Why James Wiseman only played 3 games for Memphis

On Wednesday night, center James Wiseman will be taken by an NBA team in the 2020 draft, perhaps starting what could be a great career for the big man.

If you’re reading this, you might be looking for the answer to a question you have: why did he play just three games in his entire collegiate career for Memphis under head coach Penny Hardaway?

It’s a good question with a bit of a convoluted answer that we’ll sort out for you. Let’s break down what happened in the 2019-20 season before Wiseman ended up as one of the top prospects in the 2020 NBA draft.

Who is James Wiseman?

He’s a 7-foot-1 center who’s a Nashville native. He joined Memphis as a freshman in 2019 under Hardaway. Wiseman was one of the highest-rated freshmen in the country.

What happened when he played?

In his college debut against South Carolina State, he had 28 points, 11 boards, three blocks and an assist.

Okay, that’s one game. There were only two more?

Yep. Before he played against UIC — a game in which he had 17 points, nine rebounds and five blocks — Wiseman was ruled ineligible by the NCAA.


An investigation revealed that Hardaway gave Wiseman’s family $11,500 to help them move from Nashville to Memphis in 2017.

But Hardaway wasn’t Memphis’s coach yet, right?

Yes, but because the former NBA star had donated money — $1 million, specifically — to Memphis in the past, he was labeled as a booster, and that’s why it was a violation.

How did he play while being declared ineligible?

Wiseman filed a lawsuit, saying that the NCAA had declared him eligible already earlier in 2019. An injunction allowed Wiseman to play against UIC and Oregon before the NCAA suspended him for 12 games and he was required to donate the sum of the money his family received — $11,500 — to charity.

Did he serve the suspension?

Some of it. He missed seven games and then declared he was leaving Memphis to prepare for the draft. He also dropped the lawsuit.

Was he asked about it during his pre-draft process?

Per USA TODAY Sports, not from two of the top teams in the draft:

During those discussions, Wiseman said neither the Warriors nor the Hornets asked him about withdrawing from Memphis in the middle of a 12-game NCAA-imposed suspension after Tigers coach Penny Hardaway paid Wiseman’s moving expenses while transferring high schools.

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