Wiseman leads No. 14 Memphis against UIC
During his All-Star days in the NBA, Penny Hardaway had the luxury of playing with a young Shaquille O'Neal, who had the bounce to reach anything thrown near him and the power to slam it home against anyone.
Hardaway thinks he's now coaching the next Shaq in 7-1 freshman James Wiseman, who made a smashing debut Tuesday night with 28 points and 11 rebounds in just 22 minutes of Memphis' 97-64 rout of South Carolina State.
Wiseman, who some predict will be the top overall pick in June's NBA Draft, aims for an encore Friday night when the 14th-ranked Tigers (1-0) host Illinois-Chicago (1-0) at FedEx Forum.
"Just the first few plays, you saw it," Hardaway said. "It was amazing watching him running the floor and (teammates) throwing it towards the rim and him finishing. That's such a huge luxury.
"I had that in the NBA when I was with Shaq. I know how that feels as a guard to put (the basketball) anywhere near the rim and him go get it and you get an assist from it."
Wiseman needed just 14 field goal attempts to get to 28 points, draining 11. He displayed a good touch at the foul line, sinking 6 of 7, and also blocked three shots. Not bad for someone who missed both of Memphis' exhibition games with an ankle injury.
His point of emphasis in the season opener was simple.
"My main priority was to trust my teammates," Wiseman said. "Running the floor is one of my strengths. When I do that, the floor opens tremendously."
While Wiseman is this team's fulcrum, he's hardly their only weapon. Another freshman, Precious Achiuwa, added 14 points and eight boards in the opener. And still another frosh, guard Damion Baugh, chipped in eight points and eight assists.
While the Tigers cruised, Illinois-Chicago needed a three-point play from senior Godwin Boahen with 2.6 seconds left Tuesday night to defeat NAIA opponent Olivet Nazarene 75-72. Boahen scored 19 second-half points for the Flames, who were picked to finish third in the Horizon League.
UIC returns 99.6 percent of its scoring and 99.2 percent of its minutes from last year's team, although preseason all-league guard Tarkus Ferguson sat out the opener. The Flames did flash nice balance in the opener, with four players scoring in double figures.
"This group of eight guys went out and fought really hard," UIC coach Steve McClain said. "I was proud of how they stayed together at the end. Once we get all our pieces back, we have a lot of nice pieces."
This will be the first meeting between UIC and Memphis.
--Field Level MediaHome