Memphis star freshman big man James Wiseman can play Friday night against Illinois-Chicago, but his longer-term status could be up in the air.
His attorney told reporters Friday afternoon that Wiseman had been ruled ineligible by the NCAA, but the university issued a statement that said he could play “based on an emergency temporary restraining order issued late today by the courts.”
Attorney Leslie Ballin said the NCAA determined that Memphis coach Penny Hardaway — before he was hired by the university — provided $11,500 to help Wiseman and his family to move from Nashville to Memphis in 2017. The assistance was unknown to Wiseman, the school said.
Hardaway, who previously coached Wiseman on the grassroots basketball circuit, coached Wiseman at East High in the 2017-18 season before taking the head coaching job with the Tigers for the 2018-19 season.
Wiseman signed a letter of intent in November 2018.
The NCAA has deemed Hardaway, a Memphis alum, a booster because he donated to the school in 2008, Ballin said. Therefore, any assistance given Wiseman or his family could be considered an impermissible benefit under NCAA rules.
“Coach Hardaway has done nothing wrong. His intentions have always been pure,” Ballin said.
Ballin filed the lawsuit on Wiseman’s behalf against the NCAA and the school, seeking relief to allow him to play.
“Please don’t mistake that for any type of friction or disagreement between Mr. Wiseman and the university,” Ballin said. “It is my understanding that the university supports Mr. Wiseman every step of the way.”
The university indeed issued a statement late Friday afternoon in support of Wiseman and Hardaway that read, in part:
“The University is currently working with the NCAA staff to restore his playing status, and we are hopeful for a speedy resolution on this matter. The University of Memphis has high standards of ethical conduct for all faculty, staff and students, and we take seriously any allegations or conduct that is not aligned with our mission. We will acknowledge and accept responsibility for proven violations of NCAA bylaws. The University of Memphis firmly supports James, Coach Hardaway and our men’s basketball program in this matter.”
Wiseman made his debut for No. 14 Memphis on Tuesday in a 97-64 win over South Carolina State, scoring 28 points with 11 rebounds and three blocks in 22 minutes. He made 11 of 14 shots from the field.
–Field Level Media