UK Men's Basketball

Top UK basketball target James Wiseman says moving to class of 2018 is ‘not an option’

Penny Hardaway talks about top UK recruit James Wiseman’s

Memphis East Head Coach Penny Hardaway talks about his star player, top UK recruiting target James Wiseman.
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Memphis East Head Coach Penny Hardaway talks about his star player, top UK recruiting target James Wiseman.

With UK still lacking a post player for its recruiting class of 2018 and zero scholarships offered by the Cats at that position, speculation has turned in recent weeks to James Wiseman.

The problem with that: Wiseman is currently in the recruiting class of 2019.

To play college basketball next season — and fill the Cats’ possible hole in the frontcourt — Wiseman would have to move up a grade and skip his final season of high school basketball. The scenario has gained legs among UK fans on message boards and social media who fear that Nick Richards or Sacha Killeya-Jones (or both) might jump to the NBA after this season.

Wiseman — a 6-foot-11 power forward ranked No. 1 in the junior class by Scout.com and ESPN — is thought by recruiting analysts to be leaning toward Kentucky, but he said he’s not considering moving to the 2018 class.

“It’s not an option,” Wiseman said Sunday at the Marshall County Hoop Fest. “I’m just going to stay in 2019.”

The notion of Wiseman reclassifying might seem more plausible to fans who have seen other highly ranked recruits do the same in recent years. But Wiseman’s situation differs from those cases.

Top recruits R.J. Barrett, Marvin Bagley and Karl-Anthony Towns have all made headlines by seemingly jumping up a class to play college basketball earlier in their careers, but their reclassification decisions actually put them in their correct age brackets.

Barrett — the No. 1 player in the 2018 class — will turn 18 several months before he plays his first game for Duke next season.

Bagley — the No. 1 player in the 2017 class — announced his reclassification to that group right before enrolling in fall classes at Duke for this season, but he actually turned 18 last March, toward the end of what was then his junior season of high school.

Towns announced he was jumping up to the class of 2014 on the same day that he committed to Kentucky, but he actually turned 19 years old the day after he played his first game for the Wildcats.

Wiseman is still just 16 and won’t turn 17 until the end of March.

If he were to reclassify, that means the budding star could play his entire freshman season of college basketball at 17 years old. Wiseman wouldn’t turn 18 until six days before the 2019 Final Four.

For someone looking to make an immediate impact on the college game, that seems like a tall task. And he said Sunday that he doesn’t even know where the rumor of a possible reclassification started, saying he and his family have never seriously considered it and the coaches recruiting him have not asked him to do it.

“I really don’t know (how it started),” Wiseman said. “I have no clue. I just looked on Twitter and they were talking about that. It was crazy.”

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