James Wiseman deemed ineligible by NCAA, plays for Memphis anyway after judge blocks ruling

Sporting News

Memphis freshman big man James Wiseman played in the Tigers' game vs. Illinois-Chicago on Friday despite being ruled ineligible by the NCAA.

The university said (per college basketball reporter Andy Katz) that a temporary restraining order issued by a Tennessee judge allowed Wiseman to stay on the court for the time being.

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Leslie Ballin, one of Wiseman's attorneys, told reporters at a news conference (per the Memphis Commercial Appeal) that the judge in Shelby County, Tenn. (Memphis is the county seat), placed a hold on the NCAA's ruling, pending "further litigation."

A Memphis spokesman said in a prepared statement that the university "is currently working with the NCAA staff to restore his playing status, and we are hopeful for a speedy resolution to the matter."

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"We didn't know that it was going to go that way," Memphis coach Penny Hardaway told ESPNU after the game. Wiseman finished with 17 points and nine rebounds in the Tigers' 92-46 victory.

The NCAA released a statement later Friday that held Memphis responsible for allowing Wiseman to play.

Hardaway declined to comment to ESPNU about the statement, although he said earlier in the interview that the decision to allow Wiseman to play after the ruling was "up to the school."

"Obviously, James has a right to do what he did," Hardaway told ESPNU of Wiseman suiting up.

Earlier, Ballin told reporters (per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski) that the NCAA's ruling involved Memphis coach Penny Hardaway, who helped Wiseman's family move from Nashville to Memphis in 2017 while Hardaway was coaching in high school in the city. Wiseman played for Hardaway at Memphis' East High School in 2017-18, and then followed Hardaway to Memphis months after the Tigers legend took over the program in 2018.

Memphis said in its statement that Hardaway provided $11,500 in "moving expenses" to Wiseman's family without Wiseman's knowledge.

Hardaway had kept Wiseman off the court for Memphis' preseason exhibition in October; the coach told media that Wiseman was dealing with an ankle injury. Wiseman did not play during the Tigers' preseason trip to the Bahamas, either, because of a shoulder injury. Friday's announcement added the possibility that Hardaway was also holding out Wiseman over eligiblity concerns, even though Wiseman played in Memphis' season opener Nov. 5 vs. South Carolina State.

The 7-1 Wiseman is considered a high lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. He was the No. 1-ranked player in 247Sports' Class of 2019 when he committed to Memphis in November 2018.

This article has been updated with Wiseman playing on Friday, the NCAA's statement, the fact Wiseman's family moved from Nashville, and the fact Wiseman had already played for Memphis.

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