Kentucky fans have quietly been hoping that Tubby Smith turns things around at Memphis and isn’t let go after this season for two reasons: Most fans still like Tubby and want to see him do well, but the second reason is probably more evident.
James Wiseman, the #1 ranked player in the Class of 2019.
Wiseman has long been a Kentucky Wildcats lean, but he plays AAU and high school basketball for Memphis Tigers icon Penny Hardaway, and if Tubby is indeed let go, there only seems one option to take the helm of the Tigers program: Hardaway.
So if Hardaway were to become the next Memphis coach, could he steal away Wiseman? One Memphis radio host says there would be a decent chance of it.
“I would probably go 70-30 Kentucky, but Memphis’ chances before this week were zero,” John Martin of 92.9 ESPN Radio told CatsPause. “But you can’t overstate the decision for James Wiseman to go from Ensworth to East. When Penny is in your ear, ‘you can be the guy that turns Memphis around with me as your coach,’ that’s a hard pitch to turn down.”
His Crystal Ball is still heavily Kentucky, but the last two picks have been Memphis, assumedly off the idea that Hardaway could be coaching there next year. It should be noted that Memphis would owe Smith a heavy buyout—to the tune of approximately $9.75 million—but with attendance dropping and support in the program falling, Smith would need a miracle run to save his job.
Most signs still point to Kentucky for Wiseman though. One source close to the basketball program at Memphis East told SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker that Wiseman tells everyone he is going to Kentucky.
But that was probably before the Hardaway-to-Memphis rumor picked up the amount of steam it has.
Regardless, if Hardaway ends up as the Tigers coach, Kentucky will have to really ramp up their recruitment to bring Wiseman to Lexington.