INDIANAPOLIS – James Wiseman, the No. 1-ranked recruit in the class of 2019, insists there are more schools than just Kentucky and Memphis with a chance to land his commitment.
But even he admits few are likely to give much credence to those promises.
“Nobody probably will believe that,” Wiseman said after an AAU game at the Nike EYBL stop this weekend. “But I mean, it’s true.”
To that end, Wiseman expects Kansas and North Carolina coaches to visit his Memphis home to see him in the coming weeks, but Kentucky coach John Calipari and new Memphis coach Penny Hardaway have already visited spring.
Calipari was not on the recruiting trail this weekend as he recovered from minor surgery, but UK assistant coaches Tony Barbee and Kenny Payne and Hardaway were on the sideline for most of Wiseman’s games with his Bluff City Legends teammates in Indianapolis.
NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from contacting recruits at the AAU events, even though Hardaway was Wiseman’s AAU and high school coach until being hired by Memphis in March, but Kentucky did have a de facto recruiter in Wiseman’s ear all weekend.
Four-star forward D.J. Jeffries, one of Kentucky’s two 2019 commitments, is Wiseman’s teammate with Bluff City.
And he is making sure Wiseman hears a constant reminder of what the duo could do together at Kentucky.
“I try to talk to him every day,” Jeffries said. “I mess with him every now and then. Hopefully, he sees the right school.”
Jeffries said he has no idea which school Wiseman will pick, but he agrees with almost everyone else that Kentucky and Memphis have a substantial lead.
Hardaway was Jeffries’ AAU coach a year ago as well, but Jeffries, who attends high school in northern Mississippi, insists he is solid with his commitment to Kentucky despite Hardaway’s new job.
“It’s not going to sway me,” Jeffries said. “I’m going to stay at Kentucky.”
But will Wiseman join him?
Asked if there were any other 2019 recruits he would like to play with in college, Wiseman quickly pointed to five-star point guards Tyrese Maxey and Ashton Hagans. Hagans is already committed to Kentucky, and the Wildcats are believed to lead in Maxey’s recruitment.
Both Hagans and Maxey could reclassify to 2018 though, graduating early to enroll in college in the fall.
Wiseman has repeatedly insisted he will not reclassify, despite persistent rumors to the contrary, so it’s possible Maxey and Hagans could be headed to the NBA before Wiseman ever enrolls at Memphis or Kentucky.
“Of course, everybody wants to play with James,” Maxey said. “He’s 7-foot, knocks down big shots. He’s huge. What more could I say about him?”
The Maxey-Hagans connection is another reason for Kentucky fans to dream about Wiseman ending Calipari’s three-year drought without a signee ranked in the top five of the 247Sports Composite, which averages the ratings of the major recruiting services.
But the Hardaway relationship is a formidable obstacle.
After moving to the Bluff City program (then known as Team Penny) last summer, Wiseman moved from Nashville to Memphis to play for Hardaway at Memphis East High School, where he won a state championship as a junior.
“We’ve still got a strong relationship with each other,” Wiseman said. “He developed my game a lot, especially during the high school season. Any time I’ve got a question about something, I just ask him.”
Kentucky was believed to be the prohibitive favorite for Wiseman’s commitment before Hardaway was hired at Memphis.
Now the wait is on to see if Calipari’s recent record with one-and-done big men including DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and Karl-Anthony Towns is enough to maintain that momentum.
Could Wiseman say no to Hardaway?
“It would be really tough because him and Penny are so close,” Jeffries said. “It probably would be tough, but in life you got to make hard decisions sometimes.”