It’s been a tough and often confusing journey for James Wiseman, but he has now reached the NBA. The 7-foot-1 19-year-old was selected No. 2 overall by the Golden State Warriors in Wednesday night’s 2020 NBA Draft.
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He was one of the most intriguing players in the draft because his height and athleticism make him an ideal center, but the fact that he only played three games in college left many skeptical. Yet, the Warriors — who have won three championships in the past six years, and made the NBA Finals five of the past six seasons — were ready to take a chance on him.
Upon learning of his NBA destination during the draft, which was held virtually, Wiseman was overcome with emotion.
James Wiseman was overcome with emotion after the Warriors picked him at No. 2 🙏 #NBADraft pic.twitter.com/YX4JCPeoGh
— ESPN (@espn) November 19, 2020
Soon thereafter, he spoke with ESPN, and was quick to thank and praise God.
“All praises be to God first,” he said, “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.”
When asked about the challenges of the past year, Wiseman said God has been with him.
“It’s been great adversity, just having God on my side and leading me throughout the way,” he said. “Having Coach [Penny Hardaway] on my side and my family on my side, and [I’ve been] 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.”
Wiseman’s basketball journey began when he was a tall 4-year-old playing with fourth-graders in church leagues. He grew to 6-8 by eighth grade, and began high school at the private Ensworth School in Nashville, Tenn. Prior to his junior year, he and his mom, Donzaleigh Artis, moved across the state to Memphis to be closer to his older sister, Jaquarius, who was attending the University of Memphis. James transferred to Memphis East High, whose coach was former NBA star Penny Hardaway.
According to Sports Illustrated, Hardaway gave Artis $11,500 to help the family move to Memphis. When Hardaway later took a job as the head coach at the University of Memphis, and James later committed to playing for the Tigers, the NCAA began to investigate. After he played three games in November 2019 — averaging 19.7 points and 10.3 rebounds — the NCAA ruled him ineligible. It later suspended him for 12 games and ordered he pay $11,500 to a charity. On Dec. 19, Wiseman decided to withdraw from college and focus on preparing for the NBA.
Both Hardaway and Artis say James didn’t know about the money and that none of the issues were his fault. But the ordeal impacted his demeanor and love for the game.
Throughout it all, Wiseman has looked to God for comfort. When he withdrew from Memphis, he posted on Instagram, “Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been a dream of mine to play in the NBA. 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.”
Wiseman references his faith often on social media. On his Twitter page he says, “Always Keep God First” and “Stay Humble and Keep the Faith,” and he cites Ephesians 3:20, which says, “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us…”
God has never left me nor forsake me throughout this process…Trust God, Keep the Faith, Stay the Course🙏🏾😁✍🏾
— James Wiseman (@BigTicket_JW) November 20, 2019
Wiseman joins a Warriors team led by Steph Curry, who is also unashamed to share about his faith in Christ. And he’ll soon meet the Warriors’ team chaplain, Earl Smith, whose powerful testimony has inspired countless athletes in the Bay Area.
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