Penny Hardaway: ‘We support James on everything’

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — One day ahead of their matchup with Alcorn State, Tigers coach Penny Hardaway and a couple of Tigers players spoke with the media Friday.

But the main topic of discussion was James Wiseman. The talented freshman was declared ineligible by the University of Memphis on Thursday, as the school works toward a resolution with the NCAA, which last week said Wiseman was likely ineligible to play.

One day after the school ruled Wiseman ineligible and then immediately applied for his reinstatement, school officials continue to feel optimistic that he’ll play in blue and gray once again.

The optimism centers around how unique of a situation this is — there’s no precedent for this combination that Hardaway and Wiseman bring to the table, and that’s why everyone involved is thinking there could be a mutually beneficial solution between the University of Memphis and the NCAA.

“We support James on everything,” Hardaway said. “We obviously understand the difficulty for an 18-year-old to be going through this, and the NCAA has a job to do, but at the end of the day, we support what James, and his family and his representation wants to do.”

Hardaway said he Wiseman was confused and hurt by the situation but appreciates the support from his teammates and coaches. “He found out that it’s a very harsh world, and people have jobs to do.”

Asked if he had any regrets on the handling of the Wiseman situation, Hardaway responded, “Not at all.”

Hardaway said he hoped Wiseman would be reinstated quickly without missing games.

“We want a resolution so we can move forward,” he said.

There’s no timetable for when this could come to an end — Hardaway told the media just an hour ago that in an ideal world, Wiseman would be ruled eligible immediately and he wouldn’t miss any games, That obviously won’t happen, but it hinted that the team believes Wiseman could return to the court, whenever that may be.

Hardaway expressed frustration that the NCAA initially ruled Wiseman eligible then went back on their decision, but responded “no comment” when he was asked if he thought any rules had been broken, clearly trying to play nice as the university waits for a favorable ruling.

“We are very confident that we’re going to get a fair and equitable hearing. And we wouldn’t say that if we weren’t confident that we were going to get a fair and equitable hearing,” U of M President David Rudd said.

Wiseman’s co-counsel, Randy Fishman, said it a “tremendous thing” to have the community and the university rally around his client, and for the issue to receive national attention.

As they move forward without Wiseman playing regular season games, the Tigers have felt the love and support both from local fans and the national sports world, and are trying to stay positive while waiting for the NCAA’s next move.

“We see the situation and all I want to do is coach for my alma mater, for the city that I love, the school that I love. And all that James wants to do and the boys wants to do is play basketball. That’s pretty much all we want to do,” Hardaway said.

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