Top College Basketball Recruit Deemed Ineligible by NCAA

james wiseman

Getty James Wiseman.

The number-one recruit in the college basketball class of 2019 may not see the floor again at the NCAA level. On Thursday, Memphis center James Wiseman, who has been under the microscope of a possible recruiting scandal, withdrew his lawsuit against the NCAA, deeming him ineligible.

Wiseman was initially ruled inelegible on November 5, but the lawsuit filed made it possible for him to play for Memphis while the issue was being resolved. But it appears Wiseman and Memphis have undergone a change of course. Wiseman is hoping the NCAA will give him a fair ruling and felt the best way to make that happen was to withdraw his lawsuit.

The case stems from a 2017 payment by Penny Hardaway, the current coach of Memphis who was coaching the Memphis East High School varsity team at the time, to Wiseman’s mother. Wiseman and his family were living in Nashville at the time but moved to Memphis before his junior year of high school.

In addition to Memphis being under the microscope, the ruling could result in East High forfeiting the state title it won in basketball during the 2017-18 season as well. The decision is based on the TSSAA ruling Wiseman and fellow Memphis recruit Ryan Boyce both ineligible for that season. This ruling would force Memphis East to forfeit all its games in which the two played.

The Next Step

Wiseman now enters a waiting process in which the NCAA will review his case and will then decide whether to reinstate the star player or potentially suspend him with possible sanctions against Memphis.

During this time, Wiseman will still be eligible to practice with the Tigers but cannot participate in games. The Tigers, currently ranked 13th in the country, will take a big blow without their starting center available for tough non-league matchups on the horizon against Tennessee, NC State, and Ole Miss.

In three games with the Tigers, Wiseman averaged 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds as he was quickly adjusting to life in college basketball. He is currently projected as a top-three pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Another Memphis Scandal?’

Memphis basketball has experienced a huge run of success over recent years, even making it as far as the National Championship game in 2008 led by future NBA MVP Derrick Rose and legendary coach John Calipari.

But that 2008 season has become a black mark on the program, which had its 38-2 record vacated over recruiting violations regarding Rose. The Educational Testing Service reviewed Rose’s SAT and marked his exam as invalid, though Rose himself says he was not in the wrong. Regardless, the team’s best season, as well as the money the school received from playing the NCAA tournament, were both forfeited.

It was the second-such scandal for Calipari, who was also forced to partially vacate a 35-2 season for the University of Massachusetts in 1996 because of star forward Marcus Camby accepting improper gifts from agents. This resulted in over $100,000 in lost revenue for the school and the vacating of its Final Four appearance with a record reduced to 31-1.