James Wiseman cried every night during ‘heartbreaking’ eligibility battle with NCAA at Memphis

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Speaking for the first time since leaving Memphis, James Wiseman opened up about his tumultuous battle with the NCAA and his preparation for the draft.
Speaking for the first time since leaving Memphis, James Wiseman opened up about his tumultuous battle with the NCAA and his preparation for the NBA draft. (Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

James Wiseman’s time at Memphis didn’t go as planned.

Wiseman lasted just three games with the Tigers this season before a lengthy, tumultuous eligibility battle with the NCAA — which resulted in him leaving the program to focus on his professional career.

Wiseman told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Friday in his first interview since leaving school that he cried every night in his dorm during his suspension and battle with the NCAA, something he described as “heartbreaking.”

“I was really in the middle of a hurricane,” Wiseman said, via ESPN. “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.”

Wiseman on NCAA’s ruling: ‘It was unfair’

Wiseman was suspended for 12 games in November after his family accepted $11,500 from Memphis coach Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway in 2017 to help with moving expenses, before Hardaway was the coach at Memphis. Due to Hardaway’s connection to the school and status as a booster, the NCAA deemed it a violation.

Shortly after the NCAA ruled him ineligible, Wiseman filed a lawsuit that allowed him to play until his case was heard. He later dropped that suit, and the NCAA’s suspension kicked in. That suspension also included a fine of $11,500, which the NCAA wanted him to donate to a charity of his choice.

Instead of serving that suspension, however, Wiseman decided to leave Memphis, sign with an agent and begin training for the NBA draft in June — where many expect the 7-foot-1 center to be one of the first few off the board.

He averaged 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds for the Tigers.

“I wanted to have a great collegiate career,” Wiseman said, via ESPN. “I wanted to win a national championship. 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.

“I felt it was unfair because they notified and alerted me at the last minute. Coach Penny told me about it. I was really down and shocked. When I got suspended for 12 games and had to play back the money, that was kind of surreal. I didn’t really have any knowledge of [the violation] or all the ramifications behind it.”

As for the fine the NCAA implemented, Wiseman said he was shocked — especially because he didn’t really have any way to pay that back.

“I couldn’t use any outside sources,” Wiseman said, via ESPN. “I had to get [the money] on my own, and that was pretty impossible because I didn’t have the money. I was just a regular college student.”

Preparing for the NBA

Despite his brief college career, Wiseman told ESPN that he is now working out twice a day in Miami in order to get ready for the upcoming draft.

“I’m trying to gain some weight and keep my body healthy,” Wiseman said, via ESPN. “I study a lot of film. Anthony Davis. Dirk Nowitzki. Karl-Anthony Towns. A lot of players who can shoot the ball at my height. I’m working on my shooting mechanics, trying to get my shot right.”

Though some believe his issue with the NCAA and shortened time with Memphis may hurt his draft stock, Wiseman doesn’t think that’s the case.

“I truly expect [to go No. 1 overall],” he said, via ESPN. “I trust in myself, in terms of my game and my skill level. I’ve just got to keep working, keep grinding every day.”

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