Photo courtesy of Position Sports/Nike/Jon Lopez
By David Cordova
The high school class of 2019 has a lot of outstanding talent in that class, with several players that look like they could become first-round draft picks in the NBA in the next couple of years.
However, there is one that stands out above the rest, literally and figuratively. That one prospect is none other than James Wiseman, a 6-foot-11 junior who is currently the No. 1 prospect in that class.
Wiseman is an athletic player that holds a fierce presence in the paint, sending an opposing player’s shot flying on the defensive end, and also dunking with authority on offense.
When asked about what motivates him to be successful on the court, he replied, “Really trying to get to that next level, so I basically go and work hard every day, and it’s like I don’t take no days.”
Wiseman hails from Nashville, Tennessee and first started playing high school basketball at The Ensworth School in his hometown, where he posted some good numbers in his first two years. As a freshman, he averaged 10 points, six rebounds and two blocks per game.
In his sophomore year, he stepped up his play and averaged 20.1 points, eight rebounds and three blocks per game, which earned him numerous honors in the state of Tennessee. In his time at The Ensworth School, his teams had a combined 42-16 record and had two deep runs to the state tournament.
Feeling a need for competition, Wiseman transferred to Memphis East High School for his junior season. And he wouldn’t be playing for any ordinary coach, as the person at the helm was four-time NBA All-Star Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, who also founded the Team Penny AAU program, which Wiseman also played for.
On the move to Memphis, Wiseman replied, “I mean, it’s tough. Like, it’s different, but I’m from Nashville, Tennessee, and it’s different, I’m getting used to it.”
When asked about the difference from the basketball scene in Memphis in comparison to Nashville, he replied, “It’s different, because I came from Nashville, and like, it was on a different level. Memphis basketball is on a different level.”
As a junior at Memphis East, Wiseman averaged 18.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game, as the Mustangs went 31-3 and won their third straight Tennessee Secondary Athletic Association 3A title, and finished as the No. 4 team in the country in the USA Today national poll.
When asked about his outstanding junior season, Wiseman replied, “I mean, it was great, because I got my first state championship ever, so it was great.”
But it would be bittersweet, because on March 19th, following the state title win, Hardaway would announce that he would leave to coach at the University of Memphis. When asked about lessons that he learned on and off the court from Hardaway, Wiseman replied, “Just to stay humble and keep working.”
At the present time, Wiseman has been a dominant force for the newly-renamed Bluff City Legends on the Nike EYBL circuit this spring, averaging 15.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game throughout the first three sessions.
When asked if being rated as the No. 1 prospect in the nation motivates him to work harder, he replied, “Yeah, I use the fuel to work hard, because there’s other great basketball players out there, so I try to work hard every day.”
Also, Wiseman holds plenty of offers from plenty of high-major schools such as Florida State, Missouri, Alabama, Arizona, North Carolina, Kentucky, Memphis, Kansas, Vanderbilt, Illinois, Florida and Oklahoma State.
But right now, there are three schools that have a strong chance in the James Wiseman Sweepstakes could be Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Memphis.
The reason that Kentucky has a chance is because of head coach John Calipari’s penchant for turning his players into potential NBA draft picks in the current one-and-done era. With his talent, there’s no telling that his name be could be called in the next two years on Draft Night. The Wildcats have also secured the verbal commitment of his AAU teammate on Bluff City Legends, D.J. Jeffries, who is the No. 16 prospect in the Class of 2019.
The reason that Vanderbilt has a chance is because it is the local program in his hometown. The allure of playing in Memorial Gymnasium, an arena that sits over 14,000 spectators, and is called “The Fenway Park of College Basketball,” would be a great sight.
And finally, the reason that Memphis could be a possible collegiate destination for Wiseman is because of his relationship with Hardaway, and the prospect of playing in front of the local supporters in Memphis. Plus, his high school teammate at East High School, point guard Alex Lomax, will be a freshman there next season. The Tigers have also secured the verbal commitment of another one of his Mustang teammates, Malcolm Dandridge, who is also a junior at the present time. Lastly, the Tigers play in the FedExForum, which is also the home of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, and holds over 18,000 spectators.
Whatever collegiate decision Wiseman makes this fall or next spring, or whenever he signs his letter of intent could be a big plus for whatever program he lands. If he ends up at Memphis, it would be a huge plus for the city and the institution.
This summer, Wiseman will try out for USA Basketball’s U17 team, after averaging 11.4 points and five rebounds per game last summer, as he led USA to the FIBA U16 Americas Gold medal in Argentina.
When asked about what he wants to work on in his individual game, he added, “Just getting stronger and handle the ball more.”
On Twitter, his handle is @BigTicket_JW, which means that he has modeled his game after 15-time NBA All-Star Kevin Garnett, who was also a highly-rated forward in high school, and was the No. 5 pick in the 1995 NBA Draft. Is he as good as Garnett at this stage in his high school career? Absolutely. Both were bigs that were versatile with high motors and dominated the game whenever they stepped on the court.
Next year, Wiseman will be one of the country’s most coveted seniors and will be a potential McDonald’s All-American. How does he want to be remembered? “As the greatest player to ever play in the state of Tennessee,” he said.
And as for the future? “Just camp, making my decision soon and just working hard, that’s all.” With everything in place, the sky is the limit for James Wiseman.
Highlights of James Wiseman:
Courtesy of InTheGymHoops.
Courtesy of SLAM Magazine.
Courtesy of Courtside Films.
Courtesy of Courtside Films.
Courtesy of Elite Mixtapes.
Courtesy of Frankie Vision.
Courtesy of FloHoops.
Courtesy of Rivals.
Courtesy of Ballislife 2.0.
Courtesy of Eurospects.
Courtesy of Elite Mixtapes.
Courtesy of Hoopscity Films.