MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis Tigers Head Basketball Coach Penny Hardaway is sharing his support for superstar James Wiseman.
It was a somewhat subdued Hardaway who met the media Friday afternoon at the U of M’s practice facility.
Hardaway says he had spoken to his pre-season All American during the week, but didn't get the definitive word Wiseman is leaving until, like the rest of us, he checked his phone Thursday.
While it’s a definite blow to U of M Basketball, Hardaway says he was surprised, but not shocked by the Freshman’s decision.
Hardaway had coached Wiseman, a Nashville native, on his summer AAU program, and financially helped Wiseman's family move to Memphis before his junior year in high school so Wiseman could join Hardaway at East High School, where Penny was then the Head Coach of the Mustangs in 2017.
Once Penny got the job at Memphis, and Wiseman later signed to play for the Tigers, the NCAA determined that previous financial aid to be illegal "extra benefit.” That’s because Hardaway was deemed a U of M booster for his $1 million donation to the school 10 years ago.
The NCAA ruled Wiseman ineligible, and hit him with a 12-game suspension. Wiseman had only played three games for the Tigers.
Hardaway says he doesn't think Wiseman would leave if he hadn't been forced to sit so many games.
"He came the other day, and was like, 'I want to pursue my pro career.' Obviously sitting out 12 games, I can't imagine sitting out 12 games for something that he didn't do, and we feel like he shouldn't have ever sat out of. You never know what a goes through a kid's mind for that amount of time. Obviously I didn't want it to happen, but we support him a 100 percent. That basic. I wasn't happy about it, but I'm with James. I've been with James from the very beginning since he stepped in the city. I'm with him now, and I'm still going to be with him,” said Hardaway.
Wiseman is expected to sign with an agent soon, making him a professional athlete.