Potential 2020 No. 1 NBA Draft Pick James Wiseman Ruled Ineligible at Memphis

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistNovember 8, 2019

James Wiseman in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht)
Karen Pulfer Focht/Associated Press

The lawyers for University of Memphis center James Wiseman announced Friday that he has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Memphis attorney Leslie Ballin added that a Shelby County court judge placed a hold on the NCAA's ruling, however, meaning Wiseman can play Friday night against the Illinois-Chicago Flames, per Jason Munz and Mark Giannotto of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

After Friday's win, head coach Penny Hardaway told reporters Wiseman will continue to play while the process plays out.

According to Sudu Upadhyay of WMC Action News 5, Ballin said Hardaway financed Wiseman and his family's move to Memphis while Wiseman was in high school, and although it occurred before Hardaway became the head coach at Memphis, the NCAA has labeled him a booster.

Wiseman was rated as the No. 1 overall player in the 2019 recruiting class by 247Sports and is considered a candidate to go No. 1 overall in the 2020 NBA draft.

In Memphis' 97-64 season-opening win over South Carolina State on Tuesday, Wiseman scored a game-high 28 points and added 11 rebounds in 22 minutes.

According to Giannotto, the NCAA ruled Wiseman eligible in May only to reverse course and deem him ineligible Tuesday. As a result, Wiseman is suing the NCAA.

The 7'1", 240-pound Wiseman began his high school career at Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee, before attending Memphis East in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2017. Wiseman transferred after playing for Hardaway's Team Penny in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League.

Wiseman was initially ruled ineligible to play at Memphis East, since Hardaway was an assistant coach at the school and their relationship was deemed a "coach link." The decision was overturned, however, because the rule was "not clear in its application."

Hardaway was hired as the head coach at Memphis in March 2018, and he secured a commitment from Wiseman shortly thereafter.

After going 22-14 and reaching the second round of the NIT in Hardaway's first season at the helm, Memphis entered the 2019-20 season as the No. 14-ranked team in the nation. That was largely based on the fact that 247Sports had Memphis No. 1 in the 2019 recruiting class rankings with two 5-star commitments (including Wiseman) and five 4-star commitments.

If the hold expires and Wiseman does eventually get banned from playing, fellow 5-star freshman Precious Achiuwa is the top candidate to step into the role of go-to guy for Memphis after registering 14 points and eight boards against South Carolina State.

Forwards Lance Thomas and D.J. Jeffries also figure to play a bigger role after coming off the bench in the opener.

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