The situation with James Wiseman and the NCAA is just a small piece of the overwhelming criticism the NCAA has received over the course of decades, as the multi-billion dollar organization navigates through defining the nuances of what it truly means to be an “amateur” student-athlete in college sports.
Wiseman, a 7-foot-1 center who played three games under Penny Hardaway at the University of Memphis before deciding to end his college career, is expected to be a top pick in the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft. Most mock boards have the one-and-done phenom going either No. 1 or 2. But for the most part, he’ll enter the combine as a relatively unknown player other than his high school highlights and a small sample size at the next level.
In a sitdown interview with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Wiseman opened up about the mental toll of dealing with the NCAA and being denied the right to play the sport he loved for petty reasons. The NCAA punished Wiseman and Memphis for an incident that occurred in 2017 when Hardaway – then a coach for Memphis East High School – paid $11,500 to have Wiseman and his family relocated from Nashville to Memphis. Hardaway was considered a “booster” at the time because of a donation he made back in 2008.
Wiseman talks about how he would cry himself to sleep every night, describing the entire situation as “heartbreaking”.
In the interview, Wiseman spoke about how he showed up to his second collegiate game just 15 minutes before tipoff because he was in the courtroom trying to pursue a temporary restraining order against the NCAA just so he could play against Illinois-Chicago. He ultimately dropped the restraining order and accepted the NCAA’s 12-game suspension that also included repaying the $11,500 that Hardaway gave his family to a charity of his choice.
Obviously, Wiseman is a college kid and doesn’t have $11,500, electing to leave Memphis in order to train for the upcoming draft. In the interview, he cited potential injury or sanctions directed towards Memphis that Wiseman did not want to put on the program.
“It was a bit surreal because I couldn’t use a GoFundMe page that [ESPN’s] Jay Williams put out for me, obviously,” Wiseman said in the interview with ESPN. “I couldn’t use any outside sources. I had to get [the money] on my own, and that was pretty impossible because I didn’t have the money. I was just a regular college student.”
In his first interview since leaving the University of Memphis, potential No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick James Wiseman tells ESPN: "I was really in the middle of a hurricane." https://t.co/5EJfRXy2S4
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 22, 2020
It’s a shame what happened to Wiseman – a talented 18-year old that just wants to hoop – but nothing too surprising in terms of the NCAA’s habits. The interview gives everyone on the outside a bit more perspective as to how this all went down.