The University of Memphis men’s basketball team will be without James Wiseman until Jan. 12.
The NCAA announced Wednesday that it has suspended the five-star freshman 12 games and required him to donate an amount of money equivalent to what his family accepted from Memphis coach Penny Hardaway in 2017.
“The benefit was impermissible because of Hardaway’s status as a Memphis booster,” the NCAA statement said. “Hardaway had made donations to the school in the past, including $1 million to help build the Penny Hardaway Athletic Hall of Fame at the school. Boosters cannot provide financial assistance to prospective student-athletes, their family members or friends unless that assistance is generally available to other members of the student body and is not given based on athletics ability.”
Wiseman, who sat out wins over Little Rock and Alcorn State in the past week, has 10 more games to sit before the Jan. 12 game against South Florida. He’ll also have to pay $11,500 to a charity of his choice by the time he is done playing collegiately.
The NCAA’s repayment guidelines state that "Payment may be spread throughout the duration of a student-athlete's eligibility, but must be completed prior to the student-athlete's last regular season date of competition or contest.”
The $11,500 equals the amount that Wiseman’s mother accepted from Hardaway — a high school coach in Memphis at the time — when the Wiseman family moved from Nashville to Memphis in 2017. That was the violation that caught the NCAA’s attention. The student-athlete reinstatement guide calls for a nine-game suspension for this infraction, but the NCAA added three more games since Wiseman played in three games after being told he’d likely be ruled ineligible.
"James Wiseman ... must sit an additional 11 games (12 total) based on recruiting inducements his family received before he enrolled at Memphis and for competing in three games while ineligible," the NCAA statement said prior to Memphis' 68-58 win over Little Rock on Wednesday night.
The NCAA originally announced Wiseman’s ineligibility prior to Memphis' Nov. 8 game against Illinois-Chicago, but a Shelby County judge issued a restraining order that allowed Wiseman to play temporarily. The 7-foot-1 Wiseman averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks through three games before Memphis declared him ineligible and applied for reinstatement
"The University of Memphis was notified that James Wiseman is likely ineligible," the NCAA said in a Nov. 8 statement. "The university chose to play him and ultimately is responsible for ensuring its student-athletes are eligible to play."
Wiseman played AAU basketball for Team Penny, then moved to Memphis and played for the East High School team that Hardaway coached. Hardaway took the head job at his alma mater in the spring of 2018, then signed Wiseman as the center of his top-ranked recruiting class.
Hardaway and Memphis didn’t have much time to react before improving to 4-1 with Wednesday's win over Little Rock.
“I don’t know what else to say about it,” Hardaway said of the suspension in a postgame press conference, according to the Daily Memphian. “I feel like James should be on the floor. So, the process of what’s going on is they are in control. They make the rules. We just have to abide by them.
“We were definitely glad to find out about a number [of games suspended]. We had been waiting on that.”