James Wiseman Heading Into Key Year for Development
On the court, USA Basketball national teams provide an opportunity for the USA’s best basketball players to compete on an international stage, chasing gold medals for country pride.
But, USA Basketball provides more than just improving basketball skills.
Take it from James Wiseman.
The No. 1 recruit on the 2019 ESPN 100, the 7-foot-1, 240-pound center from Memphis, Tennessee, saw his horizons expand more than a year ago when he helped lead the 2017 USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team to a gold medal at the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Argentina.
“For me to just go over there and experience the culture made me appreciate the United States more, because they didn’t have a lot over there,” said Wiseman, who attends The Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee. “(Participating in USA Basketball has) just built my character a lot. I improved as a basketball player, but off the court and life skills in general, like my social life and everything, it just built my character.”
Wiseman will be among an expected 86 high schoolers at the 2018 USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team October Minicamp taking place Oct. 5-7 at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This camp is a little different in that USA Basketball recently has expanded its Men’s Junior National Team program by partnering with the NBA, the National Basketball Players Association and the NCAA to move the scope of instruction beyond basketball. Among the features of this camp will be tips on health and wellness, as well as improving life skills, which includes the use of social media, building healthy relationships, the recruiting process and character development. Parents also will be part of the program.
The minicamp could be an opportunity for Wiseman to bounce back from a rough summer. He was in training camp in June for the 2018 USA Basketball Men’s U17 World Cup team, but he dealt with a hip injury that sent him home prematurely.
“I won a gold medal with the U16 team, so for me not to be on that team, that kind of hurt a little bit,” Wiseman said. “But, I made sure to support my teammates. I texted my teammates and made sure everything was good and wished them good luck.”
While his time on the court this summer was limited — Wiseman says he currently is at 95 percent following his hip injury — he spent his time watching film of NBA stars Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo, big men who can shoot from distance and can handle the ball. The left-handed center with 3-point range also had the chance to meet Durant, who broke down film on Wiseman following the Peach Jam.
“It went great,” Wiseman said. “He gave me a lot of feedback. To be honest, I still text him now, just to ask questions. Because he is one of the top two, if not the best player in the NBA right now. To get information from him is really great. It has helped my game out a lot.”
Another key figure in Wiseman’s development has been Don Showalter, who has won 10 gold medals as a head coach of the USA men’s U16 and U17 teams from 2009-2018. Showalter, who now serves as USA Basketball Coach Director, Youth Division, owns a 62-0 record as a U16/U17 head coach, and he guided Wiseman and the USA in the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship and the 2018 USA U17 World Cup team this past summer.
“He’s a legendary coach,” Wiseman said. “For me to be under his wings for a whole month when I was with the U16 team, I picked his brain a lot. I made sure that I asked questions, so I could get great feedback and be able to work on my game. He’s just a great mentor and a great person overall. I just love interacting with him, because he’s such a smart person.”
Of course, as one of the top high school players in the country, Wiseman knows many fans want to know which college he will select. On Wednesday, he announced a top five of Florida State, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis and Vanderbilt. He expects to make a final choice in December or January.
In the meantime, he will sharpen his skills — on the court and off the court — this weekend.
“Just want to learn and just to get better,” Wiseman said of what he wants to accomplish in this camp. “I want to develop my game as much as I can to be the best version of me. I’m just ready to come to camp and compete and learn, give my best effort.”