James Wiseman, Nico Mannion and R.J. Hampton were named Friday as the three finalists for the 2018-2019 Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year award.
The winner will be announced March 19.
The 7-foot Wiseman, a senior center from Memphis, Tennessee, is committed to play for coach Penny Hardaway at the University of Memphis. The 6-3 Mannion, a senior point guard from Phoenix, is committed to play Arizona. And the 6-6 Hampton, a junior guard from Little Elm, Texas, is the No. 6 recruit in the Class of 2020 (ESPN) and remains uncommitted.
Past Gatorade National Boys Basketball Players of the Year have included 25 NBA first-round draft picks. That group has combined for five NBA MVPs and 65 All-Star appearances. The last two winners were R.J. Barrett (Duke) and Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics).
The 2018-19 Gatorade class includes two commits apiece from Duke (Wendell Moore, a senior Guard from North Carolina and Vernon Carey Jr., a senior center from Florida), Kansas (Christian Braun, a senior guard from Kansas, and Isaac McBride, a senior guard from Arkansas) and Memphis (Wiseman, a senior center from Tennessee, and D.J. Jeffries, a guard/forward from Mississippi).
The 7-foot, 230-pound Wiseman had led Memphis East High School to a 24-8 record and a berth in the Class AAA state tournament quarterfinals at the time of his selection. Wiseman averaged 25.8 points, 14.8 rebounds, 5.5 blocks and 1.3 steals through 32 games. The Class AAA Mr. Basketball winner, Wiseman is ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2019 by ESPN, Rivals and 247Sports. He will participate in the 2019 Nike Hoop Summit in Oregon next month, and is the projected No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, per ESPN.com.
Wiseman has volunteered locally at the Big River Crossing Marathon to benefit a youth tutoring and mentoring program. He has also donated his time with Habitat for Humanity and as a youth basketball coach.
“James is practically unguardable and demands a double- or triple-team almost every time he touches the ball,” said Faragi Phillips, head coach of Whitehaven High. “What is most impressive is his high motor. He plays every possession like he still has something to prove.”
Mannion led Pinnacle High School to a 27-3 record and its second consecutive Class 6A state championship this past season. The state’s returning Gatorade Boys Basketball Player of the Year, Mannion averaged 30.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.8 steals per game. The Desert Valley Player of the Year, he was named to the All-Arizona First Team and selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game. Mannion is also a Third Team Naismith All-American and is ranked as the nation’s No. 8 recruit in the Class of 2019 by ESPN. He also has a 3.66 GPA.
A volunteer coach at local youth basketball clinics, Mannion has donated his time to Out of the Darkness Walks for mental health awareness and suicide prevention.
“Nico Mannion has no weaknesses at the high school level,” said Dan Peterson, head coach at Chaparral High. “He’s great in transition, he has amazing handles and he can score from anywhere.”
Hampton averaged 32.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 3.9 steals per game this past season, leading Little Elm High School (24-10) to the second round of the Class 5A, Region 1 tournament. Hampton won gold medals with Team USA at the 16U FIBA World Cup in 2017 and at the 17U FIBA World Cup in 2018. The Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Class 5A Player of the Year in 2018, he concluded his junior year with 2,854 career points.
A member of the Little Elm High Athletic Council, Hampton has volunteered locally as a youth basketball coach.
“R.J. is probably the best player I have ever coached against,” said Harold Jackson, head coach of Denton High. “He’s athletic and really can finish around the basket. And he’s a good shooter from 3-point range as well.”