It’s been more than a year since any of us have seen James Wiseman play in a competitive basketball game. After a 14-point, 12-rebound performance against Oregon on Nov. 12, 2019, the former No. 1 recruit in the nation’s collegiate career at the University of Memphis came to an abrupt end after three games due to an NCAA suspension led to his decision to focus on the NBA Draft.
Wiseman’s been spending plenty of time in the gym over the last year. It’s been a lengthy process, but it’s coming to a head on Wednesday night, when he’s expected to go in the top-3 of the 2020 NBA Draft. Before that happens, Wiseman hopped on a call with Dime to give us an update on what he’s been doing to stay busy on and off the court, give some book recommendations as he’s working to become more of a leader, and discuss his partnership with Mountain Dew, which will include him making a cameo on their Instagram account as part of Dew’s Virtual Green Carpet on Wednesday evening.
How have you been keeping yourself occupied over the last couple of months?
I’m really just doing a lot of film study, a lot of basketball film, and just trying to stay mentally tough throughout this process. I know this process has been long and it’s been a marathon for all of us athletes. I make sure that I just do stuff off the court, read a variety of books, in terms of business and doing a lot of meditation and stuff like that, but really just playing the video game and just enjoying life outside of basketball and staying mentally tough.
So what’s going through your mind right now? I mean, you have been mentioned as a top pick from the moment people started talking about this Draft class and now, that day is finally here.
My mind has been kind of, very calm, because that’s just my demeanor, I’m a very calm person. But I ain’t gonna lie, I’ve been getting kind of anxious a little bit, because it’s been hitting me this morning when I woke up. The last weekend, or three days ago before I came home to see my mom, I really wasn’t … it didn’t hit me that much, but now it’s starting to hit me. So it’s really very exciting. It’s very exciting for me and my family, it’s a very exciting moment, and I can’t wait to just enjoy the moment.
So what’s the draft plan? What will you be doing? Who will you be doing it with? Do you have a special suit or anything going on this year?
Yeah, my suit is going to be very subtle. I’m going to spice it up a little bit, but it’s going to be very subtle. It’s going to be simple. But I’m just enjoying my time with my family. I’m still gonna work out after I get drafted and I’m gonna still be in the gym and stuff because I just love being in there so much. But just let my hair down and just relax and just enjoy this moment is what I’m really thinking about, just living in the moment, and staying in the present moment.
I’ve spoken to enough draft prospects over the years to know that you guys are always working on everything in the lead up to the draft. But what is the one specific area where you think you’ve grown the most as a basketball player in this entire process?
I’ll say being a leader. I’ve always been a leader on my team since my eleventh grade year, really since my first year of high school. But just being more of a vocal leader, if that makes sense, making sure that I just keep my teammates involved and just give my teammates courage, make sure I uplift my teammates.
I’ll say in terms of me individually, I say my ball-handling and my shooting has done way better. Just throughout this training process, I’ve been working on that for several months. I feel very confident and very prepared in my versatility.
Yeah, you just mentioned leadership and a little earlier, you mentioned some books that you’ve been reading. Are there any books on leadership that you feel have really helped you grow into more of a leadership role?
Yes, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, and then there’s another book called How to Be a Power Connector and there’s another book called 48 Laws of Power that I’ve been reading so far. Those three books are great, but one book in particular, Kobe Bryant made, called the Wizenard series. He talks about sacrifices, dedication, and how to be a leader and how when adversity hits, you still have to have that courage and that perseverance to keep going. So those books became the main components of my development.
I got a Kobe question for you in a second, but before we get to that, who were the players whose games you enjoy studying the most, both as you were growing up and as you look at what you need to do to succeed in the modern NBA?
I’ll say Anthony Davis, Chris Bosh, Karl-Anthony Towns, and I’ll also say David Robinson and Kevin Garnett. Those players I admire a lot, just because how they can be able to space out the floor and use their versatility to be 7’1.
In today’s generation, in today’s NBA, it’s all about versatility as a big man. Can you play-make, and can you put the ball on the floor and shoot the ball? So I’ve been working on all three of those aspects of my game and I’m fully prepared and ready to be able to showcase it. But yeah, that’s the only thing I’ve been doing, just staying humble and just working hard and just studying those guys right there, because they’re great players.
So I know you have big, big plans for yourself off the court. I spoke to you about a year ago and you spoke a lot about how much you care about giving back. And you mentioned Kobe as a guy who inspired you as an athlete who helps people off the floor. How do you plan on continuing his legacy now that Kobe is no longer with us?
I feel like the main objective in life, in terms of us as humans, we have to give back. We have to help each other. We have to give each other advice and information to help each other grow. So I feel that what Kobe did, and what he did on this earth, really impacted a lot of people, even people that’s not even athletes and just having that mindset to where, why you should be tenacious and just master your craft, just work hard at everything you do.
Off the court, make sure you give back to the people that helped you throughout your journey, but also help people that are trying to become great in their position, but also trying to help people who’s trying to get to your position, as well. So, I feel like it’s great to give back, to give a lot of advice to young kids, just to give them a lot of information on how to be successful.
And do you have any specific stuff that you’re doing right now? Or are you looking into doing once you get settled into the league? Or is it just, if a young person reaches out to you and wants to talk to James Wiseman, you’re going to be there to chat with them?
Yes, I have a lot of young kids that hit me up everyday on all social media platforms that I have — Twitter, Instagram, so I text back, get to it ASAP. I’ve barely been on social media like that, about all I do on social media is just check my DMs and stuff, but so if I see somebody that texts me, I’ll quickly text them back, especially if it’s a kid that wants any information about the league or any information about how to get better as a athlete. So, I feel that it’s great to give back. And once I get to the league, I’m going to have a lot of opportunities and I want to create a lot of opportunities that I did to give back to my community and just to help out.
What do you have going on with Mountain Dew?
It’s really just a great sponsorship just to talk about my life, talk about my platform, talk about where I came from, and also just really talk about me as a person, and just talk about the different, interesting things that I like to do outside of basketball. So, just more of a defining moment to where I could be able to talk about myself as a person, outside of basketball, and just talk about those things and just spread it to people that’s interested in terms of my personality and stuff.
I saw the video you did with them, and I have to ask about the love of making beats. When did that start?
— NBA (@NBA) November 16, 2020
That’s a great question. I started making beats three years ago and Kanye West is one of my favorite artists of all time. So, to just watch him make beats and music is what I like to do outside of basketball. So, just making beats is a very great thing for me to do outside of basketball, just to get my mind off basketball in my off time. So, yeah, Kanye West is one of my favorite people, in terms of music.
Two final questions to end. One, what’s your favorite Kanye album?
College Dropout, most definitely, that’s the best album of all time.
And two, any guys in the league who sing or who rap that you’d love to make beats for one of these days?
Shout out to Damian Lillard. Hopefully, if we can get a track one day, I’ll most definitely make a fire beat and he can have the fire lyrics that he got and we can just rap. Just create it, hopefully create a hit.