There are prodigies in every freshman class, players whose skill set seem above and beyond the norm, guys who almost certainly would be one-and-done and destined to be a top five pick in the NBA.
James Wiseman was one of them this season. The Memphis center had already drawn attention to himself before his first college game and there was little doubt he’d be a consideration for the first overall pick by the time the season was over.
Of course, no one knew there wouldn’t be a season and that Wiseman would spend his time at Memphis basically waiting to find out whether the NCAA would even allow him to play.
But that’s no longer a problem. Wiseman announced Thursday he was leaving school to focus on his preparation for the NBA Draft. His college career lasted three games.
“Although disappointing, the U of M 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,” a statement from University of Memphis athletics read.
You can’t blame Wiseman for coming to this decision. He’d already served seven games of a 12-game suspension handed down by the NCAA and he wasn’t due back until Jan. 12.
The NCAA sat him down after the school admitted coach Penny Hardaway had paid Wiseman’s mother $11,500 before taking the job. Since Hardaway had made a $1 million donation to the school in 2008, the NCAA viewed him as a booster. That made the money he paid Wiseman’s mother an illegal benefit.
Memphis decided to appeal the NCAA ruling. Wiseman’s attorney received a temporary injunction that temporarily cleared the path for him to play. But the school lost its appeal.
You’d have to agree that the entire college experience was proving to be a waste of time, an unnecessary and problematic step that he likely didn’t need to take.
In his three games, the 7-foot-1 center averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebound and three blocks.
“We wish nothing but the best for James in his future endeavors as he follows his dreams,” Hardaway said via statement. “He will truly be missed.”
ESPN reported the Memphis coaching staff was caught by surprise by Wiseman’s decision. How could that be? What did it expect the kid to do?
The next step for Wiseman is to find an agent and figure out where he should play for the remainder of the season to gear up for the NBA.
The Tigers have cruised without Wiseman. They are 7-0, their latest victory on Saturday over Tennessee.
“I think this was a building win for us, meaning like everybody in that building, from the trainer to the [graduate assistants] to the managers, everybody that had any part to do with these kids just getting prepared and ready to go to play this game,” Hardaway said after the Tennessee game. “It takes everybody, man. As a team, you can only keep preaching: We’re down, but we’re not out. And we just keep fighting.”
It’s not likely that the NBA will change its opinion about Wiseman. Skilled players at his size are very rare and league scouts have likely already made their decision about him.
What’s truly interesting is that most of the early mock drafts for 2020 have five freshmen at the top of the list. They include Georgia’s Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, who is playing in Australia, Arizona’s Nico Mannion and Cole Anthony of North Carolina.