James Wiseman won't have an easy time matching his college debut when the 7-1 center takes the floor Friday as 15th-ranked Memphis hosts Illinois-Chicago in a non-conference battle. Wiseman, already projected as a top five pick for next June's NBA draft, had 28 points on 11-of-14 shooting from the field, 11 rebounds and three blocks as the Tigers routed South Carolina State 97-64 on Tuesday.
"I feel no matter what program he's at, he'll take that team from one to a 10," Memphis sophomore guard Alex Lomax, who played with Wiseman in high school, told reporters. "It's pretty much him. ... We have a lot of good players. James led the way physically. We saw it, so we followed him. He made a big difference and cleaned up a lot of things that we had been doing bad lately." Tigers coach Penny Hardaway said Wiseman, who was hampered by an ankle injury in the preseason, is a luxury the way he can get up the floor at his size and finish around the rim - reminding him of the fast breaks with Shaquille O'Neal in his NBA days. "My main priority was to trust my teammates," Wiseman told reporters after his debut. "Running the floor is one of my strengths. When I do that, the floor opens up tremendously." Memphis will likely be facing a depleted UIC team that pulled out its opener 75-72 against NAIA foe Olivet Nazarene without four of its key seniors, including Horizon League preseason first-team selection Tarkus Ferguson.
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ABOUT ILLINOIS-CHICAGO (1-0): Ferguson, who averaged 15.5 points last season, was suspended for the opener due to a violation of team rules and the guard's status has not been determined going forward. Senior guard Marcus Ottey (14.8 points in 2018-19), a preseason Horizon League second-team pick, missed the opener due to injury and his status is uncertain for Friday while injured senior forwards Jordan Blount (9.3 points) and Rob Howard (6.2) are not expected to play. Senior guard Godwin Boahen led the way for the Flames in the opener with 21 points, including a decisive three-point play with 2.6 seconds remaining.
ABOUT MEMPHIS (1-0): Eight freshmen received playing time in the season opener as the consensus top recruiting class in the nation produced 80 of the 97 points, and Lomax led the upperclassmen with eight to go along with three steals. Freshman forward Precious Achiuwa contributed 14 points along with eight rebounds and Jayden Hardaway, the coach's son, added nine points on 3-of-4 shooting from the floor against South Carolina State. Guards Lester Quinones, Damion Baugh (eight assists) and Boogie Ellis all added eight points while fellow freshmen D.J. Jeffries (five points) and Ryan Boyce (one rebound) also made their debut.
1. Memphis sophomore Tyler Harris, the top returning scorer, had five points in 19 minutes Tuesday.
2. UIC junior F Michael Diggins added 11 points and a team-high five assists in the season opener.
3. The Tigers finished with 10 blocks against South Carolina State and drained 9-of-21 free throws.
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