In a news conference on Friday afternoon, Memphis attorney Leslie Ballin announced that the NCAA had ruled James Wiseman — the No. 1 player in ESPN’s 2019 high school basketball recruiting class — ineligible to play at the University of Memphis this season.
The ruling from the NCAA is based on the belief that Memphis Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway acted as a booster for the University of Memphis when he gave Wiseman and his family financial assistance for their move to Memphis in 2017, the year Wiseman transferred from Ensworth in Nashville to East High in Memphis, where Hardaway was coaching at the time. Hardaway was named the Memphis head coach in March of 2018. Hardaway also gave money to the University of Memphis — his alma mater — in 2008, which the NCAA ruled made him a booster for the school.
Breaking news: High profile Memphis attorney Leslie Ballin says the NCAA has ruled James Wiseman ineligible to play. He says Penny Hardaway helped finance Wiseman and his family’s move to Memphis back in high school. The NCAA has deemed Penny a booster.
— Sudu Upadhyay (@SuduUpadhyay) November 8, 2019
It was a disappointing development for Wiseman, who is projected to be one of the top picks in the 2020 NBA Draft. But then, not even an hour later, Ballin told Shams Charania of The Athletic that Wiseman is eligible again, making the situation more confusing than it already was.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 8, 2019
Wiseman will take the court when the Tigers take on the UIC Flames on Friday night, despite the announcement and the NCAA’s ruling. Wiseman was granted permission to play with the Tigers on Friday because of an emergency temporary restraining order that will put off — not reverse — the NCAA’s ruling. Ballin has already filed a lawsuit challenging the ruling on behalf of Wiseman. A full hearing is expected to take place at a later date.
The University of Memphis expressed their support for Wiseman and Hardaway in a statement released on Friday. The University of Memphis will be a defendant in the hearing between Wiseman’s representation and the NCAA.
— Andy Katz (@TheAndyKatz) November 8, 2019
So while Wiseman will make his NCAA regular season debut for the Tigers on Friday, it could very well be one of the only games he plays for Memphis. As many noted, scouts will intently watch Wiseman for fear he may not have many games to show NBA teams what he can do.
NBA scouting eyes will ALL be on Wiseman tonight now since it is not clear how many more games he will remain eligible to play after this one tonight at FedEx Forum against Illinois-Chicago
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) November 8, 2019
Suffice to say, it will be a situation worth keeping an eye on, though Hardaway and Wiseman are unlikely to say much to reporters about the situation following Friday night’s game.