By now you have heard of James Wiseman, the lanky 7-footer who is ranked as the top player in the class of 2019 by 247Sports and ESPN, and the second-best prospect according to Rivals. He is currently projected to be the #1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Wiseman is the highest-rated Memphis area recruit since Skal Labissiere, who also finished in the top spots in various rankings but ultimately chose to join Calipari and the Wildcats. Prior to that, the title belonged to Thaddeus Young from the class of 06.
After committing to the Tigers, he is the first 5-star recruit to commit to the Tigers since Adonis Thomas in 2011, following Will Barton, Joe Jackson, and Jelan Kendrick in 2010. He is the highest rated recruit in the history of the program, as Tyreke Evans and Derrick Rose were both Top 5 players, but not the #1 overall player by multiple recruiting services.
How It Played Out
Wiseman is originally from…
You ready for this Memphis fans?
That’s right, let’s not forget Wiseman began his prep career at The Ensworth School, which if you can’t tell by the preppy-ass name, is by all accounts a great all-around school. During the summer, Wiseman was running with the Bradley Beal Elite squad on the Nike EYBL circuit with fellow Nashvillian, former top-15 recruit, and current Vanderbilt guard, Darius Garland.
MORE: #PENNYSZN T-Shirt
But during the spring of 2017 Wiseman began playing with the team formerly known as Team Penny on the EYBL circuit. At the time, Team Penny had an influx of top talent as the team unsuccessfully attempted to piece together a roster of top-tier talent to compete for a title at the prestigious Peach Jam. I don’t think any normal fan or media member at the time realized the significance this would play.
In August of 2017, Wiseman was enrolled at East High School where Penny Hardaway served as the coach for the prior two years, and had a roster of top-tier talent set to play a schedule against nationally ranked opponents. Wiseman was leaving an academically great school, and with all due respect to the work being done by Dorsey Hopson and SCS, East ain’t Ensworth. But the desire to play against better competition on the court (where appears very likely to become successful), rather than in the classroom proved to be worth Wiseman’s while to make the move 3 hours west, as he told The Commercial Appeal.
Anyone who covered recruiting and anyone who was close to Wiseman would tell you that they believed he was a lock for Coach Cal and Kentucky, which at the time was more than likely very true. Cal even made Wiseman his prestigious first-offer of the 2019 class.
After the TSSAA originally ruled Wiseman ineligible for the 17-18 season, the ruling was overturned and Wiseman helped lead East to their 3rd consecutive state championship.
But just before East began to make their Championship run, rumors began to swirl around the University of Memphis that Tubby Smith could be fired after just his second, albeit disappointing, year. Attendance was the worst it had been, recruiting was suffering so bad Memphis fans were trying to justify having top-150 players as the prize of the recruiting class, and Tubby Smith believed that Memphis kids just didn’t want to stay home anymore thanks to social media and some other bullshit.
There was only one man for the job at this point.
Wiseman’s mother, Donzaleigh Artis, says it best for all Memphians in a quote she gave SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker:
“Penny is my man,” Donzaleigh Artis, Wiseman’s mother, said. “He’s not just a basketball coach. He’s Penny. He’s teaching them boys what they need to know, on the court and off the court, to get to the next stage. To know Penny is really great.”
In the summer of 2018, Wiseman played with the Bluff City Legends, which is the organization that was formally named after Hardaway, and once the EYBLY circuit came to an end Wiseman chose to play for yet another organization. Big Ticket then suited up for Hoop City Basketball Club that is ran by Ernie Kuyper, the cousin of Mike Miller and director of the program that used to bear Miller’s name. Miller of course was hired by Hardaway to be on the Tigers staff, and Wiseman’s in-home visits took on a different look.
According to Gary Parrish oof CBS Sports, Kentucky dearly wanted the 7-footer to transfer to a prep school and away from East High School, so that he wouldn’t be enthralled by the Memphis program. But, Wiseman decided to stay at East and full-court press was being applied by Memphians on all levels.
Then it pretty much came down to Penny versus Cal and an extremely talented and gifted, 17-year old kid making one of the biggest decisions of his life, which either way would still probably lead to a prosperous NBA career. Of course, we can’t forget about Penny’s epic, first Memphis Madness.
The first-year head coach had already gotten a commitment from DJ Jeffries, who became the first player to decommit from Kentucky under Coach Cal in his decade of time there. He already had 4-star prospect and Wiseman’s high school teammate Malcolm Dandridge’s LOI turned into the NCAA. He already has his first heart-pounding win on the court, with a team that looks like it is going to play a fun style of basketball, but could sure use a big man.
And now, all the rumblings that have been going on around town suggesting that Wiseman to Memphis is a “done deal” can be confirmed. Everyone who told you that they read on a message board that they heard from a booster that the staff was confident about where they were with the recruitment of Wiseman can be substantiated. We were all right.
James Wiseman is officially a Memphian.
Feature Image [James Wiseman IG]