19-year-old James Wiseman is officially a member of the National Basketball Association’s Golden State Warriors. Following a difficult 2019-20 season that saw the Nashville, TN. product suspended before ultimately leaving his post in the NCAA, the 7-foot-1, 250-pound center heard his name called second overall at the 2020 NBA Draft, which was held virtually in late-November 2020.
The Makings Of A Star
Wiseman’s story is one of perseverance through unfortunate circumstances, as well as that of a strong faith in his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As demonstrated by his early beginnings in the sport of basketball as a tall, four-year-old child, Wiseman had all the makings of a star since the start. Strong freshman and sophomore high school seasons led the then Grade 11 student to transfer to East Memphis High for his final two seasons of high school ball at a more competitive high school program.
The move was made upon suggestion by former NBA player and East Memphis coach Penny Hardaway, whom Wiseman met during the 2017 offseason. Just two months into the 2017-18 season, the high schooler was suspended, as it was deemed that an “athletic coaching link” was present between him and Hardaway. That suspension was later lifted and allowed Wiseman to play out his Grade 11 and 12 seasons with Memphis East, averaging 25.8 points-per-game, 14.8 rebounds and 5.5 blocks as a senior, earning two separate National Player of the Year awards.
As his last name inadvertently indicates, Wiseman has proven to be a studious young man. Having the choice of learning French, Spanish or Mandarin as a second language for two school years at his private high school, Wiseman opted to study Mandarin, as he claimed he wanted to be “different”’ The 19-year-old is reportedly still fluent in the second-most popular language worldwide. On top of his mandatory education, Wiseman has also opted to voluntarily fill his brain with additional basketball content, having read both The Wizenard Series and The Mamba Mentality – books written by the late Kobe Bryant.
Another book that Wiseman has found comfort in is that of the Bible. Commonly referencing his faith on his social media channels, Wiseman’s current Twitter bio reads: “Always Keep God First” and “Stay Humble and Keep the Faith” while also referencing a verse found in Ephesians 3:20: “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
Stay Strong In Adversity
Following an extensive decision-making process after his completion of high school, Wiseman chose to attend the University of Memphis, although heavily considering other options. Coach Hardaway had recently shifted into a coaching position with the Tigers, which helped Wiseman choose Memphis once again. But following just three games of NCAA action, the league suspended the center for 12 games as it found out that coach Hardaway – a University of Memphis ‘booster’ – had paid Wiseman’s mother $11.5K in funds associated with helping the family move to Memphis (unbeknownst to the 18-year-old at the time).
Midway into the suspension, Wiseman determined his best option was to withdraw from university, hire an agent and begin preparations for the NBA Draft as a professional athlete – talk about a whirlwind! But through it all, the outspoken Christian remained strong in his faith.
“Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been a dream of mine to play in the NBA,” Wiseman wrote in an emotional Instagram post following his decision to walk away from Memphis. “Throughout this process, I’ve asked God to ordain my steps and lead me in the right direction. God is my Lord and salvation, and throughout this process, he has comforted me.”
On November 20, 2019 – the day the NCAA suspension was finalized – Wiseman tweeted, “God has never left me nor forsaken me throughout this process…Trust God, Keep the Faith, Stay the Course,” incorporating his slogan into the short post. He followed up a week later with the following message: “Sometimes bad things happen to good people,” the tweet read. “God has never left me nor forsaken me throughout this process! God knows my destiny, and I feel that even though hardships may be upon me, it too shall pass in the grace of God. My journey isn’t finished, and this too shall pass.”
“God knows my destiny, and I feel that even though hardships may be upon me, it too shall pass in the grace of God”
It did pass, as Wiseman was chosen second overall by Golden State, where he has since joined fellow professed Christian, Steph Curry on a highly potent Warriors team in need of a new center.
“All praises be to God first,” Wiseman told ESPN immediately following his selection. “But just me going through this adversity made me stronger as a person. I’m truly ready to go to Golden State and go learn as much as possible. Just be the best version of me and work every day.”
Wiseman added that despite the troubling past year, he has felt God walking by his side amid the various challenges.
“It’s been great adversity, just having God on my side and leading me throughout the way,” he said. “Having Coach Penny on my side and my family on my side, and really just building my mental toughness. Creating that chip on my shoulder to where I stay humble but work hard every day. And leave all the praise to God.”