Memphis v. NCAA


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James Wiseman attempts a shot over two Oregon players on Nov. 12. Wiseman and the Memphis Tigers fell to Oregon, 82-74, in what would be Wiseman’s last game before complying with his declared ineligibility.

In 2017, a tall 16-year-old moved from Nashville to Memphis to play basketball for former NBA star Penny Hardaway at East High School. Two years later, all eyes are on the now 18-year-old as he finds himself in unimaginable controversy. 

Everything looked promising for James Wiseman, the number one recruit in the nation for the Class of 2019. The NCAA deemed him eligible for the 2019-2020 season in May of 2019 but then ruled him ineligible in November, baffling the university and his fans.

“I just think they wanted to pin Memphis down on something and that was the easiest way to do it,” Rami Johnson (12) said. 

When Wiseman and his mother, Donzaleigh Artis, moved to Memphis, Hardaway allegedly gave $11,500 to Artis to help with moving costs. Additionally, Hardaway was considered a booster because of his $1 million donation to the school in 2008 towards a sports hall of fame. 

Fans like Johnson were mystified that Wiseman was ruled ineligible because Hardaway’s donation was 11 years ago and any personal involvement with the Wisemans occurred while he coached at East High School. 

“Am I considered a booster because I have season tickets for basketball and football? If I saw one of the players at McDonald’s and bought them lunch, would that make them ineligible?” chemistry teacher Crystal Davis said. “I think the NCAA needs to come into the 21st century, get rid of their old, antiquated rules and deal with it.”

Despite the ruling, Wiseman continued to play as he filed a lawsuit against the NCAA. Wiseman ultimately dropped the lawsuit and complied with the NCAA’s original ruling after ignoring it for three games. After further investigation, the NCAA announced that Wiseman would remain ineligible until Jan. 12, missing a total of 12 games. Additionally, Wiseman must donate $11,500 to a charity of his choice. 

“First of all, 12 games is crazy, because James Wiseman didn’t have any hand in this. He didn’t even know about the money until the problem came out,” Kayla Dooley (12) said. “Second of all, I don’t know how they expect a college athlete to pay $11,500. It’s not like he has time for a job outside of practice and school.” 

Although Wiseman is ineligible until January, Memphis fans along with others such as LeBron James and Patrick Mahomes stand with him against the NCAA. 

“As far as the outlook of the city of Memphis, I think that [they] will hold a grudge against the NCAA for years to come,” Johnson said.