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James Wiseman’s recruiting choice could show the future of college basketball

Wiseman has a list of five finalists, but everyone believes it’s a two-team race.

Basketball: USA Men’s Junior National Team Minicamp Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

James Wiseman’s recruiting decision is coming. The consensus No. 1 player in the class of 2019 will make his college announcement on Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET during SportsCenter on ESPN.

Wiseman is down to five schools: Memphis, Kentucky, Kansas, Vanderbilt, and Florida State.

Wiseman is a 7-foot, 230-pound center with great length (7’4 wingspan), explosive leaping ability, and the mobility to beat the opposition down the floor in transition. At this stage, he projects as a screen-and-roll finisher on offense and rim protector on defense who also has the quickness to stay with smaller players on the perimeter. Wiseman has a developing offensive skill level that will be fascinating to monitor when he reaches the college level.

At the moment, Wiseman is projected as the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 2020 NBA Draft by ESPN. Even if his college career will be brief, his impact can still be immense. In fact, Wiseman’s choice could clue us in on what the immediate landscape of the elite recruiting picture will look like in college hoops.

This is what Wiseman’s recruiting decision would mean for each of his finalists.

James Wiseman highlights

If Wiseman chooses Kansas, Vanderbilt, or Florida State ....

This would be a shock. Right now, the race for Wiseman appears to be a two program toss up between Memphis and Kentucky.

Still, there’s a reason Wiseman lists five schools instead of two as his finalists. Kansas, Vanderbilt, and Florida State are each appealing for their own reasons.

Kansas: The Jayhawks speak for themselves at this point. This is an NBA factory on par with any program in the country, turning blue chip recruits into top draft picks on an annual basis. It happened with Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, it happened with Josh Jackson, and it will happen again with Quentin Grimes come June. From an on-court perspective, the Jayhawks would have a hole middle should one or both of Udoka Azubuike and Dedric Lawson turn pro. Could Wiseman team with another five-star recruit in Matthew Hurt in Lawrence?

Vanderbilt: Bryce Drew is only in his second season at Vandy, but he’s already landed two five-star recruits in Darius Garland and Simi Shittu. Wiseman, a Memphis native, would be able to play close to home and be the unquestioned big man on campus. This seems like the longest of the long shots.

Florida State: Players love Leonard Hamilton, who has been an elite recruiter for years. Hamilton helped turn Jonathan Isaac into the No. 6 overall pick two years ago. He also has a history of prominently featuring his big men.

But let’s be honest, Wiseman’s decision is going to come down to Memphis vs. Kentucky.

If James Wiseman chooses Kentucky ...

It shows John Calipari hasn’t lost his recruiting touch.

Calipari’s reputation as an elite recruiter has taken a hit this year after Duke landed the No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 recruits in the country. Those recruits then led Duke to a 34-win over Kentucky in the first game of the season, a game Kentucky was favored in. It was the worst loss of Calipari’s career at any level.

Calipari created the model that Duke has perfected this season. That doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way forever, though. Right now, Duke does not have a top-20 player committed for next season’s recruiting class. Kentucky already has two in ESPN’s top-10 in Khalil Whitney and Tyrese Maxey. Add in Wiseman and Kentucky suddenly has the best recruiting class in the country. With it would come an announcement that Calipari is back.

On court, Kentucky needs an elite big man for next season. P.J. Washington is likely to turn pro after his sophomore season and Reid Travis will be out of eligibility. Calipari’s best teams have always thrived with great bigs, and Wiseman would fit nicely into that lineage.

After missing on Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Cam Reddish, it feels like there’s a lot of pressure on Calipari to land Wiseman. There’s only one man standing in the way.

If James Wiseman chooses Memphis ...

It will show that Penny Hardaway has officially arrived as a big-time recruiter, and that every other coach in the country should be scared straight.

Hardaway is in prime position to build a monster recruiting class in his first full year at Memphis. He has deep ties to the scene because of his previous work as a coach at both the grassroots level on Nike’s EYBL circuit and the high school level at East Memphis. The first step to his plan of recruiting domination is landing Wiseman.

Wiseman played for Team Penny on the EYBL, which was renamed as the Bluff City Legends when he took the Memphis Tigers job. He won a state title for Penny at East Memphis High School. The personal ties could not be stronger here, and it’s why Hardaway has a real chance to steal the top recruit in the country at an upstart program away from someone as established as Calipari.

If Wiseman commits, expect a huge class to follow for Memphis, with one, two, or three other five-stars joining him. If Wiseman ultimately becomes the first pick in the NBA draft, Hardaway can tout that on the recruiting trail in future years. There is a ton riding on Wiseman’s decision for Memphis and Hardaway. Both should be feeling good right now.

James Wiseman recruiting prediction: Memphis

Hardaway and Wiseman have been around each other for years already. Make it one more.

The Tigers are going to be a program to be reckoned with in college basketball. Landing Wiseman is just the first step.