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TIGER BASKETBALL: ‘Big Ticket’ James Wiseman more of a big question mark as season approaches

“It’s about to get real now.”

Those were Memphis Tigers’ head basketball coach Penny Hardaway words after a solid if not spectacular 88-63 exhibition win over Lemoyne-Owen College on Monday. He’ll take the win, but wasn’t satisfied with how his team played, giving up 23 offensive boards and 19 turnovers.

Terry Davis

“There were too many times I saw guys weren’t boxing out,” Hardaway said. “It’s about to get real now. If we don’t listen and carry that over, it’s going to hurt us in the long run.”

But for some fans who attended the game, there was a bigger question: Why isn’t James Wiseman playing? Speculation grew even hotter when some members of the media saw Wiseman working out before the LOC game. Wiseman looked healthy, and rumors began circulating that Wiseman had been ruled ineligible to play by the NCAA.

All of those rumors were put to rest after it was confirmed that Wiseman was cleared to play earlier this summer by the NCAA. Simply put, Wiseman didn’t play because of an injured ankle and the medical staff wanted to be extra careful.


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But given that he has yet to play a game with his team, Wiseman’s impact is something of a question mark, even for Hardaway.

“Obviously he’s the No. 1 player in the country coming into this season. He’s very dominant,” Hardaway said after the LOC game. “James is James. We haven’t played a game yet, so we really don’t know where he is shape-wise or how he’ll affect the game.”

But his teammates still look to him, Hardaway added.

“But he gets their respect because they know what he’s done in practice before he got injured,” he said. “Protecting the rim. Running the floor. Finishing fast breaks. He makes their job easier by being on the floor. He makes my job easier by being on the floor.”

There were many bright spots from the two exhibitions games.

Precious Achiuwa was the most impressive player. Though Hardaway didn’t like Achiuwa’s one-on-one play on offense, he still felt Achiuwa got his points during the natural flow of the offense. Achiuwa averaged 21.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in the preseason.

Boogie Ellis’ shooting stroke looks very good. D.J. Jeffries has performed solidly, as have returning guards Alex Lomax and Tyler Harris. Harris has not taken many shots, but has led the team in assists in both games. Lomax has been a calming influence on the team.

But the biggest question mark remains: When will Wiseman play?

“I hope he is (ready to play),” Hardaway said. “I’m not in his body. To see him out on the court was a great sight. And we’ll just have to go with what he and the doctor says.”

The Memphis Tigers open regular season play on Tuesday, Nov. 5 at FedExForum against the South Carolina State Bulldogs (Tipoff is at 7 p.m.). Another home game against the University of Illinois-Carbondale on Nov. 8 before a West Coast road trip to Oregon on Nov. 12.

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