Witherspoon picks Memphis

LILBURN - Berkmar boys basketball star Wesley Witherspoon kept the suspense going well into Thursday's news conference to announce his decision on where he would play college basketball.

After thanking the many family members, friends and assorted media outlets present at the ceremony at Berkmar's media center, he sat down behind a table with hats representing five schools on it.

"I guess y'all want to know," Witherspoon joked after pausing a few minutes.

The 6-foot-8 senior forward then ended the suspense that had built up for months by placing the hat representing the University of Memphis on his head.

Then, he had another task after signing his national letter of intent - namely to call Tigers coach John Calipari and tell him the good news.

"Two days ago," Witherspoon replied upon being asked when the last time he spoke with Calipari. "I told him to stay tuned on Thursday at 3:30. He had to wait like everyone else."

The wait was probably worth it to Calipari as Witherspoon chose to join his Tigers - who finished runner-up to national champion Kansas in this year's NCAA Tournament - over similar offers from Colorado, Oklahoma State, Virginia and Texas.

"I felt like it was the best fit for me," said Witherspoon, who finished tied for sixth among all Gwinnett County boys players in scoring (19.5 points per game), fifth in rebounding (9.8 rpg) and eighth in assists (4.5 apg) while helping the Patriots (23-6) to the Region 8-AAAAA championship and a berth in the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals.

"(The biggest factor in the decision was) probably Coach (Calipari). From Day 1, I liked what he was telling me. He was not telling me what I wanted to hear, but telling me what I needed to hear. ... I'm really happy right now."

So is Berkmar coach Tommy McWhorter, despite the fact he is losing his leading scorer and rebounder.

And like Witherspoon, McWhorter is pleased with his player's choice.

"At the end of the day, I thought Memphis did the most work (in recruiting him)," McWhorter said. "You want someone who shows you the most love. If they're going to go out of their way (to recruit you), you know they really want you.

"I think he can fit in well with the dribble drive they do. ... And I think he did a good job finding out about Memphis. He knows all their recruits. So he knows what kind of situation he's going into."

Indeed, Witherspoon is the latest in what figures to be a strong recruiting class for Memphis, including highly touted point guard Tyreke Evans, whom the Patriots' star played alongside during the Jordan Brand Classic all-star game last weekend in New York.

And with the Tigers losing four starters to the NBA draft this summer, he should have a chance to play right away - though he said that wasn't necessarily the deciding factor in choosing Memphis.

"Playing time wasn't really an issue," Witherspoon said. "I knew if I did what I had to do, I'd have a chance to play."

When he gets to Memphis, Witherspoon will become the third member of his family to play major college basketball, joining older brothers William, who played a year at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and Wynton, who signed with Virginia Tech out of high school and is a rising senior at George Washington.

And he said he consulted both brothers, along with his parents, William Sr. and Carolyn, for advice on making his decision.

"I really wanted to cut through all the crap," Witherspoon said. "My brothers told me not to get too caught up in that. ... (Wednesday) night, me and my parents sat down and talked about it."