James Wiseman drafted by Golden State Warriors with No. 2 pick in NBA Draft
Widely considered one of the top prospects since dominating during his junior and senior seasons at East High, the 7-foot-1 Wiseman's stock didn't drop much despite having only three games of college basketball experience. A self-proclaimed "unicorn," the Nashville native demonstrates unique upside, especially in terms of rim protection and his ability to get up and down the court.
"(My mindset has) been to just dominate every situation," Wiseman said Monday. "So I go into every workout and work my tail off, show my motor, have great body language and be poised and professional."
Upon being drafted, Wiseman told reporters he is looking forward to joining a Warriors team that includes superstars such as Steph Curry and Klay Thompson (who will miss the 2020-21 season after reportedly suffering a torn Achilles earlier this week).
"Just being their guy. Come in there and learn as much as possible," he said. "Me coming in, great vets, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, you've got Draymond Green, Marquese Chriss, Kevon Looney, a lot of great guys on that team. So me coming in, just fit in my role, stay humble and be coachable, which I am. Go in there and work hard, play hard. Really like that fit and that position that I'm in. It's a great position for me, great fit for me. I'm just ready to go in there and play my role."
Wiseman scored 19.7 points and averaged 10.7 rebounds and three blocks during his brief stint with the Tigers. Former NBA MVP Derrick Rose (the No. 1 overall pick in 2008) is the only former Tiger to be taken higher than Wiseman in the draft. Wiseman is the program's 14th first-round pick and first since Tyreke Evans went No. 4 in 2009. He is also the first former Memphis player selected in the NBA Draft since Will Barton (a second-round choice of the Portland Trail Blazers in 2012).
Wiseman's selection at No. 2 also means Memphis becomes the third school in NCAA history (joining Kentucky and North Carolina) with players taken Nos. 1-7.
"His mobility laterally in a straight line is high level for especially for a guy seven feet tall," said ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas. "He can really change ends, high volume rebounder and a guy that can block shots, can finish around the rim and has a reliable, repeating stroke. Is he a 40% 3-point shooter from NBA range? No. But I think he's going to be able to stretch out that range, and I think he's going to be really, really good."
Wiseman's time under Memphis coach Penny Hardaway's wing ended in December 2019. He was ruled ineligible by the NCAA after it was found Hardaway gave Wiseman's mother, Donzaleigh Artis, $11,500 to help with the family's expenses during its move from Nashville to Memphis. Hardaway is considered a booster by the NCAA after he donated money to his alma mater in 2008, which resulted in the violation of the organization's bylaws.
Wiseman withdrew from school after sitting out seven of an NCAA-mandated 12 games. He told reporters Monday if he could go back in time, he wouldn't change the way he handled things.
“Life is about progression,” he said Monday. “Without going through adversity, how can you grow? I feel going through that situation made me better as a person and a basketball player, so I wouldn’t change anything.”
Following his selection, Wiseman was shown during ESPN's broadcast getting emotional.
"Why I busted out in tears is because I've been through a lot," he said. "I text my teammates every day in Memphis. I wanted that moment with my teammates. Just seeing all that, becoming like a downfall. Man, I would just have to bust out in tears, because I've been through a lot of adversity in my life.
"But I'm ready to go into Golden State with a great mindset, with a different mindset. Ready to go in there and learn as much as possible, grow my game and adapt and work my tail off."
Hardaway, who was at Wiseman's family's home in Nashville, is the first coach in NCAA history to be a top-3 pick and also coach a top-3 pick. Hardaway was the third overall selection in 1993.
Reach sports writer Jason Munz at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @munzly.