college sample ever for a No. 1 draft pick.

Darius Garland was the No. 5 pick in 2019 as well despite playing in only five games as a freshman for Vanderbilt.