NCAA rules potential No. 1 pick James Wiseman ineligible; Memphis gets restraining order

Kurt Helin

NBA scouts will fill the stands in the FedEx Forum Friday night to watch the University of Memphis take on the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Why so many at what should be a tune-up, blow out game for Memphis Tigers? Because it may be their only chance — or one of just a handful of opportunities — to see potential No. 1 pick James Wiseman play this season.

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The NCAA has ruled Wiseman ineligible for this season.


Memphis basketball, however, went out and got a restraining order against the NCAA decision and so Wiseman is in uniform on Friday. How many more games he will get lace them up for Memphis remains to be seen. Wiseman played in the team’s opener on Tuesday night and had 28 points and 11 rebounds.

Memphis attorney Leslie Ballin explained what was behind the NCAA’s ruling to the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Ballin told reporters that Memphis coach Penny Hardaway helped finance Wiseman and his family’s move to Memphis in 2017. Wiseman played for Hardaway at East High in 2017-18. Hardaway, who became the Tigers’ head coach before the 2018-19 season, signed Wiseman in November 2018. The NCAA cleared Wiseman in May.

If the NCAA’s ruling ultimately does stand, it is possible Wiseman could play in the G-League for part of the season, although more likely he would just train for the draft.

Why this matters is Wiseman has the potential to be elite — he is a lock top-three pick and very possibly the No. 1 pick in the June 2020 NBA Draft. This is considered is a point-guard heavy class with Wiseman being the lone high-prospect big man, which boosts his standing.

Wiseman was ranked 37th by the basketball writers here at NBC in our “50 Best Players in Five Years” project this past summer.

Here is what College Basketball Talk’s Rob Dauster wrote about Wiseman for that project:

Wiseman has a chance to be really good. He stands 7-foot. He has the kind of length, mobility and athleticism that should allow him to thrive at the five in the modern NBA. He is a capable defender with the potential to be very, very good with some added strength and a bit of motivation. And he is skilled enough where he has the potential of one day doing all four things modern fives are asked to do – protect the rim, switch ball-screens, space the floor to the three-point line, be a lob target as a roll-man in ball-screens…

If Wiseman embraces the fact that he can be a top five center in the NBA doing the four things I listed above at an elite level, then he’ll make himself a lot of money while making some NBA GM very, very happy.

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