James Wiseman — the new No. 1 basketball recruit in the ESPN rankings for the class of 2019 — received a scholarship offer from Kentucky on Thursday, the Herald-Leader has confirmed.
UK Coach John Calipari traveled to Memphis to visit with Wiseman, who is the first player from the 2019 class to land an offer from the Wildcats. Recruiting analyst Pat Lawless was the first to report Wiseman’s offer.
North Carolina, Kansas, Louisville and Arizona are among the other major programs that have offered Wiseman over the past couple of months.
Later Thursday, five-star small forward D.J. Jeffries received a scholarship offer from Calipari. Jeffries — the No. 13 overall player in the class of 2019, according to the 247Sports composite rankings — is also from the Memphis area and was teammates with Wiseman on the Nike circuit.
UK assistant coach Joel Justus was in Memphis on Saturday to visit with Wiseman, making it his first stop of the fall recruiting period. Justus also scouted Wiseman over the summer with the USA Basketball U16 squad that won a FIBA gold medal in Argentina.
The Wildcats’ early interest clearly had a positive effect on Wiseman, who told the Herald-Leader and other reporters at Nike’s Peach Jam finals in July that UK was already one of his top schools.
Wiseman averaged 11.4 points and 5.0 rebounds in 17.8 minutes per game for Team USA, shooting 61 percent from the field. The 6-foot-11 power forward played for Team Penny on the Nike circuit this past summer and recently transferred from a Nashville-area high school to Memphis East, where former NBA star Penny Hardaway is the head coach.
Scout.com ranks Wiseman as the No. 2 overall recruit in the 2019 class — behind only fellow UK target Vernon Carey — and national recruiting analyst Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader this summer that Wiseman could threaten for that No. 1 spot.
“He’s so long and mobile,” Daniels said. “He always runs rim to rim. When you have that type of size and length and can contest shots, it’s big. I think the light is kind of flickering on with him. You’ve seen him take steps in the right direction over the past year, and this is the time that he needs to do it. He has a lot of upside.
During a conversation with reporters in July, Wiseman often turned the talk to UK, quickly mentioning Anthony Davis as a player he patterned his game after. He said he liked that Calipari encouraged his frontcourt players to run the floor and play away from the basket, as well as the UK coach’s track record of getting young prospects to the NBA.
“He lets people play,” Wiseman said. “Anthony Davis was blocking shots, and I like blocking shots a lot.”