At­tor­ney: Tigers’ Wiseman in­el­i­gi­ble

But judge clears way for top prospect to play

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page - Mem­phis Com­mer­cial Ap­peal USA TO­DAY NET­WORK – TEN­NESSEE

James Wiseman, the top prospect in Mem­phis bas­ket­ball‘s bal­ly­hooed No. 1 re­cruit­ing class, was ruled in­el­i­gi­ble by the NCAA ear­lier this week, his Mem­phis-based at­tor­ney, Les­lie Ballin an­nounced Fri­day evening.

How­ever, in a saga that played out just be­fore the Tigers’ Fri­day night game against Illi­nois-chicago, Ballin said Wiseman was granted an in­junc­tion by a Shelby County Ju­di­cial Court judge that put the NCAA’S in­el­i­gi­bil­ity de­ci­sion on hold pend­ing fur­ther lit­i­ga­tion.

Wiseman then ar­rived at Fedex­fo­rum at 5:17 p.m., less than 45 min­utes be­fore Mem­phis was sched­uled to tip off its sec­ond game of the sea­son and was in the start­ing lineup.

Ac­cord­ing to Blake Ballin, an­other mem­ber of Wiseman’s le­gal team, the NCAA sent a let­ter deem­ing Wiseman in­el­i­gi­ble right be­fore the Tigers’ sea­son opener against South Carolina State on Tues­day. Wiseman played on Tues­day night.

At is­sue, Blake Ballin said, is coach Penny Har­d­away‘s sta­tus as a uni­ver­sity booster and thou­sands of dol­lars the NCAA al­leges Har­d­away gave to Wiseman’s mother, Don­za­leigh Ar­tis, for mov­ing ex­penses when Wiseman re­lo­cated from Nashville to Mem­phis in the sum­mer of 2017.

Ac­cord­ing to a state­ment re­leased by the Uni­ver­sity of Mem­phis Fri­day night, Har­d­away “pro­vided $11,500 in mov­ing ex­penses to as­sist the Wiseman fam­ily in their re­lo­ca­tion to Mem­phis, un­be­knownst to James.”

In con­junc­tion with that move, Wiseman went from play­ing at Nashville’s Ensworth School to Mem­phis East High School, which was coached by Har­d­away at the time. Wiseman and his fam­ily have main­tained that they moved to Mem­phis in or­der to be closer to the player’s sis­ter, who cur­rently at­tends the Uni­ver­sity of Mem­phis.

Jason Munz and Mark Gian­notto

Due to a $1 mil­lion do­na­tion made by Har­d­away in 2008 to help fund the uni­ver­sity’s Penny Har­d­away Hall of Fame, NCAA by­laws con­sider Har­d­away a booster in per­pe­tu­ity.

Wiseman filed a law­suit Fri­day against both the NCAA and the Uni­ver­sity of Mem­phis in or­der to re­store his el­i­gi­bil­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to the law­suit, be­tween Jan. 25 and May 17, the NCAA and the Uni­ver­sity of Mem­phis con­ducted a joint re­view of Wiseman’s el­i­gi­bil­ity and he re­ceived NCAA cer­tification “on or about May 29.”

The law­suit also states that “all in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing Mr. Har­d­away’s finan­cial as­sis­tance to Ms. Ar­tis and other points of in­quiry were shared with the NCAA prior to cer­tification of Mr. Wiseman’s el­i­gi­bil­ity.”

On Oct. 31, how­ever, the Uni­ver­sity of Mem­phis re­ceived a by­laws in­ter­pre­ta­tion from the NCAA al­leg­ing that “cer­tain re­cruit­ing vi­o­la­tions had taken place in or­der around the sum­mer of 2017,” ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

“Our po­si­tion is the NCAA did send a let­ter in May in­di­cat­ing that James was el­i­gi­ble to play and James re­lied on that and came to the Uni­ver­sity of Mem­phis to play,” Blake Ballin said in an in­ter­view. “I’m sure he had other op­tions, but based on that he acted and now they are try­ing to pull the rug out from un­der him.”

Ac­cord­ing to the law­suit, no­body at the Uni­ver­sity of Mem­phis had con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous knowl­edge of the finan­cial as­sis­tance pro­vided by Har­d­away to Wiseman’s fam­ily.

“Par­tic­u­larly given the unique cir­cum­stances in this case, we are hope­ful for a fair and eq­ui­table res­o­lu­tion on James’ el­i­gi­bil­ity,” uni­ver­sity pres­i­dent M. David Rudd said in a state­ment. “We sup­port James’ right to chal­lenge the NCAA rul­ing on this mat­ter.

“The Uni­ver­sity of Mem­phis has high stan­dards of eth­i­cal con­duct for all fac­ulty, staff and stu­dents, and we take se­ri­ously any al­le­ga­tions or con­duct that is not aligned with our mis­sion. We will ac­knowl­edge and ac­cept any re­spon­si­bil­ity for proven vi­o­la­tions of NCAA by­laws. The Uni­ver­sity of Mem­phis firmly sup­ports James, Coach Har­d­away and our men’s bas­ket­ball pro­gram in this mat­ter.”

Reach writer Jason Munz at [email protected]­mer­cialap­peal.com or on Twit­ter @mun­zly.

RONDONE/THE COM­MER­CIAL AP­PEAL JOE

Tigers cen­ter James Wiseman is in­tro­duced be­fore their game against the South Carolina State Bull­dogs at the Fedex­fo­rum on Tues­day.

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