James Wiseman may be the most dynamic freshman in the country, but questions over his eligibility are threatening to derail Memphis, the nation’s most hyped team.
The Memphis Tigers have assembled one of the most hyped recruiting classes in history, and the crown jewel of it is the nation’s top-ranked recruit, center James Wiseman. The big man put on a show in his college debut, pouring in 28 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, but now Wiseman faces questions about his eligibility.
The NCAA has declared Wiseman ineligible due to concerns over the fact that his current coach, Penny Hardaway, helped finance his family’s move to the Memphis area back in 2017.
Hardaway was still a prep coach at the time, but that financial assistance makes him the equivalent of a booster in the NCAA’s eyes, which would classify the move as impermissible benefits for Wiseman. That ruling puts the star freshman’s season in doubt, but he is still playing while his case proceeds through the courts.
Memphis attorney Leslie Ballin, who announced the NCAA’s decision, also confirmed a local judge issued an injunction against the ruling, clearing Wiseman to play games while the case is litigated further. Wiseman is in the lineup tonight for Memphis, which takes on Illinois-Chicago in a non-conference matchup.
There is certainly risk in playing Wiseman, especially since his case is still pending with the NCAA. If Wiseman loses this appeal, Memphis could face potential vacation of any wins that Wiseman helped them get, a standard practice that has been applied to similar cases in the past, including the Fab Five (retroactively) at Michigan.
On paper, it seems like Wiseman has a strong case since Hardaway was not the coach at Memphis at the time, which makes the whole thing seem silly since there is no chance it was a long con by the school to secure Wiseman’s commitment. The NCAA, which follows a set of odd and archaic rules, will likely fight this tooth and nail.