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Memphis' James Wiseman Ruled Ineligible by NCAA, Plays Anyway After Court Order

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Memphis forward James Wiseman, the No. 1-ranked prospect in the 2019 class and potential No. 1 in the 2020 NBA draft, has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA, his lawyers said in Memphis on Friday.

However, a Shelby County court judge ruled to put a hold on the NCAA's ruling, pending further litigation, meaning that Wiseman was eligible to play Friday night when the Tigers hosted Illinois-Chicago. Wiseman finished the game with 17 points, nine rebounds and five blocks as the Tigers cruised to a 92-46 victory over Illinois-Chicago.

"The University of Memphis was notified that James Wiseman is likely ineligible," the NCAA said in a statement. "The university chose to play him and ultimately is responsible for ensuring its student-athletes are eligible to play."

Hardaway said following the victory that, “James has a right to do what he did, and we’re moving forward from it.”

In the school's statement on Friday night, Memphis said that head coach Penny Hardaway helped Wiseman and his family move to the city in 2017, paying for $11,500 in moving expenses, while the forward was still in high school. According to Wiseman's attorney Leslie Ballin, the NCAA is considering Hardaway to be a booster. 

His attorney adds that Wiseman is now suing the NCAA.

"This matter is extremely unfortunate and frustrating at this special time in our history," Memphis Director of Athletics Laird Veatch said in a statement. "We will continue to be cooperative, respectful and professional in our dealings with the NCAA, while availing ourselves of every resource in the best interests of our student-athlete, our coaching, and our University."

"We support James' right to challenge the NCAA ruling on this matter," added University of Memphis President M. David Rudd. "The University of Memphis has high standards of ethical conduct for all faculty, staff and students, and we take seriously any allegations or conduct that is not aligned with our mission."

Wiseman, a 7-footer from East High School, is the first No. 1 prospect to commit to Memphis since ESPN’s recruiting database began in 2007 and is also the first top-10 prospect to pick the Tigers since 2011. Hardaway's 2019 class was ranked No. 1 in the country. 

Hardaway had coached Wiseman on the grassroots circuit with the Team Penny/Bluff City Legends program and also coached him in high school at East.

He is expected to be among the first names called at next year's NBA draft.

Wiseman scored a game-high 28 points and added 11 rebounds in 22 minutes in Memphis' opener, a 97-64 win over SC State, on Tuesday.