James Wiseman is expected to be one of the top three picks in this summer’s NBA Draft, and many project him to go No. 1 overall. And for good reason. He’s a versatile 7-foot center who can shoot, defend, and put the ball on the floor. His talent has never been in question. It was his ordeal with the NCAA that garnered nonstop headlines.
The NCAA decided to rule Wiseman ineligible earlier this season because he had previously accepted approximately $11,000 from Penny Hardaway to relocate from Nashville to Memphis so that he could play high school ball for the NBA legend. However, Hardaway technically fit the profile of a booster for University of Memphis long before he became head coach.
Yet, despite the NCAA ruling, Hardaway opted to play Wiseman anyway while they appealed the decision, which was an unprecedented move. Wiseman eventually lost the appeal and was suspended 12 games and ordered to pay the $11,000 to charity. Having no financial recourse, Wiseman decided to forego his year of college and simply prepare for the coming draft.
Wiseman recently spoke to Adrian Wojnarowski about the ordeal, alternatively describing the experience as “surreal,” as being in the “Twilight Zone,” and being in the “middle of a hurricane.”
ESPN NBA Countdown interview with James Wiseman pic.twitter.com/EP9XEt16u7
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 22, 2020
Many believe that Wiseman’s situation underscores one of the fundamental problems with college basketball and how the NCAA treats college athletes, particularly those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Hardaway’s decision to play Wiseman in spite of the ineligibility ruling had never been seen before and put pressure on the NCAA to reconsider that decision.
Wiseman’s tale is just one of many over the years, yet the NCAA has persistently proved reluctant to make any major changes. Still, actions like those of Hardaway and Wiseman help shed light on an issue that has been ignored far too long.