Over the weekend, the University of Memphis found itself in a tough spot: play top basketball prospect James Wiseman, or keep him out?
The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports that the NCAA had deemed Wiseman ineligible for competition this week, but regardless he suited up and played in the Tigers’ second game of the season Friday night, a 92-46 win over Illinois-Chicago.
Memphis had the backing of a Shelby County Chancery Court Judge, who Friday granted an immediate temporary restraining order that will put Wiseman’s case on hold, pending further litigation.
Still, the NCAA held firm in its position.
NCAA statement on James Wiseman: pic.twitter.com/B4hClOQxMj— Inside the NCAA (@InsidetheNCAA) November 9, 2019
The situation is related to Memphis coach Penny Hardaway’s status as a university booster, and money the NCAA alleges Hardaway gave to Wiseman’s mother to help with moving expenses in the summer of 2017.
A statement released by the school said that in the summer of 2017, prior to when Hardaway was named the school’s basketball coach, he “provided $11,500 in moving expenses to assist the Wiseman family in their relocation to Memphis, unbeknownst to James.”
Wiseman, a high schooler at the time, went on to play for Memphis East High School, which was then coached by Hardaway.
The Commercial Appeal reports that Hardaway’s status as a booster is complicating the issue. Hardaway gave the school a $1 million donation in 2008 to help fund the Penny Hardaway Hall of Fame, and NCAA bylaws consider him to be a booster in perpetuity.
After being deemed ineligible, Wiseman filed a suit Friday against both the NCAA and the university to immediately restore his eligibility. The suit claims that a joint review by the NCAA and the university of Wiseman’s eligibility found that he was eligible, and the financial assistance Hardaway had provided was made known to the NCAA prior to Wiseman’s eligibility certification.
The suit goes on to claim that the NCAA later sent a notice of inquiry to Memphis, claiming that Wiseman had been “certified in error.”
“Our position is the NCAA did send a letter in May indicating that James was eligible to play and James relied on that and came to the University of Memphis to play,” Blake Ballin, Wiseman’s attorney, told the Commercial Appeal. “I’m sure he had other options, but based on that he acted and now they are trying to pull the rug out from under him.”
A hearing on the temporary injunction is reportedly scheduled for Nov. 18.