NCAA says Memphis’ James Wiseman ineligible, judge puts a hold on ruling

Rob Dauster

The NCAA has ruled Memphis freshman forward/center James Wiseman ineligible to play this season, according to his lawyers.

The reason for the ruling is that Penny Hardaway, then the head coach at East High School in Memphis, paid $11,500 to help Wiseman and his family relocate from Nashville in the summer of 2017, before his junior season in high school. That was when Wiseman started playing for Penny’s AAU team, the aptly named Team Penny. It was in the spring of 2018 that Penny was hired as the head coach of the Tigers. Wiseman, according to the school, was unaware of the money that Penny paid.

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According to the NCAA, Penny qualified as a booster for the Memphis program at the time because of a donation that he made to the program in 2008, thus the ineligibility ruling, which means that the decision is pretty clear cut. When you remove the names from the situation, a Memphis booster paid for an elite recruit to move to Memphis and then that elite recruit subsequently enrolled at Memphis.

Complicating matters here is the fact that, according to this story from the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Penny did not disclose the payments that he made to Wiseman’s family when he accepted the Memphis head coaching position.

But there’s another twist. A judge has put a hold on the NCAA’s ruling pending further litigation after Memphis filed a restraining order, which means that Wiseman should be allowed to play tonight against Illinois-Chicago. That game tips off at 7:00 p.m. ET. He arrived at the arena roughly 45 minutes before tip-off. As of 5:50 p.m. ET, he was still in court filing an injunction.

What a time to be alive.

Wiseman is a five-star recruit that entered the 2019-2020 season as one of the top 2020 NBA Draft prospects, with many experts projecting him as possibly going No. 1 overall. In his debut, Wiseman posted 28 points and 11 rebounds in the Tigers’ season-opening win against South Carolina State on Tuesday.

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