James Wiseman Says He Was 'In the Middle of a Hurricane' During Memphis Drama

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorFebruary 22, 2020

Memphis center James Wiseman dunks next to Oregon forward Shakur Juiston during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. Oregon won 82-74. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)
Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

Former Memphis big man James Wiseman spoke with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and offered his side of the story following the NCAA's 12-game suspension of him earlier this season, saying that he felt the punishment was "unfair" and that he was "in the middle of a hurricane."

Wiseman, a potential 2020 No. 1 overall NBA draft pick, left school in December to prepare for a pro career.

"I was really in the middle of a hurricane," he told Wojnarowski. "That's like the worst place you could possibly be. Just having the mental agony and the suffering, crying every night because I just wanted to get on the court so much."

Wojnarowski explained the particulars behind the suspension:

"The NCAA punished Wiseman because his family accepted $11,500 in moving expenses in 2017 from Penny Hardaway -- who was then the coach of Memphis East High School. While Hardaway didn't accept a job at the University of Memphis and recruit Wiseman to campus until 2018, the NCAA deemed Hardaway a university booster at the time of the financial support. Hardaway had donated $1 million in 2008 to the university, where he had starred in the 1990s."

On Nov. 20, Wiseman accepted a 12-game suspension and was ordered to repay the $11,500, but he left school for NBA prep a month afterward.

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He added:

"I felt it was unfair because they notified and alerted me at the last minute. Coach Penny told me about it. I was really down and shocked. When I got suspended for 12 games and had to pay back the money, that was kind of surreal. I didn't really have any knowledge of [the violation] or all the ramifications behind it."

Wiseman played just three games for Memphis, averaging 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in 23.0 minutes per contest.

"I'm trying to gain some weight and keep my body healthy," Wiseman said of his NBA draft prep. "I study a lot of film. Anthony Davis. Dirk Nowitzki. Karl-Anthony Towns. A lot of players who can shoot the ball at my height. I'm working on my shooting mechanics, trying to get my shot right."

Per Wojnarowski, Wiseman is prepping for the June 25 draft in Miami and working out twice per day. 

Woj also noted that the 7'1", 240-pound Wiseman has a "similar height, wingspan and left-handed shot" to Hall of Fame San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson.

That fact hasn't gone unnoticed by Wiseman, who believes he will be the top pick in the draft like Robinson was in 1987.

"I truly expect that," he said. "I trust in myself, in terms of my game and my skill level. I've just to keep working, keep grinding every day."

Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman projected Wiseman to go sixth overall to the Charlotte Hornets in his latest mock draft.

"Leaving Memphis after three games won't kill James Wiseman's draft stock," he wrote. "But it could allow a few others to leapfrog him on boards, particularly given the decline in value of centers who aren't shooters, playmakers or versatile options. However, Wiseman won't slip too far, just based on his spectacular physical profile."

Wiseman is arguably the best big-man prospect in a draft heavy on guards and wings, namely near the top. He may not go No. 1, but seeing him slip far in the lottery portion is hard to imagine.

Wiseman is signed with Excel Sports.

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