James Wiseman's ESPN interview reinforces he was failed by the adults around him | Giannotto
There he was Friday night, back on our television screens and back in our lives, dunking in highlights wearing a Memphis Tigers jersey and wearing a Memphis Tigers T-shirt during workouts.
There James Wiseman was, sitting on a couch with the Miami skyline in the background, an 18-year-old trying for the first time to explain to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski a decision that was ultimately made for him.
That Wiseman cited an inability to pay $11,500 back to charity and health concerns as the reasons for leaving the Memphis basketball program in December rang hollow. They were hard to believe, and not just because they didn’t seem true.
It was hard to believe because Wiseman never actually made this decision. It was made by all the adults around him in this situation, and Friday’s ESPN interview only reinforced how badly those adults failed him.
Wiseman’s decision to leave was made for him by Penny Hardaway, the moment Hardaway decided to give Wiseman’s mother $11,500 for moving expenses in the summer of 2017.
Whether you agree that Hardaway should be considered a Memphis booster or not — and the NCAA rules make it pretty cut-and-dry that he is — that $11,500 was an impermissible benefit that put Wiseman’s NCAA eligibility in jeopardy as soon as Wiseman’s mother received it.
Hardaway should have known the rules, even if he wasn’t a college coach yet, because he was advising college prospects.
Wiseman’s decision to leave was also made for him by his mother, Donzaleigh Artis, because she decided to take that money when her son was already considered one of the top basketball prospects in the country.
She should have known the rules at that point, or at least been aware of the predicament this could potentially put her son in.
Wiseman's decision to leave was made for him by the University of Memphis administrators who allowed Hardaway to recruit Wiseman given all of this, or didn't want to know about all this.
They should have known the precarious spot the program now finds itself in could have been prevented.
Wiseman’s decision to leave was made for him by the NCAA and its nonsensical rulebook, which is enforced selectively, and its outdated approach to amateurism, which won’t allow high-profile prospects like Wiseman to profit off their name, image and likeness.
The organization should have known these rules needed to be changed long ago, for the sake of sports that could use all the stars they can get.
Wiseman’s decision to leave was made for him by the family members and advisers surrounding him once the NCAA levied its punishment, once he was forced to sit out 12 games, and once he decided to bolt for the NBA with only a few weeks remaining before he could play college basketball again.
His agent, or his mother, or his sister, or whoever else was involved in this, should have known the decision to leave like Wiseman did would turn him into a polarizing figure. They should have known that this decision would take Wiseman farther away from what he actually wanted to do.
“I just wanted to get on the court so much,” he said Friday night, “because I just love the game of basketball.”
All of these people should have known this wasn’t going to help his draft stock because after Wiseman’s interview aired on ESPN, there was the latest 2020 NBA mock draft. And there was Wiseman, once the No. 1 prospect in the country, listed at No. 2.
There was Wojnarowski telling the country that teams interested in drafting Wiseman will need an explanation as to why he left Memphis.
And Wiseman shouldn’t tell those NBA executives he left because he couldn’t pay the $11,500 back or because he was concerned about his health. Because that’s not what happened here.
He should tell them this was a decision made by the adults around him, and they failed.
You can reach Commercial Appeal columnist Mark Giannotto via email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: @mgiannotto