Memphis basketball star James Wiseman — at one point Kentucky’s top recruiting target — has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA, it was announced Friday night.

Wiseman, a freshman center at Memphis and the possible No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA draft, was held out of the Tigers’ exhibition season but did play in the team’s season opener against South Carolina State on Tuesday night, recording 28 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots in Memphis’ 97-64 victory.

The No. 1 recruit in the 2019 class, Wiseman was the first player from that group to land a scholarship offer from Kentucky, which appeared to be the clear leader in his recruitment until Memphis hired Penny Hardaway — Wiseman’s mentor and coach — to be their head coach before last season. Wiseman ultimately committed to the Tigers.

The 7-footer had moved from his hometown of Nashville to Memphis to play for Hardaway — who was already his Nike league coach — at Memphis East High School. Wiseman and Hardaway teamed up to win a state championship in Wiseman’s junior year, then Hardaway took the Memphis job.

Attorneys representing Wiseman told reporters Friday that the NCAA ruled that Hardaway helped Wiseman financially while in high school, and that led to his ineligibility ruling.

Memphis will appeal the ruling, and the school announced Friday that Wiseman would play in the Tigers’ game that night after a local court granted an “emergency temporary restraining order” to keep him on the court.


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