LOS ANGELES — It was an up-and-down couple days for James Wiseman at Peach Jam last weekend. Coming into the event it was a near consensus that Wiseman was one of two players (along with Vernon Carey) who should be considered the top player in the high school class of 2019. Yet after playing good but not great at Peach Jam (he averaged 16 points and 5.8 rebounds over the course of that weekend), some called into question whether Wiseman should be considered at all for the top spot.
Well, if Wiseman heard those whispers, he showed – beyond a reasonable doubt – on Wednesday night that it is way too premature to remove his name from the conversation of “the best player in high school basketball.” After electing to switch AAU teams (his normal squad, the Bluff City Legends, finished their season last weekend) Wiseman arrived at the Adidas Summer Championships in Los Angeles Wednesday night and put on a show everyone in attendance from coaches, to fans and yes this writer for KSR.
Still, despite appearing to play with a chip on his shoulder, Wiseman said that wasn’t the case at all.
“Really I don’t [feel like I have anything to prove],” Wiseman said following the game. “I feel like I played hard at Peach Jam. I think I showed everything, my offensive game, everything.”
An official scorer from Adidas said that Wiseman finished with 20 points and nine rebounds on Wednesday night, but watching him in person it felt like a much more dominant performance. Beyond just the raw numbers though, Wiseman showed off a skill-set that fits the profile of a player who many consider to be the No. 1 player in the country and a potential future No. 1 pick in the draft.
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) July 18, 2018
Over the course of a couple possessions, Wiseman did everything from hit a deep three, to put back a monster dunk, with a beautiful up-and-under move in the paint. Defensively he tore down a couple big rebounds and slapped away a block shot in those same few possessions. Even in a gym where there was other elite talent (consensus Top 10 prospects like Matthew Hurt and Trendon Watford were also in the building), Wiseman stood out as by far the best player at the event (for those wondering, 2020 big man Evan Mobley was probably the closest behind him).
What will be interesting to see is what comes next in Wiseman’s recruitment. Wiseman has claimed all along that his recruitment remains open, and reiterated that Wednesday night, telling me that he plans to release a new “Top 8” schools soon. Still, the consensus seems to be that there are only two really contenders in his recruitment, Kentucky and Memphis, and the crowd on Wednesday night seemed to indicate that. Kentucky assistant Joel Justus was there (multiple sources told KSR that John Calipari is expected in today) and Memphis’ Penny Hardaway and assistant Mike Miller were there as well.
Maybe even more interesting, was who wasn’t there. Although Wiseman said that schools like Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Vanderbilt have reached out to him (in addition to his top two), outside the contingent from Memphis and Kentucky, as best I could tell, only North Carolina’s Roy Williams seemed to be there explicitly for Wiseman. Kansas didn’t appear to have a coach in the building (although maybe I missed them). And in a wild twist, no one from Duke watched him either. That is especially telling, considering that both Coach K and assistant Jon Scheyer were not only in Los Angeles, but at the same court earlier in the night to watch Matthew Hurt. All they had to do was literally not move from where they were, and they could have seen Wiseman play a few minutes later. Yet they were gone by the time his game tipped off.
Interesting note: Coach K left the court James Wiseman was playing at, prior to tip-off (he'd been there to watch Matthew Hurt earlier in the night). It seems like everyone other than Memphis and Kentucky really has given up on recruiting the No. 1 player in the country
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) July 19, 2018
Understand, that is a knock on Coach K, but instead, feels to me like an indicator of where Duke believes they stand in Wiseman’s recruitment.
Even though Wiseman claims that Duke has been in touch, if the Blue Devils were seriously pursuing him, I find it hard to believe that Coach K wouldn’t be courtside, especially since he was already in the building. Some will argue that Duke has prioritized other big men including Vernon Carey and Isaiah Stewart and that’s fair, but let’s be honest, it’s not like Duke hasn’t recruited multiple guys at the same position before (like R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Zion Williamson this year, for example).
Therefore, seeing both Coach K and Scheyer leave once Wiseman took the court can only lead me to one conclusion: They don’t believe they have a real shot at him. To which I ask, when was the last time that Duke basically punted on even trying to recruit the best player in high school basketball?
Those are the times we’re in however and – as has been reported by everyone – it appears as though Wiseman’s recruitment will ultimately come down to Kentucky and Memphis when it’s all said and done.
In the meantime, Wiseman doesn’t seem particularly worried about recruiting, or much else for that matter.
“I just want to keep working hard,” he said when asked about his plans for the rest of the summer. “And just keep getting better.”
If Wednesday was any indication, he is well on his way to doing just that.