LEXINGTON, Ky. — James Wiseman is staying at Memphis East High School and staying in the Class of 2019. He’s seriously considering the University of Memphis as an option, but remains high on Kentucky and is hosting John Calipari for an in-home visit next week, the 5-star center’s mother told SEC Country on Friday.
Got all that? Wiseman’s mother, Donzaleigh Artis, wanted to clear up the most-asked questions about her son, who is ranked the No. 1 overall recruit in the rising senior class.
“Let’s all get on the same page how Mama feels about school: Mama wants James to go to school and be happy,” she said. “Mama don’t play basketball. Mama won’t have to go to class. Mama is the supporter. As far as James’ college right now, James has put Memphis on his list, but James hasn’t decided on a school.”
Wiseman’s former high school and AAU coach, Penny Hardaway, recently replaced Tubby Smith as the coach of his alma mater, vaulting the Memphis Tigers into serious contention to land the coveted 6-foot-11 star. Hardaway officially offered Wiseman a scholarship on his 17th birthday almost two weeks ago.
“That made him feel good,” Artis said. “But people wondered why he didn’t put his offer from Memphis on Twitter until a week after his birthday. That’s because I had James doing 17-year-old things on his birthday. He was enjoying being seventeen years old. Sometimes as parents, we have to step in and let these kids be kids.”
Which is to say, addressing one of the most-buzzed about things regarding her son: No, once and for all, Wiseman will not move up to the Class of 2018 and play college basketball this coming season — although not for lack of physical development and the talent to do so.
“We’re going to go back to what I said before: I can’t imagine James leaving me for 2019, much less leaving me for 2018,” Artis said. “I want James to experience as much of being a kid as he can, because once we step out in the college world we have to grow up really fast. We’ve talked and James wants to be a kid right now.”
While the Wildcats would’ve loved to have him for two years — because of his age, he cannot enter the NBA draft until 2020 — sources tell SEC Country the UK staff did not push the issue of reclassification.
There also has been speculation that Wiseman will move to a prep school now that Hardaway is no longer his coach. He did move from a prestigious private school in Nashville to play for Hardaway at Memphis East, after all. But his mother says he’ll stay right there to finish his high school career.
That obviously gives Hardaway great access to Wiseman for the next year, meaning a planned in-home visit Monday with Calipari and assistant Joel Justus will not be the last time Kentucky’s staff shows up in Memphis trying to fend off that attempted coup.
Before Hardaway made his move, the Wildcats were clear leaders in the Wiseman sweepstakes. Are they still?
Calipari and Justus are “still my favorites,” his mother said. “They’re still my boys. They’re family people. They make us feel like family. If we come to play basketball there, we’re going to be family. Real family. And James is really big on that, so it makes a big difference.”
As for the Hardaway factor, Artis said his first conversation with Wiseman and the Memphis East team was not a recruiting pitch so much as an apology for leaving them before their high school careers were over.
“Penny has to eat, too. He sat down and explained that to the boys: This is life and sometimes we have to step out of one stage and into another stage in our lives,” Wiseman’s mother said. “And he told the kids he also wants them to keep their heads and be able to step out of this situation in high school and pick them a great college to go to.”
Obviously, in Wiseman’s case, Hardaway hopes that will be Memphis.
“He didn’t say that, but I’m sure he’s going to be partial now,” Artis said, laughing. “But we have to be about what we need for us also. That’s how we’re going to have to look at this part.”