ATLANTA – James Wiseman had heard the rumors, but, for the life of him, couldn’t believe that it was actually true.
Historically, do the vast majority of McDonald’s All Americans coast through practices at the McDonald’s with more than 50 NBA scouts looking on?
In the past players have treated McDonald’s All-American practices like they’re oblivious that NBA scouts are off to the side jotting notes and intently studying their every move.
One NBA scout told USA Today Sports that the practices are “the best chance to evaluate this level of talent at one time.”
“That’s crazy to me,” said Wiseman, a Memphis signee who hails from Memphis (Tenn.) East High School. “I mean all of us dream to be able to play in the NBA and the guys that make those decisions are sitting there watching; that’s an opportunity.”
That mindset should help Wednesday when Wiseman leads West against the East at State Farm Arena.
It was clear at Monday’s practice that Wiseman, who is ranked No. 5 overall in USA Today Sports’ Chosen 25, was intent on leaving a positive impression, dominating the competition in scrimmages and drills.
Mountain Brook (Ala.) High School forward Trendon Watford shared Wiseman’s sentiments about the practices being an opportunity to make lasting impressions but was quick to add that he’s “just wired different anyway.”
“I’m just gonna play hard anyway,” said Watford, who is ranked No. 14 overall in the Chosen 25 and will suit up for the East. “I’m just not gonna be out there to be out there; I’m always gonna be going hard. I don’t really know how else to play.”
Makes sense for a player who led Mountain Brook to its third-straight state title this past season, averaging 23 points and 11 rebounds a game.
Wiseman, who was named Gatorade Player of the Year, was equally dominant this season, averaging 25.8 points, 14.8 rebounds, 5.5 blocks and 1.3 steals a game.
McDonald’s All-American Games ambassador Jay Williams has noticed the trend of players coasting over the years and said that he’d like to see small changes aimed at intensifying the competition in practices.
“I would love for us to pair up the top point guard with the second point guard and let them compete,” said Williams, a former McDonald’s All American who won the Morgan Wootten Player of the Year award in 1999. “Same with all of the positions. I think that would stir up that competitive juice. The NBA guys, more than anything, want to see how you compete. They want to see if you’re an alpha a beta or if you’re passive. They’re watching because they use it to project how it will translate into college and the NBA.”
Watford has earned a reputation for his relentless motor and said he wants the 2019 class to be the one that changes the narrative of how hard players bring it.
“I would love for us to set the bar from this point,” Watford said. “We all know that playing against the best will only make us better so everyone is locked in.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY