Eligibility issues took James Wiseman off the court for the majority of his first semester of college basketball. The 7-foot-1 freshman pulled the plug on second semester Thursday, withdrawing from the University of Memphis to begin preparing for the 2020 NBA draft.
Wiseman announced his decision on Instagram, saying “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. I want to thank the coaches and staff for all their support and my teammates for pushing my everyday at practice. I feel blessed for the opportunity to be a Tiger and for having the honor to play with these special group of guys. I can’t wait to see what all they accomplish this season. The friends and fans of Tiger Nation will always hold a place in my heart.”
Regarded as a top NBA prospect, Wiseman’s college career lasted just three games due to a 12-game suspension the NCAA handed out in November.
“Although disappointing, the UofM supports James and his family in his decision to leave to prepare for the 2020 NBA Draft, and will continue to follow James in what will certainly prove to be a successful career,” Memphis said in a statement Thursday.
Wiseman was ruled ineligible because his family accepted $11,500 from current Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway in 2017. Hardaway, a high school coach in Memphis at the time, gave financial support to help the Wiseman family move from Nashville to Memphis. Hardaway was determined to be a university booster, leading to the NCAA handing Wiseman a 12-game suspension and a $11,500 fine paid to a charity of his choice.
Wiseman initially kept playing thanks to a Shelby County judge issuing a temporary restraining order. The five-star big man averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in three November games before Memphis declared him ineligible and applied for reinstatement.
Wiseman served seven games of his suspension and would have been eligible to return to action Jan. 12 against South Florida. Memphis has been thriving without him. The Tigers are 9-1 and ranked 11th in the Associated Press poll heading into Saturday’s game against Jackson State.
“We wish nothing but the best for James in his future endeavors as he follows his dreams,” Hardaway said. “He will truly be missed.”