The NCAA has ruled Memphis freshman James Wiseman ineligible to play this season, but the consensus top-three NBA draft pick suited up Friday when the Tigers defeated Illinois-Chicago thanks to an emergency temporary restraining order.
"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," Memphis said in a statement.
Wiseman was ruled ineligible because Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway gave $11,500 to Wiseman's family to help them move to Memphis from Nashville before he began coaching at the school, the university said in a statement, according to ESPN's Jeff Borzello. The NCAA deemed Hardaway, an alumnus of Memphis, to be a booster at the time, according to Wiseman's attorney, Leslie Ballin.
Hardaway played for the Tigers from 1991-93. Before being named as head coach in 2018, the former NBA All-Star coached Wiseman on the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League circuit. Wiseman was a centerpiece of Hardaway's stellar recruiting class this year, which also included Precious Achiuwa and DJ Jeffries.
Later Friday, the NCAA released a statement of its own.
"The University of Memphis was notified that James Wiseman is likely ineligible," the regulatory body said. "The university chose to play him and ultimately is responsible for ensuring its student-athletes are eligible to play."
Wiseman, a 7-foot, 230-pound center, was the top prospect in the 2019 ESPN100 and could be the first pick in June's NBA draft. He scored 17 points on perfect 4-for-4 shooting Friday, adding nine rebounds and five blocks.