Wiseman walked out of the doors of his high school, Memphis East in Tennessee, to see none other than Memphis Grizzlies star rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. standing there with the trophy, alongside James’ family and seemingly the entire school.
“I saw Jaren, one of my favorite players, and he had the award in his hand. That was surreal,” Wiseman said in a Gatorade-produced video from the surprise.
The 7-0 Wiseman put in a stellar season for the Mustangs, averaging 25.3 points, 14.3 rebounds and 5.4 blocks. The McDonald’s All-American led Memphis East to the championship game of the Class AAA state tournament. He committed in November to play for NBA legend Penny Hardaway at the University of Memphis next season.
SLAM caught up with Jackson Jr following the surprise to talk about his involvement in the award presentation, why Wiseman is a great choice for the award and what the future could look like for the Tigers-bound big man.
SLAM: What was it like to present the award to James? I’m sure he was really excited when he found out what was happening.
Jaren Jackson Jr.: It was great. He was so surprised at the whole thing. I was able to be there with him, his family, his teammates, his coaches and his whole school, just welcoming him into a fraternity of great players who won that award. He’s gonna be in the likes of players that won MVPs, All-Stars, a bunch of draft picks, so he’s in great company.
SLAM: What has really impressed you about James so far?
JJJ: The way he plays the game—he plays like a team player. He’s been so good at if someone triple-teams him or doubles him, he’s able to kick it out to his players. And he’s able to dominate inside and outside as a versatile player himself. He does so well at all of that stuff.
SLAM: Do you see any of your 17-year-old self in James at all?
JJJ: Maybe a little bit with us being versatile. But he’s him, I’m me. He’s going to be so dominant at Memphis. I’m looking forward to seeing what he has going for him.
SLAM: What does the accomplishment say about James as a player to win such a prestigious award?
JJJ: It says that he’s the best in the country. And to be the best out of the best, I told him, it’s one of those 1-percent awards—one of those awards you won’t understand the impact of it until you sit down and really digest it. He’s definitely going to digest it later, [and] realize all the great things he did to get to this point, all the hard work he put in with his family.
SLAM: What advice would you offer him, one big man to another?
JJJ: I would say stay patient. Always work on all parts of your game, because you never know when you’re going to be called upon to handle the ball in a clutch position, or shoot the ball; you definitely don’t want to be a liability out there. So keep working on all parts of your game, but also trust the people around you. You got Penny Hardaway, Mike Miller out there [at the University of Memphis] helping him, so he’s got one of the best guys ever to help him.
SLAM: And what do you think the future holds for James?
JJJ: I mean, I think he’s going to be one of the best to do this. But that’s me thinking down the line. The way he should think is to try to get his team to the tournament. It goes without saying that he’s going to be a high [2020 NBA Draft] pick. I would try to focus on college while he’s there, and try to compete for something special because these opportunities, you’re always going to miss them when they’re over. And when he gets to the league, being a dominant player, I think he can be one of the best to do this … he has the makings of a Hall-of-Famer.
Isaiah De Los Santos is an editorial assistant for SLAM. Follow him on twitter @IsaiahDeLos.
Photos via Gatorade.