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James Wiseman Opens Up in ESPN Interview About Leaving Memphis

(Photo: USA Today/Joe Rondone)

(Photo: USA Today/Joe Rondone)

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.”

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.

Article written by Zack Geoghegan

Covering all things NBA. Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan

26 Comments for James Wiseman Opens Up in ESPN Interview About Leaving Memphis

  1. Corder
    10:29 pm February 21, 2020 Permalink

    This is where the parents should have known better. It’s not on the kids in high school faults, they take after their parents. Every kid in life looks up to there parents and soak it all in. So if your parents sit there and say “ oh it’s fine “ what else are you suppose to think. Real hard as a kid to go against your parents when you think that they always have your best interest at heart. Even worse is when not only your parents are steering you in the wrong direction for their own personal gain but your mentor and coach, the person that you believe is just looking out for you and trying to help you succeed end up using you just to get ahead. Pretty sad situation for the kid that was given a gift but ends up becoming a curse.

    • ibescootch
      10:57 pm February 21, 2020 Permalink

      While your statement is generally true, I don’t think that has anything to do with Wiseman’s situation.

      His situation wasn’t about his parents being bad people, it was literally about how the NCAA has written their amateurism laws. There’s no way his parents or Penny would have known how this would play out back then. They weren’t being bad or greedy, I’d almost say the opposite, they were trying to put him in a better situation. If he had gone to any other school, or if Penny hadn’t become a coach at Memphis, none of this would have mattered at all.

    • UKgrad80
      8:50 am February 22, 2020 Permalink

      Bottom line is Penny paid for Wiseman that is an NCAA violation! If anyone ever got screwed by the NCAA it was Enis Kanter!!

    • just a guy
      6:21 pm February 22, 2020 Permalink

      Poor kid, got caught cheating and punished in a world that now accepts cheating. Must be tough

    • mashburnfan1
      11:48 pm February 21, 2020 Permalink

      Scootch. The issue is the kid going to Memphis. Would not have mattered who was coaching Memphis. A booster from that school gave them money. He would have been fine at any other college.

    • 4everUKBlue
      12:37 pm February 22, 2020 Permalink

      Yeah too bad for you mashbum, if he’d played for Cal you could’ve come back with your tired rant about Cal cheating, not that there is a shred of evidence.

  2. boomroasted09
    11:14 pm February 21, 2020 Permalink

    ^^well said ibescootch. Agree 100%

  3. chardun20
    3:41 am February 22, 2020 Permalink

    What he might be upset at is, if he would have kept playing, he likely would be the #1 pick in the NBA. Now he’s being projected as #3, a big money difference.

    • Alex90
      8:53 am February 22, 2020 Permalink

      Mock drafts mean nothing. Once they start doing workouts he will be just fine and have his opportunity to go #1. Really it comes down to a teams need anyway

  4. Aar
    6:01 am February 22, 2020 Permalink

    Does anybody believe…

    …that Hardaway did not intend to be Wiseman’s coach at Memphis when he paid to relocate his family?
    …that some shoe company did not pay Hardaway some large multiple of $11.5K to relocate Wiseman and his family?
    …that ONLY $11.5K was paid to the Wiseman family by a shoe company through Hardaway?
    …that Wiseman would be in the lottery conversation without Hardaway and a shoe company at his side?
    …that Wiseman is anything other than normal among potential lottery picks?

    • samodamo
      6:13 am February 22, 2020 Permalink

      Absolutely they knew what they were doing. The rules are the rules, penny definitely knew what he was doing he didn’t care bc he wanted tht state championship to further his career. Everyone in here feeling sorry for him is crazy. They are just mad cause they were caught.

  5. JWWW
    6:25 am February 22, 2020 Permalink

    How does it cost $11,500 to move 226 miles? Here are some estimates.
    Bedrooms Moving Estimate
    Studio. $500 – $610
    1. $730 – $900
    2. $990 – $1210
    3. $1280 – $1560
    4. $1590 – $1940
    5+ $1930 – $2360

    They must have had a 27 bedroom house!

    • kyle heavy
      8:03 am February 22, 2020 Permalink

      Best point so far, JWWW. Two Men and a Truck moved my wife and I (all of our possessions from our home and a three car detached garage) 311 miles from Owensboro, KY to Columbus, OH for around $4,000.

    • 4everUKBlue
      8:24 am February 22, 2020 Permalink

      Great info JWWW and heavy but I think it was Zion’s mother who moved into the 27 bedroom house, but that was dUKe so it doesn’t count.

    • CatsfaninFL
      9:00 am February 22, 2020 Permalink

      This past summer I moved my family from FL to Charlotte. 3 bedrooms moving 3 states and they did all of the packing up and moving. Right at $7,000

  6. gasman01
    7:25 am February 22, 2020 Permalink

    It’s interesting that Wiseman was almost a lock to come to UK. Wonder how many times Penny reminded him of the $11.5K??

  7. kybigblue
    8:35 am February 22, 2020 Permalink

    Don’t forget Wiseman played for Penny in high school after Wiseman moved to Memphis. Penny benefited from the move well before Wiseman got to college. Plus did Penny’s success at that level help him get the Memphis job and sign Wiseman. No question paying for the Wiseman move from Nashville to Memphis benefited Penny who paid for the move and ultimately Memphis. Wiseman was the victim.

    • 4everUKBlue
      10:08 am February 22, 2020 Permalink

      Yes Penny was the one who benefitted and Wiseman was the victim and it sucks for Wiseman that he was the only one punished and if he had gone to dUKe there would’ve been no punishment and that is the part that is unfair. The fact that the NCAA is selective with who they punish is the is the biggest issue IMO.

    • 4everUKBlue
      10:16 am February 22, 2020 Permalink

      But bottom line is he and is mom did take the money and as you can see in above comments it doesn’t cost $11,500 to move that distance.

  8. satcheluk
    10:32 am February 22, 2020 Permalink

    Cry me a river.

  9. John Henry
    11:58 am February 22, 2020 Permalink

    Penny has been around basketball all of his life. He knew the rules. Unfortunately he has so much influence on the Wiseman family he ruined James Wiseman’s college career.

  10. Middy
    12:02 pm February 22, 2020 Permalink

    Couldn’t Penny simply have hired the kid to paint his house, do some landscaping or perform some kind of service for $11,500? Seems like this could’ve been avoided simply by making it earned income and not giving a handout. Maybe I’m missing something, I find it difficult to understand the lunacy of NCAA rule enforcement.

  11. WILDCATS1968
    12:05 pm February 22, 2020 Permalink

    Lets not put this all on the NCAA. Penny and Wiseman should have never done what they did. Would Penny have given him $11,500 to move if he wasn’t planning on playing for him ? I mean there was something in it for Penny, and definitely something in it for Wiseman also. $11,500 to move ? GTFO here with that noise. They both knew exactly what they where doing and the possible ramifications if it was outed. There is no one innocent in this, no sympathy here. Penny has people, he had Wiseman moved and then the money (at least $10k of it) Wiseman kept.

    • 4everUKBlue
      12:35 pm February 22, 2020 Permalink

      You’re absolutely right and I don’t think anyone is putting it all on the NCAA, BUT the NCAA turns their head with some coaches and programs and it’s not arguable. Penny got some of what he deserved and so did Wiseman, it’s just too bad the NCAA was not as diligent in their investigations of several other programs and I don’t think I need to mention their names. We all know who they are.

    • just a guy
      6:25 pm February 22, 2020 Permalink

      Come on, he’s a top prospect he’s allowed to cheat and avoid rules. If he wasn’t a top prospect no one would care about him and say he got what he deserves.