James Wiseman – the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2019 according to ESPN – has committed to play college basketball next season at the University of Memphis.
The thought that Wiseman, a 7-foot center originally from Nashville, would eventually sign with the Memphis Tigers was the worst kept secret in Memphis, TN for the past 8 months following the announcement that former NBA star Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway would be named Head Men’s Basketball Coach at the University of Memphis.
On November 19, 2018 sometime after 11:30am Wiseman made it official by signing a National Letter of Intent (LOI) to play for the Memphis Tigers choosing them over Kentucky, Kansas, Florida State, and Vanderbilt.
In order to understand how we got to this point, we must first travel back in time to Saturday May 27, 2017.
On that day, James Wiseman who previously played on the AAU basketball circuit for Brad Beal Elite based out of St Louis, walked into the Nike EYBL Session 4 in Los Angeles wearing a Team Penny jersey, which represented the AAU program founded by Penny Hardaway that also happened to bear his name.
At that exact moment it was apparent to those who follow the grassroots basketball world closely the star power of Penny Hardaway, a 1996 gold medalist who once starred in the movie Blue Chips alongside his former Orlando Magic teammate Shaquille O’Neal.
Hardaway began coaching at Lester Middle School in Memphis more than 6 years ago at the request of his childhood friend, the late Desmond Merriweather, who at the time was unable to fully commit to his duties while battling cancer.
He continued coaching, first winning three consecutive state titles at Lester Middle, before moving onto Memphis East High School where he would win back-to-back state titles.
Just before the 2017-18 high school basketball season kicked off, another major announcement that once again shocked those in the basketball world. James Wiseman announced he would transfer from prestigious Nashville Ensworth High School to attend the aforementioned East High School to play for Coach Penny Hardaway.
With Wiseman and current Memphis Tigers point guard Alex Lomax leading the way, East Hugh School would go on to capture the 2018 TSSAA State Championship, their third consecutive state title. Within days Penny Hardaway was subsequently named the Head Coach at Memphis.
Coach Penny Hardaway wasted no time reeling in a top 25 nationally rated recruiting class led by guards Tyler Harris and Alex Lomax who were the top two rated seniors in the city of Memphis. Top 150 shooting guard Antwann Jones joined Winnebago, Nebraska small forward David Wingett, and juco big man Isaiah Maurice as late signees along with East wing Ryan Boyce, and IMG Jayden Hardaway who both decided to walk-on for the 2018-19 season.
Memphis Tigers signee Malcolm Dandridge, Photo courtesy of All For Memphis
As for the 2019 recruiting class, Wiseman joins his teammate at East 6-foot-9 Malcolm Dandridge and also five star 6-foot-7 small forward DJ Jeffries of Olive Branch High School in nearby Mississippi.
Photo of Memphis Tigers signee DJ Jeffries
According to various recruiting outlets those three players place Memphis’ 2019 recruiting class amongst the top 15 in America with more than 24 hours remaining in the college basketball early signing period which ends on November 21, 2018.
However, Wiseman is not only proof that Penny Hardaway can beat the likes of Kentucky’s John Calipari for elite recruits, but also a warning to American Athletic Conference foes who will have to deal with James Wiseman for at least one season before he likely bolts for the NBA.