It was a good night for Memphis in the 2020 NBA Draft, with three facts anchoring that assessment.
Short-lived former University of Memphis big man James Wiseman was selected No. 2 by the Golden State Warriors.
Precious Achiuwa, who led the Tigers after Wiseman aborted his collegiate career to prepare for the NBA draft, was selected No. 20 by the Miami Heat.
With the selection of Wiseman, UofM head coach Penny Hardaway becomes the first coach to have been drafted in the first three picks as a player and then have a player he coached picked in the first three picks. Hardaway was selected third in the 1993 draft by the Golden State Warriors.
COVID-19 forced the NBA to turn the highly-anticipated draft into a mostly virtual affair. Hardaway was sitting next to Wiseman’s mom in Nashville when the selection was announced by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
During the pregame shows leading up to the draft, the University of Memphis was getting great coverage. Memphis now joins only North Carolina and Kentucky to have players selected numbers 1 through 7 in NBA Draft history.
Wiseman, who starred at East High School, where he was coached by Hardaway, only played three games for the Tigers. The NCAA suspended him for 12 games after a finding of impermissible benefits involving support Hardaway provided for the family before Hardaway became coach.
The nation’s No. 1 recruit coming out of high school, Wiseman subsequently chose to forgo the remainder of the season and get ready for the draft. The 7-foot-1 center averaged 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds in his three games for the Tigers, 28 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in 22 minutes in his Memphis debut against South Carolina State last November.
“(Coach Hardaway) taught me how to approach the game, how to study film every day,” Wiseman said on ESPN’s draft broadcast. “You have a coach that already played in the NBA. Him knowing how the NBA plays helped out my game a lot and impacted my game in a positive way.”
Achiuwa’s selection by Miami with the 20th pick was a lower choice than many had expected for the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. The 6-foot-9 forward joins a young core of players on the Heat roster. Some observers consider him a perfect fit for the scenario, with expectations that he could contribute immediately. The Heat lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2020 NBA Finals.
Achiuwa started all 31 games for the Tigers in 2019-20 and led the team with 15.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. He was one of only 16 players in the nation to average a double-double last season and the only freshman among the top 10 conferences in college basketball to do so.
“Both of those guys are well deserving of what they’re getting and where they are going in the draft,” Hardaway said. “They are both humble and ready for their opportunity. I’m very excited as someone who coached both of those kids. To see how hard they’ve worked and for that to be able to pay off is a great feeling.”
- Wiseman and Achiuwa are the 14th and 15th Tigers players selected in the first round.
- Their selections mark only the second time in the program’s history that two players were selected in the first round in the same draft.
- In 2006, Rodney Carney went No. 16 to the Chicago Bulls, with Shawne Williams selected No. 17 by the Indiana Pacers.