We spoke to James Wiseman, a Memphis commit and the No. 1 high school basketball recruit in the country, after he was honored with the award. 

By Tristan Jung
March 20, 2019

James Wiseman was named the 2018-19 Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year Award in a ceremony at Memphis East high school.

Wiseman is committed to play for his hometown Memphis Tigers next year under his former AAU coach Penny Hardaway. The 7'0" center averaged 25.8 points and 14.8 rebounds during his time in Memphis East and is the consensus No. 1 high school recruit in the country. Wiseman led Memphis East to a 24–8 record this season as they finished as the Class AAA runner-up in the state.

The award was presented by Grizzlies' rookie Jaren Jackson Jr., the No. 4 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft out of Michigan State. Sports Illustrated was able to catch up with Wiseman briefly on Wednesday after the ceremony.

The following Q&A has been edited for clarity.

Sports Illustrated: Could you describe what happened when you won? How has this day gone for you?

James Wiseman: I was wandering the hallways and I exited out the main entrance of the high school and I saw Jaren Jackson Jr. carrying out the award. My friends were there, my teammates were there. For him to give me the award, I was amazed. It came out of nowhere and I didn't know what was going on. I'm feeling amazing, it's still surreal. I can't believe I won the award. I'm truly blessed.

SI: You made the decision to stay in Memphis to play college basketball at the University of Memphis? What does the city of Memphis mean to you?

JW: Memphis is a great city. For me to just stay and to be a savior or icon; I'm truly blessed to have that. It just brings hope for the city of Memphis; it's a great feeling.

SI: Obviously, you've done a huge amount of work to get to this point, what was your favorite memory from high school?

JW: In one game (in Corinth, Mississippi), my teammate through me an alley-oop and I jumped over a whole person who was 6'5". I didn't even notice at the time, but on the video it was insane. I would say that was the best moment of my career.

SI: You've also played internationally with Team USA at the amateur level, could you talk about how playing for your country has helped you?

JW: It's great to represent USA and have it on my chest and a true honor for me. The coaching was different, but I really had a great experience down there. 

SI: You are set to join your AAU coach Penny Hardaway at Memphis later this year, could you describe what he's done for you throughout your career and how he'd feel about you winning this award?

JW: He'd be very happy I won the award. We talked about going out of high school with a bang. Penny's a great person. I'm in touch with him almost every day. He's been a great mentor for me and taught me a lot about the game of basketball and helped me tremendously. Starting out at Memphis will be great for me. 

SI: You are joining some of your teammates from the AAU circuit at Memphis, is that part of a plan to bring Memphis basketball to the next level?

JW: Yes, that was my main goal just trying get my teammates from my AAU team at Memphis. 

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