On the second floor of Richland Northeast’s gyms, there are posters of great players who took part in the Chick-fil-A Classic.
Among those posters are Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, Charlotte Hornets’ Miles Bridges and Duke phenom Zion Williamson. Expect James Wiseman to join that billboard for next year’s tournament.
The Memphis East senior and nation’s top recruit didn’t disappoint during his first appearance in the 17th annual event. In Saturday’s 59-58 win over The Rock (Fla.), Wiseman hit the game-winning free throws with less than 10 seconds left and swatted away the potential winning shot as time expired.
“There was a lot of great players that came through this tournament,” said Wiseman, who finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. “This tournament is very historic especially with all the big-time players who came through it. I had a great time playing in the tournament and it was a great experience for me.”
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It was the first time the No. 1 ranked player has appeared in the event, and Wiseman delivered in a big way.
The 7-foot Wiseman averaged 25 points, 11.6 rebounds and five blocks in helping Memphis East to a 2-1 record in the tournament. All three of Memphis East’s games were decided by one point.
Wiseman was named Most Outstanding Player in the National Division Bracket and Memphis East coach Jevonte Holmes said it was the hardest he’s seen Wiseman play all season. ESPN National Recruiting Director Paul Biancardi didn’t disagree.
“James has played hard in the past but this time is in consecutive games, back-to-back-to-back and that is what impressed everyone,” Biancardi said. “He came to play, he came to win. They were in three tough games.
“People see his ranking and they expect a dominant performance. He dominates most of time, sometimes it is with numbers and sometimes with his presence. He has tremendous upside and keeps on improving.”
Improving his game has been Wiseman’s main focus since he announced his commitment to hometown Memphis on Nov. 20. He said there are fewer distractions with no college coaches calling to just focus on his game.
Wiseman said he prepared both physically and mentally for three games in the Classic and his mental toughness was tested especially after teams tried to hammer on him in the post.
“I’m used to contact, I just stay poised, stay patient and let nothing bother me. I don’t get frustrated too quickly and keep my composure throughout the game,” Wiseman said.
Wiseman said he tries to pattern his game after Milwaukee Bucks all-star Giannis Antetokounmpo. Both have long, big bodies but can handle the ball and Wiseman is getting better at shooting from the outside.
Wiseman was 5-of-7 from three-point range in the tournament and 19-of-26 from the free-throw line
“Take it game by game and have fun. You got to have fun in the game of basketball because it is something you love to do,” Wiseman said. “I’m just trying to be the best player I could be. I want to get to the NBA and work on my game and be one of the greatest players.”