The season for a top University of Memphis basketball player — and potential top pick in the NBA draft — is in jeopardy.
Hours before Memphis’ game against the University of Illinois at Chicago Friday, the NCAA ruled star center James Wiseman ineligible for the rest of the season because current head coach Penny Hardaway gave Wiseman’s family money in 2017.
An emergency temporary restraining order was issued late Friday that allowed Wiseman to play against UIC, according to a statement from the university’s athletic department. Memphis defeated UIC 92-46.
“The University is currently working with the NCAA staff to restore his playing status, and we are hopeful for a speedy resolution to the matter,” the statement read.
Wiseman was one of the top rated recruits out of high school and the consensus among sports analysts is that he will be a top pick in the 2020 NBA draft.
Wiseman didn’t know Hardaway paid for his family’s move
Hardaway donated $1 million to the university in 2008, making him a booster for life, according to CNN affiliate WMC-TV. He was named head coach in March 2018 and Wiseman committed to Memphis in November of the same year, WMC reported.
In 2017, Hardaway paid $11,500 for Wiseman and his family to move to Memphis. Wiseman did not know Hardaway helped with moving expenses, the university’s statement read.
Anyone who is identified as a “representative of the institution’s athletics interests” retains that identity forever, according to the NCAA. This is why Hardaway was made a booster for life after his donation.
The NCAA also says providing cash is an example of “impermissible recruiting activity.”
Hardaway: ‘We’re just gonna keep our guys locked in’
The NCAA said in a statement on Twitter that the University of Memphis was notified that Wiseman was ineligible.
“The university chose to play him and ultimately is responsible for ensuring its student-athletes are eligible to play,” the statement read.
Wiseman posted a picture of himself walking through a crowd of fans on Instagram late Friday.
“All Smiles!!!! God Got Me!!” the post read.
In a post-game interview Friday, Hardaway did not respond to questions about the NCAA’s statement, but said he was happy Wiseman was able to play.
“We didn’t know it was gonna go that way, and obviously it happened for us,” he said. “We’ll have to see where this goes from here.”
Hardaway said it was up to the school to allow Wiseman to play.
“We’re just gonna go about it legally moving forward,” he said. “Obviously James has a right to do what he did and we’re moving forward from it.”
As far as the rest of the season, Hardaway said the team will go forward as planned.
“He’s playing right now and we’ll just continue to go along as planned,” Hardaway said. “Our guys are young, obviously this is new for everybody and we’re just gonna keep our guys locked in.”