5:17 PM ET
Jeff BorzelloESPN Staff Writer
- Basketball recruiting insider.
- Joined ESPN in 2014.
- Graduate of University of Delaware.
Memphis freshman James Wiseman has been suspended 12 games by the NCAA and will be eligible to play on Jan. 12 against South Florida. He has another 10 games of the suspension to serve after sitting out for Wednesday’s win over Little Rock and Saturday’s win over Alcorn State.
Memphis announced that it will appeal the NCAA’s decision based on “case precedent, the circumstances of this case and other mitigating factors.”
“We expect a more fair and equitable resolution, and we will exhaust all avenues on James’ behalf. James will not compete in this evening’s contest,” the school said in a statement.
The punishment stems from two violations: Wiseman’s mother accepting $11,500 from Penny Hardaway in the summer of 2017, and Wiseman playing in three games this season while he was ineligible.
After the NCAA announced its decision, Wiseman posted a message on his social media accounts: “God has never left me nor forsake me throughout this process…Trust God, Keep the Faith, Stay the Course.” He watched Wednesday’s game from the bench.
“I don’t really know what else to say about it,” Hardaway said after the 16th-ranked Tigers’ 68-58 win over Little Rock. “I mean, I don’t know what you want me to say. I feel like James should be on the floor. So the process of what’s going on — they’re in control. They (the NCAA) make the rules, so we just have to abide by them.”
Hardaway said he didn’t talk about the situation with his team and that two of Wiseman’s teammates, DJ Jeffries and Precious Achiuwa, both said they were unaware of the NCAA ruling, at least prior to the game.
“We were definitely glad to find out a number. We had been waiting on that,” Hardaway said, adding, “It is what it is right now. It has taken on a life of its own. I’m sure they will see it later.”
The NCAA initially declared Wiseman eligible in May, but further investigation found documentation of Hardaway’s payment to Wiseman’s family in 2017. Memphis said Wiseman had no knowledge of the payment, which was used as moving expenses when Wiseman’s family moved from Nashville to Memphis. At the time, Hardaway was the head coach at East High School (Tennessee) and ran the Team Penny grassroots program. Wiseman had played for Team Penny and would enroll at East High School.
Hardaway, a Memphis alum, was considered a booster due to a $1 million donation he gave the school in 2008 to build a sports hall of fame. He became the head coach of Memphis in the spring of 2018, replacing Tubby Smith. Wiseman ultimately committed to Memphis over Kentucky in November 2018, headlining the Tigers’ No. 1-ranked recruiting class.
Wiseman was ruled ineligible earlier this month, but a Shelby County judge issued a restraining order allowing Wiseman to play. Wiseman would play in two more games before Memphis declared him ineligible and decided to withhold him from competition. The freshman star also withdrew the lawsuit against the NCAA he filed after being ruled ineligible. Memphis then applied for his reinstatement by the NCAA.
In addition to the suspension, the NCAA said Wiseman must donate the $11,500 to a charity of his choice.
According to the NCAA’s repayment guidelines, “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 No. 1 ranked prospect in the 2019 class and the projected No. 1 pick in June’s NBA draft, Wiseman averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in the three games he played.
Caesars moved Memphis from 40/1 to 20/1 to win the national title after news that Wiseman will be reinstated in mid-January.
Memphis (4-1) hosts Ole Miss (4-0) in its next game on Saturday.