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James Wiseman case has everyone piling on the NCAA — including Andrew Yang

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James Wiseman may or may not be a member of the #YangGang, but the suspended University of Memphis freshman has the Democratic presidential candidate in his corner.

“Oh my gosh, come on! Let James Wiseman freaking play,” Andrew Yang exclaimed Thursday (via TMZ Sports).

After the NCAA ruled Wednesday that Wiseman must serve a 12-game suspension and make a $11,500 donation to a charity of his choice, Yang was one of many to find fault with the NCAA rather than the player.

“We should be paying NCAA athletes on the regular instead of cutting them off,” said Yang, who described the NCAA’s decision as “so bogus!”

Others have focused on what they see as the absurdity, if not malice, of the NCAA’s demand that Wiseman make a payment equivalent to the money his mother received in 2017 to help her and Wiseman, a top high school basketball prospect, move from Nashville to Memphis. Those funds were provided by Penny Hardaway, then a high school coach in that city and now the 7-foot-1 forward’s coach at the university.

Because Hardaway, who himself starred for the Tigers before going on to major success in the NBA, had made a $1 million donation to Memphis’s athletic department in 2008, he was considered a booster by the NCAA and thus his help to Wiseman’s family was impermissible.

The NCAA’s ruling led to several questions from its many critics.

If Wiseman and his family needed $11,500 in financial assistance just a couple of years ago, and he’s still a year away from presumably turning pro, how are they supposed to come up with the money?

If the NCAA won’t allow players to get paid, how can it levy what is essentially a fine on one of its “student-athletes?”

ESPN analyst and former college coach Seth Greenberg suggested Thursday that Wiseman, a candidate to go No. 1 in next year’s NBA draft who has averaged 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds in the three games he has played in for the Tigers, might be able to “create a payment plan based on a four-year schedule.” He wrote that such a plan would have to be “in place” before Wiseman is eligible to return to the court Jan. 12 but that “no payments [would] have to be made” right away.

When asked by The Washington Post whether there was a deadline for Wiseman to make his donation, a spokesperson for the NCAA provided a link to an explanation of repayment plans for student-athletes to their respective NCAA institutions. The organization’s policy states that a repayment “may be spread throughout the duration of a student-athlete’s eligibility but must be completed prior to the student-athlete’s last regular season date of competition or contest.” It’s unclear whether a donation to a charity not directly associated with the institution would fall under that policy.

As for whether sanctions were being considered for Hardaway and/or the Tigers’ program, the spokesperson said via email that the NCAA “cannot comment on current, pending or potential infractions cases.”

Wiseman will not be able to come up with the $11,500 through crowdfunding despite the efforts Thursday of ESPN analyst and former college star Jay Williams. In a video, Williams called the NCAA’s ruling “atrocious” and said he and others had set up a GoFundMe account to benefit the Tigers player.

“Generally speaking, a GoFundMe would not satisfy a repayment requirement,” a source told TMZ Sports. “The student-athlete and his or her family are responsible for making the donation, and that donation must also be in line with NCAA rules.”

Memphis said Wednesday that it will appeal the NCAA’s decision.

“We expect a more fair and equitable resolution, and we will exhaust all avenues on James’ behalf,” the university said in a statement.

The NCAA notified Memphis this month that its determination that Hardaway had acted as a Tigers booster in 2008 meant that Wiseman was “likely ineligible.” Wiseman responded by filing a lawsuit against the NCAA, and Memphis appeared to be acting in defiance of the governing body by playing him in its first three games.

However, Wiseman dropped his lawsuit last week, and the school announced it declared him ineligible and would “immediately apply for his reinstatement."

After No. 16 Memphis defeated Arkansas Little Rock on Wednesday without Wiseman, Hardaway told reporters he didn’t think the punishments were fair. “Obviously, James should be on the floor,” he said. Of the NCAA, Hardaway said, “They make the rules, so we just have to abide by them.”

Saying, “I feel for James Wiseman,” Yang predicted the star freshman will be a top-10 pick in the NBA draft.

“So it’s going to be okay for him, but he should still be on the court right now playing,” Yang said.

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