James Wiseman’s Memphis Departure Is The NCAA Hustling Backwards Again


The NCAA’s outdated methods and diminishing influence over its top players has been exposed again as “The James Wiseman Era” comes to an end at Memphis after just three games.

The NCAA is hustling backwards. Instead of getting with the changing culture, loosening the reins, acknowledging legislation that has been passed allowing players to acquire monetary gain for their likeness and treating the money-makers right, the NCAA has decided to go out kicking and screaming and doubling down on its archaic and exploitative rules.

Wiseman’s hype machine never got going.

The dynamic 7-footer, who missed seven games due to a 12-game suspension stemming from an NCAA investigation, was set to return at South Florida on Jan. 12, but instead announced on Instagram on Thursday that he will leave the program, hire an agent and prepare for the 2020 NBA draft.


With the advent of the NBL and the new G-League —  who piggybacked off Lavar Ball’s JBA League — playing on a big stage in the NCAA for free just isn’t as important anymore. Now high school players who don’t want to go to college, but aren’t yet age-eligible for the NBA Draft, can make up to $100,000 while preparing for the NBA. 

I’m sure the NCAA realizes that the Top 2 players in the 2020 NBA Draft will have played a combined three games in college. They can’t be happy, but they don’t seem to care. There’s also a chance that for the first time in NBA history the Top 5 Draft picks will have never participated in an NCAA Tournament. Anthony Edwards and Georgia are the only hope. 

Melo Ball never went to college. The NCAA had a vendetta against his outspoken Dad and denied him eligibility after he went overseas to play pro ball for BC Vytautas. After a stint at Spire Institute, he’s thriving in Australia’s NBL and has risen to a projected Top 2 pick in the NBA Draft

UNC’s Cole Anthony is out for the season and should shut it down. RJ Hampton was the first high school superstar to diss college for the NBL. And now he’s ripe. 

Who Needs The Headache?

Wiseman quickly figured out that trying to fulfill his obligation to Penny by leading Memphis to a National Title wasn’t going to happen. The entire ordeal became a head sore for a guy who didn’t even need the NCAA. He was at Memphis to fulfill his one year obligation under NBA rules, put on a show, improve his brand a bit for the NBA Draft and make March Madness magical while making the NCAA millions. 

At this point, why would he risk injury and a guaranteed fortune to play and generate money for an organization that wants to portray him as a bad kid and sully his brand?

When college basketball misses out on an opportunity to market the guy who is presumed to be the No. 1 pick in this summer’s draft, limiting him to just three games and making his entire situation such a fiasco that he just shuts his college career down to prep for the NBA, it’s an obvious sign that the governing body would rather cut off its nose to spite its face. 

Look at the caliber of players that never stepped on an NCAA court because of various rules and situations that should have been worked out. 

NCAA Has Self To Blame

If college basketball is falling off as many have proclaimed (particularly the marquee matchups during the regular season) well it’s the NCAA’s own fault. 

The NCAA has been in control for so long and has made so much money off of the labor of student-athletes that it doesn’t understand the fragile state it’s in. The NCAA is in the middle of a revolutionary storm, where Black athletes are bringing intellectual heavy-duty machinery to the battle and the NCAA is still using knives and spears. 

Time For The NCAA To Show Players The Money

The NCAA lost out on a big bag. We know how much money Zion Williamson generated for Duke, TV, media and opposing teams last season. Wiseman would have garnered similar praise and attention. Instead, the NCAA decided to be a buzzkill and continue to act like it’s the only show in town. 

Now, March Madness won’t be as good. The NCAA just lost the biggest name it had to market during the tourney and all of the hoopla about he $11,500 loan from his coach and mentor means nothing. 

It’s just another example of how the NCAA, to their own demise, refuses to relinquish its suffocating and explosive grip on student-athletes

The one-and-done rule in college will probably be eliminated during the next collective bargaining agreement in 2023-24 anyway and players won’t have to consider college or a secondary pro option at all.

Those qualified will advance to the NBA as it used to be. And the NCAA will have to loosen the reigns and adjust to the changing landscape or the college game will continue lose its biggest stars and brand names.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.