Top NBA draft prospect James Wiseman allowed to play by court after being ruled ineligible by NCAA

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Jack Baer
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James Wiseman was the crown jewel of Memphis' top-ranked recruiting class this year. (AP)
James Wiseman was the crown jewel of Memphis' top-ranked recruiting class this year. (AP)

A court order will allow Memphis freshman James Wiseman to continue playing college basketball in the near future, but one of the top prospects in next year’s NBA draft could be facing the end of his NCAA career.

Wiseman was ruled ineligible by the NCAA on Friday after only one game played with Memphis, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Wiseman was ranked as the top overall recruit in the Class of 2019 by Rivals and was the biggest piece of a Memphis recruiting class that was also ranked top in the nation.

The issue reportedly stems from Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway paying for Wiseman and his family’s move to Memphis during his high school career. The NCAA has apparently determined Hardaway to be a booster.

The move in question reportedly occurred in 2017, when Wiseman left Nashville for Memphis’ East High School where Hardaway worked as a coach. He also played for Hardaway’s AAU program.

Hardaway’s financial involvement with Wiseman occurred before he was ever Memphis head coach, though he is a Memphis alum and has made a significant donation to Memphis in the past, which could be why the NCAA ruled him a booster.

Judge allows Wiseman to still play

Less than an hour after it was announced Wiseman had been ruled ineligible, Memphis announced that a judge had issued a temporary restraining order that allowed the freshman to continue playing while the case is resolved.

Wiseman will suit up for a game against Illinois-Chicago on Friday, with a bigger date against No. 15 Oregon looming next week.

The Tigers conceded that Wiseman’s family indeed received $11,500 in moving expenses, but noted that Wiseman was unaware of the payments and had been ruled eligible earlier this year.

The NCAA responded with a cryptic statement, saying it had told Memphis that Wiseman is “likely ineligible.”

Memphis, ranked No. 14 in the preseason AP Poll, was considered a legitimate Final Four contender thanks to its plethora of freshman talent. Now it will have to fight to keep the player everything was built around.

James Wiseman was among NBA draft’s biggest talents

Wiseman looked like a man among boys in his first game of college basketball, dropping 28 points on 11-of-14 shooting with 11 rebounds, 3 blocks and 0 turnovers in Memphis’ season opener against South Carolina State.

Alongside names like North Carolina’s Cole Anthony, Georgia’s Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball of Australia’s National Basketball League, Wiseman is among the contenders to hear his name called first in the 2020 NBA draft.

Measuring in at 7-foot-1 and 240 pounds, Wiseman is loaded with upside and could be the next great do-everything center in the NBA. It’s unclear what options he has going forward before almost certainly entering the draft next summer.

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