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NCAA clears Memphis freshman Wiseman to return on Jan. 12

NCAA clears Memphis freshman Wiseman to return on Jan. 12

The James Wiseman saga finally has a resolution. After months of back-and-forth between Memphis and the NCAA, the sports governing body has cleared the heralded freshman to return to the basketball court on Jan. 12. Wiseman will sit out a total of 12 games under a decision announced by the NCAA. The sports governing body also announced Wednesday that Wiseman must donate $11,500 — the amount of impermissible benefits the NCAA ruled he received — to a charity of his choice to regain his eligibility. The University of Memphis issued a statement that the NCAA informed school officials that Wiseman must sit out nine games for the infraction and three more for the games the freshman already has played this season. “Based on case precedent, the circumstances of this case and other mitigating factors, the University will immediately appeal this decision,” Memphis said. “We expect a more fair and equitable resolution, and we will exhaust all avenues on James’ behalf.” Wiseman had filed a lawsuit to continue playing after the NCAA ruled him “likely ineligible” for receiving the impermissible benefits from Penny Hardaway — who was not the Memphis coach at the time. Wiseman withdrew a lawsuit against the NCAA on Nov. 14 after Memphis played him in the Tigers’ first three games of the season. The 16th-ranked Tigers were 2-1 with the 7-foot-1 center on the court. Once Wiseman withdrew his lawsuit, Memphis held him out of a win over Alcorn State while working to resolve his eligibility status with the NCAA. His first game back will be when the Tigers visit South Florida. The NCAA had ruled Wiseman was “likely ineligible” due to $11,500 Hardaway gave the center’s family for moving expenses from Nashville to Memphis in the summer of 2017. That started a legal battle that featured Wiseman suing the NCAA and obtaining a temporary restraining order to play two games. Memphis said Wiseman will sit out Wednesday night’s game against Arkansas-Little Rock. Wiseman also will miss the Tigers’ game Nov. 28 against North Carolina State in Brooklyn, New York, on Dec. 28. Wiseman will miss a trio of games against Southeastern Conference teams: Saturday vs. Mississippi, Dec. 14 at No. 20 Tennessee and Jan. 4 vs. Georgia. The freshman also will miss the first two games of league play in the American Athletic Conference — pending Memphis’ appeal. The NCAA noted in its release Wednesday that the payment to Wiseman’s family in 2017 was not allowed because of Hardaway’s status as a booster, which included a $1 million donation to the university for the Penny Hardaway Athletic Hall of Fame. “Boosters cannot provide financial assistance to prospective student-athletes, their family members or friends unless that assistance is generally available to other members of the student body and is not given based on athletics ability,” the NCAA release stated. It’s the latest step in the dramatic and much-debated saga over a center who could be the No. 1 pick overall in the NBA draft next June if he leaves Memphis after his freshman season. Through it all, Wiseman had the backing of his coach, the university and all Memphis as he battled the NCAA off the court. Wiseman played Memphis’ opener, then went to court on Nov. 8 for a temporary restraining order that allowed him to play in a rout of Illinois-Chicago as a starter less than an hour after a judge signed the paperwork. He played in a loss at then-No. 14 Oregon and remains Memphis’ leading scorer averaging 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds. He dropped the lawsuit and his attorneys said it had become clear the lawsuit was an issue between the university and the NCAA. The lawsuit had stated the NCAA first ruled Wiseman eligible in late May before sending Memphis a letter just before the season opener that the freshman was “likely ineligible” for what the governing body deemed impermissible benefits from Hardaway, before the former NBA star became Memphis’ coach. Both Hardaway and Wiseman’s lawsuit stated the coach had disclosed the money given for moving expenses in 2017 before Wiseman played at East High School as a junior for Hardaway. The university said in a statement that Wiseman didn't know about the money given to his family. Hardaway was hired by his alma mater as head coach in March 2018. Wiseman committed to Memphis and Hardaway in November 2018 as the gem in the nation's No. 1 recruiting class for Hardaway. ___ More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Underperforming Maple Leafs fire coach Mike Babcock

Underperforming Maple Leafs fire coach Mike Babcock

The Toronto Maple Leafs have fired head coach Mike Babcock and replaced him with Sheldon Keefe. Babcock had a record of 9-10-4 in 2019-20 for the struggling Leafs, who are 0-5-1 in their last six games, including five straight losses in regulation. Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan flew to Arizona on Wednesday to break the news to Babcock along with general manager Kyle Dubas. Shanahan said that he felt he should be present as he hired Babcock in the spring of 2015. 'It wasn't an easy conversation to have and it wasn't pleasant, days like today are not,' Shanahan said in Scottsdale, Arizona. 'But it was what we felt was important for the club. Once you realize there's something you should do, and have to do, then it's best to act on it.' Toronto, two points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, fell 4-2 to the Golden Knights in Vegas on Tuesday night. Babcock's last win for the Leafs, on Nov. 7 against Vegas, was the 700th of his NHL career. He has a career record of 700-418-19 with Toronto, Detroit and Anaheim. Hired as part of a massive rebuild, the 56-year-old Babcock went 173-133-45 in his four-plus seasons with Toronto. He joined the Maple Leafs with an impressive resume, having won the Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008 and back-to-back Olympic gold medals with Canada in 2010 and 2014. After signing the richest coaching contract in NHL history at US$50 million over eight years, Babcock got Toronto to the playoffs the last three seasons, but was unable to advance beyond the first round. The 39-year-old Keefe, who has a long history with Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas, was in his fifth season as head coach of the American Hockey League's Toronto Marlies. Keefe was 199-89-31 with the Marlies and helped secure the franchise's first Calder Cup championship in 2018. 'Our relationship has grown,' Keefe said about Dubas in May. 'He really opened my eyes to how much there is to learn and how to look at things a little bit differently.' Toronto's last four in-season coach firings — Pat Burns, Ron Wilson, Randy Carlyle and now Babcock — all took place with the team on the road. The Maple Leafs are set to take on Coyotes on Thursday night. Shanahan, Dubas and Keefe were all scheduled to speak with the media Thursday morning. Babcock's Leafs stumbled this season despite a star-studded forward group led by Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, a defense corps headlined by Morgan Rielly, Tyson Barrie and Jake Muzzin, and goalie Frederik Andersen. Toronto was unable to find traction after a summer of change that saw a number of Babcock's trusted veterans leave town as part of a salary cap crunch precipitated by big-money contract extensions handed to Matthews and Marner. In fact, Toronto's Big 4 forwards chewed up nearly half of the $81.5-million cap, leaving Dubas to try and fill in the roster around the edges with young players and discount veterans. 'Our game is not really meeting our expectations,' Shanahan said. 'We're mistake-prone on defence, the attention to details aren't there, and even the explosive offence that our team was known for has been missing for a while now, so there's a lot of work for Sheldon to do and there's a lot of work for the players to do.' The young Leafs surprised many by making the playoffs in 2016-17 before falling to the Washington Capitals in six games. Babcock was unable to get Toronto past the Boston Bruins the last two springs, losing both series in seven games. The 2019 series was especially frustrating given that the Leafs led 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 with a chance to close things out at home in Game 6 before the Bruins fought back to win two straight. While there's no questioning Babcock's track record, there seemed to be a disconnect between the coach and GM in terms of roster construction and style of play after Dubas took over the top job from Lou Lamoriello in May 2018. Driving by data and analytics, Dubas focused on skill and speed — basically trying to win with four first lines — rather than the grinding type of player Babcock had previously preferred in his bottom-6 forward group. Toronto's lack of attention to detail in the defensive zone the last two seasons and sub-par specialty teams were both troubling aspects Babcock was unable to rectify, even after changing assistant coaches this season. Backup goalie was also a constant headache after the Leafs lost veteran Curtis McElhinney on waivers before the start of the 2018-19 campaign. Garret Sparks never gained Babcock's trust, while Michael Hutchinson secured just one point in five starts before getting demoted to the AHL. Before the season, Dubas was asked about his relationship with Babcock, who was heavily criticized for his deployment of Matthews in Game 7 of Toronto's first-round playoff exit last spring. 'We talk a lot,' Dubas said at the start of training camp. 'We disagree, as any coach and GM do a lot. We agree on a lot of things and we work through it all. The key is, on areas that you disagree, that you respect one another and you work through all that.' 'We communicate all the time,' Babcock added in September. 'We don't agree all the time. I've enjoyed it. We're excited about our opportunity.' Babcock also knew he'd be on the hot seat if things went sideways. 'I do, for sure,' Babcock said. 'The expectation each and every year should be greater than the previous year if you're going in the right direction.' ___ More AP NHL: https://www.apnews.com/NHL and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Sports

Charles Barkley apologizes for comment about hitting a woman

Charles Barkley apologizes for comment about hitting a woman

Charles Barkley has issued an apology for a comment he made to a female political reporter about hitting her. Axios reporter Alexi McCammond wrote on Twitter Tuesday night that when she questioned Barkley on his indecisiveness over the Democratic presidential hopefuls, Barkley told her “I don’t hit women but if I did I would hit you.” McCammond says when she objected to his remarks, Barkley told her she “couldn’t take a joke.” Barkley, a former NBA player who works as a basketball analyst for TNT’s Inside the NBA, issued an apology on Wednesday through TurnerSportsPR on Twitter saying his comment was “inappropriate and unacceptable.” Barley said in the statement that “it was an attempted joke that wasn’t funny at all. There’s no excuse for it and I apologize.” ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports