James Wiseman is on Kentucky’s campus for his first official visit and it seems momentum is flipping back into UK’s favor. Here’s a brief look at where things stand with Wiseman as he checks out Lexington.
What he’ll do on his visit:
Wiseman arrived to Lexington last night and hung out in the gym and did some shoot around with the team. Today he will tour the campus, check out the facilities he didn’t see on Thursday and meet with the coaches. Tonight will be a fancy dinner and then Wiseman will have a chance to hangout with the team afterwards. Wiseman doesn’t strike me as the type that’s going to be out searching for the hottest parties, but that option is always available in Lexington.
Tomorrow the family will take in more practices and workouts while spending time with the staff. This is a pretty typical visit for most athletes, but the good news for UK’s staff is they won’t have to spend too much time with the meet and greet with Wiseman or his mom, Donzaleigh Artis.
What will be different:
UK has made James Wiseman a priority for years. That’s not hyperbole, it’s been multiple years. You can rarely say that about a John Calipari basketball recruit. Usually UK will start recruiting players anywhere from their junior summers to the beginning of their senior years. Kentucky started following and actively recruiting James Wiseman back in 2016 when he was finishing his freshmen year of high school. Not just keeping tabs but actively recruiting him. Calipari has never recruited a player this long at UK.
As I mentioned, there won’t be your general meet and greet. John Calipari will tell recruits and their families that he wants to get to know them and he wants to get to know what they’re about, but they won’t waste time doing that with Wiseman. They know the family. They know Wiseman.
Think of it like when you start a new job. You want to get know your coworkers and your bosses and once you do everything becomes a bit more comfortable, but it takes time and it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s the same way with recruiting. Once you’re comfortable with people around the office maybe you go and grab drinks after work or find yourself having conversations that aren’t just about business.
Only two schools on Wiseman’s list will have the advantage of the latter: UK and Memphis. Florida State, Kansas and Vanderbilt will spend most of their time on their official visits just getting to know the family.
Now, you may think that’s all fine and dandy, but this is between UK and Memphis and if the Tigers have that advantage then it’s not a huge deal for Kentucky. Donzaleigh Artis would tell you that every school has a fair chance, but let’s pretend it is a two-horse race (it probably is)- I could make the case that Kentucky has a better relationship with Wiseman and his mother than Memphis. Obviously Penny and Wiseman are boys, but they’re not as comfortable with his entire staff. Joel Justus and John Calipari have been in constant communication with Donzaleigh Artis for years. They know Kenny Payne and Tony Barbee. They know that those guys have been at UK for years and I don’t think the announcement of the contract extensions the day Wiseman arrived on campus is a coincidence. Artis has said she wants to see if staff members/coaches will be leaving and going.
After the visit:
The official visit will come to an end this weekend and Wiseman has three other officials schedule over the next few months: Kansas (9/28), Vanderbilt (10/12) and FSU (10/26). There’s one official visit unaccounted for and it’s unclear if Wiseman will use that to travel down the road to Memphis, or potentially use it to see another school he is considering (UNC, Texas, Arizona).
But the majority of those coaching staffs will see Wiseman before he arrives on their campuses, and UK’s staff will be back just days after Wiseman has left Lexington. UK will visit Wiseman for an in-home visit on 9/12. I’ve been asked what’s an in-home visit like and it’s similar to an official visit. John Calipari isn’t going to have a PowerPoint presentation showcasing all his NBA Draft picks or a detail printout of how the Cats will use Wiseman next season. They will hang out, talk, have fun and continue to build their relationship. The Cats are going to have plenty of face time over the next few days.
There’s no denying that UK has seized momentum in this recruitment and Memphis is slowly seeming to fade. I would remind people that unless something wild happens, Wiseman is going to wait until the spring to announce. While things have been positive for UK over the last week or so, I wouldn’t be surprised if the tide changes again and changes back. It’s recruiting.
But Wiseman wants to wait and see who stays and goes at each school, UK and Kansas are the only places that will feature players that have serious NBA Draft decisions.
Memphis also does not want Wiseman to wait. They don’t just want Wiseman, they want Wiseman to play on a team that can compete for a Final Four. If Wiseman were to commit to Memphis tomorrow other 2019 five-star recruits would notice and be more likely to follow his lead. If Wiseman truly wants to wait until late spring then he may be one of the last players to sign. That’s not good news for Memphis. Plus, if you were going to spurn your hometown school would you do it before your senior season? If Wiseman picked Kentucky tomorrow Memphis fans would not be happy and there would be a different energy during Wiseman’s high school games. It may be smarter to wait and then get the hell out of dodge.
We still have months to go, but the Cats are doing great things in this recruitment.