By LARRY VAUGHT
Just how bad does Kentucky want Memphis five-star forward James Wiseman, the No. 1 player in the 2019 recruiting class?
Enough that John Calipari and his entire staff watched Wiseman play Friday night — and it also let them see 2019 UK commit D.J. Jeffries and Adair County point guard Zion Harmon, one of the top players in the 2021 class, since they are on the same AAU team as Wiseman.
It was no coincidence that Calipari made it to the Bluff City Legends’ first AAU game to see Wiseman. Kentucky has been considered the frontrunner for Wiseman but that outlook changed when Wiseman’s coach at Memphis East High School, Penny Hardaway, was named head coach at Memphis after Tubby Smith was fired.
Wiseman played at the Marshall County Hoop Fest in December long before he knew Hardaway would become head coach at Memphis. He raved then about Kentucky and Calipari.
“I am a competitor, and Kentucky likes that. Kentucky does a lot of pick and pop with bigs, so I would fit in his (Calipari’s) system,” Wiseman said. “Fans here (at Marshall County) want me to come to Kentucky and I like how excited they are about me.”
Wiseman moved from Nashville to Memphis before his junior season to play for Hardaway. He had previously been on his AAU team.
“It is great playing for him,” Wiseman said when asked about Hardaway then. “He has been teaching me and trying to build up my game a lot. He’s really good for me.”
So now the greatest coach in Memphis basketball history — Calipari — is recruiting against Hardaway, the best player ever at Memphis, for Wiseman.
Wiseman also continues to insist he will not reclassify to the 2018 recruiting class, something he emphasized back in December.
But whether he’s in the 2018 or 2019 recruiting classes, Wiseman is special and that’s why Calipari and staff were there to watch him Friday and will be again a lot during this evaluation period.