Warriors: James Wiseman’s Experience With Memphis Was ‘Heartbreaking’

Top NBA draft picks usually have impressive college careers. But that wasn’t the case for James Wiseman, who only played in three games in a single season at Memphis last season. Regardless of his short time on the court, the Warriors took him with the second overall pick in the 2020 draft. Wiseman will likely have a promising NBA career, but being a high draft pick doesn’t change the controversy he faced at Memphis. Here’s why Wiseman described his time at the school as “heartbreaking.”

James Wiseman’s saga at Memphis

Wiseman played his first game for Memphis on Nov. 5, 2019. By December 19, the center decided to leave the school and declare for the draft. During that time, the NCAA levied a 12-game suspension against the freshman. As ESPN reported, his family accepted $11,500 in moving expenses from Penny Hardaway in 2017.

Hardaway was Wiseman’s head coach at Memphis East High School at the time. But in 2018 Hardaway because the Memphis head coach and recruited Wiseman. Although he wasn’t on the college’s staff at the time of the transaction, the NCAA “deemed Hardaway a university booster at the time of the financial support” because the former NBA star and Memphis alum donated $1 million to the school in 2008.

Wiseman discusses the ‘heartbreaking’ scandal at Memphis

In an ESPN interview, Wiseman revealed that “he cried every night in his dormitory room during the turbulent episode with the NCAA” before deciding to leave school and turn pro. The 19-year-old said he “was really in the middle of a hurricane.” He discussed the “mental agony and suffering” he experienced.

Wiseman called the NCAA’s punishment, which included repayment of the money, “unfair” and termed the whole ordeal as “heartbreaking.” He had to repay the $11,500 himself without accepting money from outside sources, including a GoFundMe that ESPN analyst Jay Williams set up to help him. 

The scandal didn’t hurt Wiseman’s NBA prospects

James Wiseman of the Memphis Tigers looks on from the bench
James Wiseman of the Memphis Tigers on the bench | Joe Murphy/Getty Images

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Despite the controversy surrounding Wiseman and his limited college experience, he was still the second pick in the draft. That shows how much the Warriors believe in his talent on the court; they’re not worried about what’s in his past. This is likely because of how he performed in his three games with the Tigers.

Wiseman averaged 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds in 23 minutes per game. Golden State believes that with numbers like those, the 7-foot-1 center can help at both ends of the court.

Looking ahead to James Wiseman’s rookie NBA season

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The Warriors showed they believe in Wiseman long-term by taking him with the second pick. But will he get much playing time as a rookie? Center is a crowded position for the rebuilding franchise, as NBC Sports writes. At the start of training camp, coach Steve Kerr said the starting job is up for grabs. Marquese Chriss and Kevon Looney serve as Wiseman’s competition to play alongside the likes of Stephen Curry and Draymond Green.

Chriss believes there’s enough playing time to go around. The former Washington Husky told reporters he believes the three players are “competing with each other, not against.” He went on to hypothesize that the trio will find ways to “complement each other.” He doesn’t think any of the three are trying to “out-show anybody” leading up to the late-December start to the season. According to Chriss, they “all offer different things that the team needs.”