James Wiseman: Memphis’ Fantastic Freshman Gets Acclimated To College Basketball

Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint.

By David Cordova

The last few months have been major for James Wiseman as he has won many awards and cemented himself as the No. 1 high school player in these United States of America for the Class of 2019. Fast-forward to the present day, where he is still in high-demand.

Now, he is a 7-foot-1 college freshman at the University of Memphis and is projected to be a top-five pick in the NBA Draft next June. Right now, he is getting used to the style and play of college basketball and is living the life of a college athlete.

It’s October 14th, Columbus Day at the Marriott near the Philadelphia International Airport and teams throughout the American Athletic Conference are gathered together to speak to the media for the conference’s Media Day event. As soon as one steps in, it is known that the Tigers are the main attraction, with Wiseman being the star of the show.

When asked about the transition from high school to college, he replied, “It’s been a great transition, [I’m] just trying to get used to the pace of the game, especially in college, the pace is fact, so I got adjusted quickly during the summer.”

Last season, as a senior at Memphis East High School, he averaged 25.8 points, 14.8 rebounds, and 5.5 blocks for the Mustangs and led them to the TSSAA Class AAA championship game for the third season in a row. Because of his efforts, he was given three major awards, such as the Tennessee Class AAA Mr. Basketball Award, the Gatorade National Player of the Year Award and the Morgan Wooten National Player of the Year Award.

Wiseman and fellow Tiger freshman Precious Achuiwa speak to ESPN’s Andy Katz during AAC Media Day in Philadelphia on October 14th. (Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint)

When asked about earning such honors, he replied, “I’m just really trying to bring the same momentum into college, I’m just trying to get better every day, that’s all.”

In addition to earning awards, Wiseman played in three major all-star games in the spring, such as the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Oregon, the McDonald’s All-American Game in Atlanta, Georgia and the Jordan Brand Classic in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he was named co-MVP alongside Cole Anthony, who is also a projected top-five pick in next June’s NBA Draft and is currently a freshman guard at the University of North Carolina.

In November of his senior season, he signed his national letter of intent to stay in-state to play for the Tigers, where he is being coached by a familiar face in former NBA star and current Memphis head coach Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, who is also a Tiger alum, and was Wiseman’s high school coach at Memphis East for two seasons before his appointment as head coach last year.

Wiseman boxes out an opponent in his first collegiate game against South Carolina State on November 5th. (Photo courtesy of Joe Murphy/Memphis Athletics)

When asked about playing for Hardaway again, he replied, “It feels great, like the development perspective was tremendous for me in high school, so just coming to college, I can get more work in and get more development.”

On October 3rd, the Tigers hosted their annual, “Memphis Madness,” event in front of about 18,000 fans at the FedEx Forum, where the program plays its home games. On that night, rappers such as Lil’ Baby, Moneybagg Yo and Future all came out to perform. 

When asked about having these platinum-selling artists in the building, Wiseman replied, “I mean, it was great, Future’s one of my favorite rappers, so just seeing him, really up close and personal was a great experience.”

Four days later, on October 7th, the Tigers had their Pro Day event in which their players showed their stuff in front of NBA scouts. When asked about that experience, Wiseman added: “I mean, it felt great, just trying to display my skills and my teammates did so as well, so we just had a great time.”

Wiseman goes up for a one-handed dunk against South Carolina State on November 5th. (Photo courtesy of Joe Murphy/Memphis Athletics)

During the AAC Media Day event, it was announced that Memphis was tied with Houston, a foe in its league, as the No. 1 team in the conference. The following week, the Tigers were rated at No. 19 in the Associated Press Top 25 national poll. Although there’s a bunch of freshmen in the fold, Memphis has what it takes to make a statement.

When asked where he sees the Tigers going moving forward, he replied, “Just hopefully going back to the Tournament this year, and really just play hard and showcase our toughness.”

On Monday night, on the first night of the college basketball season, Wiseman put in a big pro-like performance with 28 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in the Tigers’ 97-64 victory over South Carolina State. 

As the season continues, Memphis Tigers fans can expect more and more performances from him moving forward. The maturation of James Wiseman on the college level is going to be something worth watching.

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