James Wiseman was brought to tears by his turbulent eligibility battle with the NCAA during his time at Memphis.
The potential No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA draft told ESPN, in his first interview since withdrawing from the school, that he cried every night in his dorm room before eventually leaving after the NCAA levied a 12-game suspension for rules violations. Wiseman said he didn’t know the rules had been broken before the NCAA told him, calling the punishment “unfair” and the whole experience “dehumanizing.”
The freshman was suspended for taking $11,500 in moving expenses in 2017 from his eventual college coach Penny Hardaway, who was the coach of Memphis East High School and not employed by the Tigers at that time. The NCAA still considered Hardaway a booster because he donated $1 million to the university in 2018.
“I was really in the middle of a hurricane,” Wiseman said in an interview that aired Friday. “That’s like the worst place you could possibly be. Just having the mental agony and the suffering, crying every night because I just wanted to get on the court so much.”
The 7-footer has since signed with Excel Sports and has his attention on the upcoming draft, where he still could be the top pick. He did play three games for Memphis, averaging 19.7 points while shooting 77 percent.
After dropping a temporary restraining order, Wiseman was suspended in November and was required to pay the money back. Wiseman said he and his lawyers nixed the restraining order that would have kept him playing because he didn’t want “it coming back” on Memphis even more.
“I wanted to win a national championship,” Wiseman said. “But throughout the course of the first two games, everything started to go down in terms of my mental [well-being]. I was getting depressed. It was dehumanizing for me.”
He felt was unfair that the NCAA notified him of the violations at the last minute, leaving him shocked.
“I didn’t really have any knowledge of [the violation] or all the ramifications behind it,” Wiseman said.
Wiseman added that he ultimately pulled the plug on his college career because of the risk of injury and the need to payback the $11,500 without being able to use an “outside source” like a GoFundMe page started for him by ESPN’s Jay Williams.
“I had to get [the money] on my own, and that was pretty impossible because I didn’t have the money,” Wiseman said.” I was just a regular college student.”
He is currently working out twice a day to prepare for the draft, trying to gain weight. Wiseman is watching film of Anthony Davis. Dirk Nowitzki and Karl-Anthony Towns as he tries to improve his jump shot in hopes of still going No. 1.
“I truly expect that,” Wiseman said.