James Wiseman talks about UK-Memphis battle
For the past year and a half, there hasn’t been much question who the No. 1 recruiting target on John Calipari’s class of 2019 wish list has been.
Even before James Wiseman became the first player from the class to land a UK scholarship offer last fall, Calipari had been a constant in his recruitment, watching him play all across the country, visiting with him at his home numerous times, and hosting him on trips to Lexington.
On the eve of Wiseman’s college announcement, there doesn’t seem to be much question over where he ultimately ends up.
The 7-footer from Nashville — now finishing out his high school career in Memphis — will reveal his choice Tuesday at noon on ESPN, and he’s widely expected to give his commitment to Memphis.
247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels, who made a Crystal Ball prediction in favor of Kentucky for Wiseman late last year — and before Penny Hardaway became the Tigers’ head coach — changed that pick Monday evening.
“My gut says that he ends up picking Memphis,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “All the signs leading down the stretch lean that way, and that’s what I’m going with.”
As of Monday night, the 19 most recent predictions on Wiseman’s Crystal Ball page were all in favor of Memphis — including picks from national experts Andrew Slater and Jerry Meyer — and no one had predicted UK as his destination since late December.
Wiseman moved from Nashville to play for Hardaway — the highly touted recruit’s Nike league coach — at Memphis East High School last summer, and they teamed up to win a Tennessee state championship earlier this year. Wiseman stuck at East after Hardaway landed the Tigers’ head coaching job in the spring and has been a regular visitor to the Memphis campus over the past few months.
On Tuesday night, Wiseman, Dandridge and Jeffries will all play on the same court in a high-profile early season matchup. Some of Wiseman’s other former teammates are already part of the Memphis Tigers program.
“If you’re reading into all the tea leaves, Memphis has a lot of momentum,” Daniels said. “They got the last official visit. He’s been on their campus a number of times. Tuesday night, he plays against a Memphis commit. Alongside him, in that game, is another Memphis commit.
“Memphis has that dude surrounded.”
Officially, the five finalists for Wiseman are Kentucky, Memphis, Florida State, Kansas and Vanderbilt — and he’s taken visits to all five schools this fall — but, realistically, this recruitment has long been building toward a UK-Memphis showdown.
Over the summer, Rivals.com national analysts Eric Bossi and Corey Evans were both predicting Wiseman to Kentucky, acknowledging at the time that his recruitment still appeared to be in the 50/50 range. Earlier this fall, both analysts flipped those picks to Memphis but still said Kentucky had a realistic chance to pull him away from his former coach.
“I would never be surprised by any player picking to play for John Calipari and Kentucky,” Bossi told the Herald-Leader on Monday. “But given how much time James Wiseman has appeared to spend at Memphis over the past month or so and an early decision, it looks to me like he’s going to choose to play for his former coach Penny Hardaway.”
On the eve of Wiseman’s announcement, Evans had similar thoughts.
“I’m still going to stick with Memphis,” he told the Herald-Leader. “I haven’t heard anything against the matter. Would I be surprised if it’s Kentucky? No. I don’t think anyone should be. But, I think it’s Memphis.”
ESPN’s Jeff Borzello has also been picking Memphis for Wiseman over the past several weeks, though he, too, has acknowledged that it’s a recruitment that could still swing Kentucky’s way. Borzello told the Herald-Leader on Monday night that he’s sticking with his prediction in favor of the Tigers.