The drama around whether prized Memphis freshman center James Wiseman would play against NC State (5-1) was settled last week.
Rivals.com ranked Wiseman No. 1 in the class of 2019, and NBADraft.net has him at No. 2 for the upcoming draft next June. Wiseman has sat out three contests as part of a 12-game suspension due to receiving $11,500 in moving expenses from Nashville to Memphis from his former Memphis East High coach. The scenario got complicated because that East High coach is current Memphis coach Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, who was considered a Tigers’ booster at the time. The Memphis legend is entering his second year coaching his alma mater.
Memphis (5-1) plays NC State at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on ESPN2. Here is a scouting report on the Tigers.
Memphis will play the waiting game until Wiseman and freshman wing Lester Quinones are back. Quinones, who was averaging 10.3 points per game, is out three weeks with a broken hand.
Oregon proved that Memphis is vulnerable even with a complete team, beating the Tigers 82-74 on Nov. 12. That was the last contest Wiseman played. Wiseman averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game in three contests before beginning his suspension.
Ole Miss gave Memphis all it can handle in a backyard rivalry game Saturday, which the Tigers won 87-86. Freshmen Precious Achiuwa and D.J. Jeffries both showed why they were so highly regarded coming out of high school. However, sophomore guards Alex Lomax and Tyler Harris also came through with a combined 29 points and eight assists.
KenPom.com has Memphis at No. 41 in the country this season, and ESPN’s College Basketball Power Index (BPI) has the Tigers at No. 94.
The Tigers are ranked No. 63 in the old RPI formula used by the NCAA — according to RealTimeRPI.com. In the newly established NET rankings done by the NCAA, Memphis finished No. 48 in the country last year. The first NET ratings of 2019-20 should be released soon.
Three-point shooting has been problematic for Memphis, except against Illinois-Chicago when the team shot 14 of 27. Ellis was red-hot that game, going 6 of 9 from beyond the arc, but he is 3 of 19 on threes in his other five games.
Memphis is shooting 30.5 percent from three-point land and 65.9 percent at the free-throw line. Achiuwa, in particular, is just 22 of 46 at the charity stripe. Harris could be a spark off the bench, as he was against Ole Miss. He is 11 of 32 on three-pointers for 34.4 percent.
Memphis had an NBA-sized frontcourt with Wiseman, but are still pretty solid without. The 6-9 Achiuwa leads the way with 8.3 rebounds per game, and Jeffries has terrific size for a wing at 6-7 and 225 pounds. He could slide down to be a small ball power forward if Memphis wants to play Lomax, Ellis and freshman guard Damion Baugh together on the perimeter.
Memphis is averaging 42.2 rebounds per game, though that number is skewed from when Wiseman playing three contests. Ole Miss dinged Memphis for 16 offensive rebounds, with both teams grabbing 38 overall.
Memphis is allowing 65.3 points per game. Opposing teams are shooting 36.6 percent from the field and 31.9 percent on three-pointers. The Tigers are averaging 9.8 steals per game and 6.8 blocks a contest. Ole Miss shot 39.4 percent from the field but were 12 of 27 on three-pointers for 44.4 percent.
Senior Isaiah Maurice and Louisville post transfer Lance Thomas combined for four blocks against Mississippi, which is an encouraging sign at center. The duo are allowing Memphis to redshirt freshman center Malcolm Dandridge, who played with Wiseman and Lomax in high school.
The suspension of Wiseman and injury to Quinones definitely have cut into Memphis’ depth. The Tigers have increased the minutes of Lomax, who responded with 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in the win over Ole Miss. Lomax, who played for Hardaway in high school and traveling team basketball, is averaging 8.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 22.0 minutes per game.
Thomas, a redshirt sophomore center, and Harris also come off the bench. Harris is tiny at 5-9 and 150 pounds, but he averaged 10.8 points per game last year, and is contributing 8.2 a contest this season despite a decline in minutes.
Achiuwa was the prime priority for East Coast college programs like Connecticut or St. John’s, the latter where his brother God’sgift Achiuwa played from 2011-2014. Instead, Memphis won out for the McDonald’s All-American and member of the World Team in the Nike Hoop Summit.
Rivals.com ranked him No. 17 overall in the country coming out of Montverde (Fla.) Academy. He previously played at Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict’s with Quinones, and the two were teammates on New Heights traveling team.
The 6-9, 225-pounder is averaging 20.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game in the three contests that Wiseman has missed. He had a career-high 25 points to go along with 11 rebounds in the win over Ole Miss. NBADraft.net has Achiuwa slotted for No. 19 in the upcoming NBA Draft in June.
The one area Achiuwa has struggled with is at the free-throw line, and he gets there often (7.7 attempts per game). Achiuwa is 22 of 46 for just 47.8 percent. He also hasn’t made a three-pointer this season.
PG — 11 Markell Johnson (6-1, 175, Sr., 10.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 6.8 apg, 1.6 spg)
SG — 13 C.J. Bryce (6-5, 210, 5th-Sr., 17.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.7 apg, 2.0 spg)
G — 10 Braxton Beverly (6-0, 180, Jr., 9.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.3 apg)
PF — 4 Jericole Hellems (6-7, 205, Soph., 9.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.2 spg)
C — 15 Manny Bates (6-11, 230, R-Fr., 7.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.3 apg, 3.7 bpg)
PG — 10 Damion Baugh (6-3, 185, Fr., 4.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1.3 spg)
SG — 5 Boogie Ellis (6-3, 175, Fr., 8.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.5 apg, 2.7 spg)
SF — D.J. Jeffries (6-7, 225, Fr., 14.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.2 spg, 1.5 bpg)
PF — 55 Precious Achiuwa (6-9, 225, Fr., 15.0 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.2 spg)
C — 14 Isaiah Maurice (6-10, 224, Sr., 2.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 0.0 apg, 1.2 bpg)
Numbers To Note
1: Victories for Memphis against NC State in four previous meetings. The Tigers and star center Keith Lee won 57-53 in Raleigh on Jan. 23, 1983. The Wolfpack went on to win the national title later that year.
51: Prep ranking by Rivals.com for Jeffries, a former Kentucky commitment. He is averaging 17.7 points per game without Wiseman.
21,657: Combined NBA points for Hardaway (10,684) and assistant coach Mike Miller (10,973).
Game Within The Game: Memphis guard Boogie Ellis vs. NC State guard Braxton Beverly
Ellis was expected to get numerous chances against NC State, but only in a Duke uniform. The San Diego, Calif., product was the rare prospect to have NC State, North Carolina and Duke all offer him. He was ranked No. 37 overall recruit in the country by Rivals.com.
The 6-3, 175-pounder signed with Duke and enjoyed a strong senior year at Mission Bay High. He elected to ask out of his letter of intent from Duke on May 2, and Memphis moved quickly to secure his commitment.
Ellis was expected to play both guard positions and provide outside shooting for the Tigers this winter. However, he’s been a little off from deep and is shooting 32.1 percent on three-pointers. He erupted for the six three-pointers and 22 points against Illinois-Chicago, but has been 7 of 30 from the field ever since.
NC State junior guard Braxton Beverly is also streaky from outside. The 6-0, 180-pounder has never shot better than 40 percent from the field at NC State, but is making 40.6 percent of his three-pointers this season (38.3 percent from the field overall). Beverly will likely guard Ellis and Harris throughout the game Thursday.