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James Wiseman

Character Counts for James Wiseman, Gatorade Player of the Year and Nike Hoop Summit Center

  • Author:
    Gary R. Blockus, Red Line Editorial
  • Date:
    Apr 9, 2019

James Wiseman know what it feels like to be blessed with basketball talent, but talk to him, and you’ll hear how often he notes the quality of character of those around him.

He himself has been described as an excellent student and a model citizen in his Memphis community. 

He also is a verifiable talent on the court, which is one of the reasons the 7-foot-1 center was named Gatorade National Player of the Year in March.

“It was just crazy,” said Wiseman, who is one of the 12 high school seniors selected to represent the United States in the 22nd annual Nike Hoop Summit on Friday, April 12 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. (Tickets)

Jaren Jackson Jr. of the Memphis Grizzlies, one of Wiseman’s favorite players, presented him with the award at school just a few days before the official start of spring. 

“He’s a great player as well,” Wiseman said, “and he had a great rookie year. For him to give me the award was a blessing, because we touch base and talk outside of basketball. He gives me advice, motivation and encourages me to never give up on my goals.”

When you are a 7-foot-1 center who can dominate among his peers like few others, you tend to draw a lot of national attention, but Wiseman knows how to keep things real thanks to a strong family. 

“My mom (Donzaleigh Artis) and my sister (Jaquarius Greer) kept me disciplined and helped me to learn how to work hard every day,” he said. “They taught me how to have a lot of confidence in myself and to care for people and try to help people every day.”

Wiseman says his sister also was successful on the court and a great rebounder. His mom played basketball as well.

Wiseman obviously is gifted. He has attended three USA Basketball minicamps and helped lead the U.S. to the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship gold medal. He averaged 11.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.0 block per game en route to the championship.

“Winning that gold medal for the U.S. was a great feeling, because you want to win for your country in great fashion,” he said. “It defines your character.” 

Wiseman enjoys school and loves to read. He loves books and reads a variety of different genres, from business to horror. He also took Mandarin Chinese in school for three years. Wiseman said that growing up in his hometown of Nashville helped him develop self-motivation, and that he has been able to glean a little something from every experience in his life. He transferred from The Ensworth School in Nashville to Memphis East for his junior season, because his sister lived in Memphis.

He started basketball around age 5, along with football, but baseball actually was his favorite sport until he turned 7 and the opportunity to play AAU Basketball lit a fire. 

“I remember that first day, I tripped over my feet, I dribbled off my feet, but I fell in love playing club,” he said.

Wiseman’s talent and acumen led him to playing for Team Penny in Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League, and that opened up the opportunity for national exposure and outstanding coaching.

“I got to meet Penny Hardaway, and I was truly amazed with his character,” Wiseman said. “When I worked with him, my game started to improve.”

Through coaching and continued hard work, Wiseman said he has developed an all-around game where he can run the floor with a high motor, rebound, block shots and exhibit defensive prowess.

“I’ve been working on my dribbling and shooting,” he said, noting that he’s got a pretty good left-handed hook shot.

Wiseman committed to the University of Memphis, where Hardaway is the head coach, and is looking forward to working with the former NBA star on a daily basis.

“I want to put basketball back on the map at Memphis,” he said. “Plus, that’s a great coaching staff.”

The Memphis staff includes former NBA player and NBA Coach of the Year Sam Mitchell, former NBA player Mike Miller and Tony Madlock.

Wiseman averaged 25.8 points, 14.8 rebounds and 5.5 blocks during his senior season at Memphis East High School. He led the team to a 3A state title as a junior, and got them back to the championship game this season.

“I developed my game tremendously,” he said. “I worked hard every day, and my teammates pushed me. Without them I wouldn’t be in this position today. I really wanted to win that last basketball game as much as possible for my coaches and teammates.

“I still carry myself with a lot of humility. I stay humble during the process, no matter what. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and I am blessed to have this recognition.”


Gary R. Blockus is a freelance contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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