Friday, November 8, 2019

Wiseman Declared Ineligible (But Plays in Tiger Win)

Posted By on Fri, Nov 8, 2019 at 9:47 PM

Do unicorns exist if they're declared ineligible by the NCAA?
click to enlarge James Wiseman - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • James Wiseman

In a late-afternoon bombshell — first dropped in a press conference called by attorney Leslie Ballin — University of Memphis freshman center James Wiseman was declared ineligible to play for having accepted moving expenses in 2017 from current Tiger coach Penny Hardaway. (At the time of the alleged transaction, Hardaway coached at East High School in Memphis, where Wiseman played after settling in the Bluff City.) A court injunction filed by Ballin — representing Wiseman's family — allowed Wiseman to play in Friday's game against UIC at FedExForum. The country's top-ranked freshman scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a 92-46 win for 14th-ranked Memphis. He will remain eligible to play at least until a hearing on the case (scheduled for November 18th) confirms or rejects the NCAA's ruling.

An excerpt from a U of M press release summarizes the case against Wiseman:

Initially, after a joint standard eligibility review by the University and the NCAA, as is common for all high-profile incoming student-athletes, James was declared eligible by the NCAA in May 2019. However, based on information that necessitated a deeper investigation, the University began to work alongside the NCAA in investigating the matter. After several months of interviews and, after a review of documentation, it was determined that in the summer of 2017, while James was a high school student and prospective student-athlete, Penny Hardaway provided $11,500 in moving expenses to assist the Wiseman family in their relocation to Memphis, unbeknownst to James.

In opening his postgame press conference, Tiger coach Penny Hardaway announced he couldn't discuss details about his star player. "As much as you guys want to ask me about James," said Hardaway, "I have to be silent on that, because it's an ongoing process. I wish I could talk about it."

Freshmen D.J. Jeffries (14 points off the bench) and Boogie Ellis (game-high 22 points) met with reporters before their coach and also made it clear they couldn't discuss Wiseman's case with the NCAA. When asked how the Tigers would perform if Wiseman were, say, injured, Ellis said, "We got guys who would step up if we were without him." Said Jeffries "[Wiseman] helped all of us; he was a big piece tonight."

Hardaway emphasized, more than once, that today's news "is what it is." He emphasized the need for his young team to "block out the noise. Things are gonna be said everywhere, but we have to stay focused on what we're doing."
click to enlarge Penny Hardaway - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Penny Hardaway

In hitting six of nine three-point attempts, Ellis stole a measure of spotlight from Wiseman in a game that amounted to 40 minutes of somewhat-pleasant distraction for the crowd of 15,923. Precious Achiuwa added 10 points and Tyler Harris — a grizzled sophomore — scored 11 points and drained three treys himself. Lester Quinones contributed six points and six assists and Alex Lomax scored nine points and handed out five assists.

"We have some tough games coming up," said Hardaway. "The next one [Tuesday night against 15th-ranked Oregon in Portland] is the toughest yet. We have to stay locked in." Hardaway suggested that Wiseman will play against the Ducks. Should he later be confirmed ineligible by the NCAA, the Tigers will be forced to vacate any wins earned with him on the floor. [NOTE: Look up Derrick Rose and the "0-40" 2007-08 season.]

The Tigers' next home game will be a matinee (1 p.m. tip-off) against Alcorn State on November 16th.

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