The James Wiseman era at Memphis has ended after just three games.
Wiseman, who has missed the past seven games due to a 12-game suspension stemming from an NCAA investigation and was set to return at South Florida on Jan. 12, announced on Instagram on Thursday that he will leave the program, hire an agent and prepare for the 2020 NBA draft.
Wiseman is currently ESPN.com’s projected No. 3 pick in the upcoming draft. In three games with Memphis (9-1), he averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. The 7-foot-1 center was suspended after the school admitted that Penny Hardaway made an $11,500 payment to Wiseman’s mother in 2017 before accepting the head-coaching job at his alma mater.
Per the NCAA, Hardaway’s $1 million donation to the school in 2008 made him a booster and therefore his payment to Wiseman’s mother was an improper benefit. The school vowed to appeal the NCAA’s ruling, and Wiseman’s lawyers filed for a temporary injunction that allowed Wiseman to play while the investigation continued. But the NCAA announced the 12-game suspension last month and the school lost its appeal.
“We wish nothing but the best for James in his future endeavors as he follows his dreams,” said Hardaway via statement. “He will truly be missed.”
The Tigers are 7-0 without Wiseman, a streak that includes Saturday’s 51-47 win over a nationally ranked Tennessee team.
If Hardaway had any inclination that Wiseman might leave the team, he did not offer any insight after the win over the Vols.
“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. “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.”
With the team’s success sans Wiseman and previously pending return of the projected lottery pick, Memphis seemed capable of evolving into a national title contender. The ceiling for the program, however, is lower now with Wiseman’s departure.