A path of life and death: Jake Wiley quit, then conquered, now aims for NBA Draft

There are hundreds of players eligible to be drafted into the NBA this June, but it's likely no one in that pool of prospects has a more warped path, a more fascinating story than Jake Wiley. The 6-foot-6 power wing played last season at Eastern Washington, where he turned up out of seemingly nowhere, turned a corner mid-season to become the Big Sky Player of the Year.

Before his one season at EWU, Wiley played at Lewis-Clark State, an Idaho-based NAIA program, and prior to that he was at Montana for one discouraging season, averaging 1.0 points and 3.0 minutes as a freshman before quitting basketball and not so much as picking up a ball in the winter of 2013-14.  

Wiley, 22, has gone through more life experience than some of the men who have coached him. The last third of his life has been dotted with death and birth, departures and arrivals, confusion and, eventually, personal clarity. He's lived in four states, went to three colleges, played three sports -- and it wasn't until all of two months ago that he even seriously considered the NBA to potentially be in his future.

By the end of May, he'll have interviewed and worked out for at least 15 NBA franchises. General managers searching for their coveted second-round hidden gems, well they might find one in Wiley, who is a reinforced example of how tribulation can alter who you are.

"Most who act like Jake did in his teenage years go to jail," Jim Hayford, Wiley's coach last season at Eastern Washington said. 

But to know who Wiley is now, and why he has changed and how he has put himself in position to become a legitimate NBA prospect (he's an A-level athlete with pro-level mid-range skills), we must look back. Look back to a 14-year-old boy who woke up in his bed one day and decided I'm getting out of here.

That wound up being the best decision he could have made at the time, a choice that sent him on the path to meeting a girl who would become his wife and the woman who would eventually give birth to their daughter. But retreating also meant leaving his mother and baby sister behind. It also tested the twisted relationship Wiley had with his alcoholic father, a relationship that eventually ended when Wiley discovered his dad dead on the floor less than two years after he decided to depart California with him against his mother's wishes.


Jake Wiley was born in Long Beach, Calif., to a black mother and white father who were never married. Until the age of 14, he lived in a depressed neighborhood with his mom, Sheree, and sister, Sophia, who is nine years his junior.

"Definitely below middle class," Wiley said. "I had this tiny little bedroom space that was connected to my mom's bedroom. I was one of the luckier ones."

Wiley first remembers his life changing when he was 8 years old. That's when he learned dad was a "raging alcoholic" and thus could not come around so often.  

"He was never in my life and I never understood why," Wiley said. "That's a day I remember. My mom took me aside and told me why. 'He has this terrible drinking problem, he can't stop,' and from there things started to make more sense. At the same time, it really hurt to know my dad can't be around because he's choosing alcohol."

Wiley would sometimes go months without seeing his father, and then there were spurts of frequent meetups. One bad memory still sticks out. He was 9, at his dad's house, and phoned mom in order for her to call the police. On dad.

"I was terrified," Wiley said. "He was hammered, and when you're that young, 8 or 9, you don't understand when they're drunk like that. I'm talking he would get to the point where he couldn't even speak. He's cursing out my mom, cursing me out and saying 'I'm going to fu----- kick someone's ass' or do something like that. So I called my mom and she asked if I wanted to call the cops. She called to the police. He came to the door, cussing them out, and then I slipped out of the front door when he wasn't looking."

Wiley said, despite that incident, he was never physically abused by his father. Mentally, he was affected. He would grow into adolescence as a strong athlete but a terrible student. He does not define his then-relationship with his father as a bad one, though. In fact, in a perverse way, that is why he floated into the danger zone.

"Even though he had all these problems, he was still my dad and I looked up to what he was doing in a weird way, which he was doing nothing," Wiley said. "My dad doesn't care, why do I need to care? My mom is the complete opposite: totally focused, driven. A court reporter. At that age, at 14, that's the age where kids try to model themselves after their dads."

Jeff Wiley was no role model. He lived alone and most of the time he was unemployed.

"My dad, I can't even really say what he did," Wiley said. "He would have a job for a month and then get fired because, who knows what. He would get fired once a month. He was a taxi driver, worked at a concert house, worked at grocery stores."

Eventually, Jeff Wiley wanted -- needed -- out. He told Jake he was leaving California. Jake wanted to go with him. School was a joke, he hated the area and was ready to change everything in his life. Sheree put restrictions on her son when it came to his father. He was not allowed to talk to Jeff on the phone in her house. So Jake would walk to a payphone down the street and wait for his dad to call that phone at a prearranged time. It's how they devised when Jake would get on the right bus and how he'd get to the airport. 

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Left, Jake and his mom, Sheree. Right: Sheree and Sophia.  Photos provided by Jake Wiley

"Looking back, it's almost crazy, like some underground railroad type stuff," Wiley said. "'You need to be on the bus in a week.' … I think he would've died sooner if he stayed in Long Beach. I think he got into some stuff down there and said 'I'm outta here.'"

Died sooner.

By this point, Wiley wasn't going to school regularly. His grades were in the toilet and he said he had a reputation of being a jackass, a class clown, a loser. A talented athlete, yeah, but he couldn't compete in high school sports because his GPA was swinging below the 2.0 threshold. His grandparents -- Jeff's parents -- lived in Newport, Washington, a town of just over 2,000 people located an hour north of Spokane and stamped on the Washington-Idaho border. Jake also had an aunt and one of his father's best friends, who was in effect playing the role of an uncle, in Newport.

"I literally woke up one day and said, 'I'm going,'" Wiley said. "It wasn't even a discussion. There was no process. I woke up and said, 'I'm out of here.' I was totally at peace with that decision. … My mom was totally against it. Any logical person would be."

But Sheree did see her 14-year-old son off at Long Beach Airport on a June day in 2009. Sophia was there too, crying. Jake resisted the urge to cry. He remembers boarding that plane, turning around and thinking "I don't know when I'm ever going to be at this airport again."

It would take almost 20 months before he had to book a flight back to California. That would be for his father's memorial.

"It gets way crazier," Wiley said. 


Prior to moving, Wiley would play basketball alone in Long Beach and envision himself thriving in Newport, playing for the high school team and living a safer life. Some of that came to be, but the darkest moments came after the move as well.

Wiley is sharing for the first time publicly -- he says only some in his family know this -- just how destitute his situation was after leaving California. His father had no money, so his grandparents paid approximately $300 a month for Jake and his dad to rent what amounted to an attic of a house that had other tenants living on the main floor.  

"I mean, it was no bigger than the hotel room that I'm sitting in," Wiley said. "We barely had a workable shower, the heater didn't work in the winter, it was a dump, a complete dump. … This is up until the point until he (dad) really spirals downhill."

Within a few months of moving to Newport, Jake's father starts drinking heavily again and going on benders. He quits his grocery store job. Jeff and Jake's relationship hits low point after lower point. Jake considers calling his mother, telling her he made a mistake and asking to come home. Jeff would show up to Jake's games and act belligerent. Despite living in the same space, in the attic, they go a week without speaking to each other.

Eventually, Jeff tries to kill himself. 

Jake said his father taped a hose to the exhaust pipe of a car, ran the hose into the driver's seat, rolled the windows up and waited for carbon monoxide poisoning to take hold. Neighbors caught him before he killed himself and ripped the duct-taped hose off the muffler pipe.  

Inside, on a table, was a one-page suicide note from Jeff Wiley written to his son. It is the only item Jake still keeps in remembrance of his father. In it, Jake said his father wrote about wishing he could stop drinking, and how he blacks out and wants to kill himself. There was an admission: he attempted suicide multiple times before, which Jake never knew about. He also praised his son in basketball and knew he'd become a "20 and 10" guy the following season. (Which did happen.)

In the ensuing months after the suicide episode Jake and his father slowly mended. They spent more time together and had open communication. Then, midway through Jake's junior year of high school, his grandmother -- Jeff's mother -- died.

"It sent him off the deep end because they were really close," Jake said. "She was so supportive of him and was the only person who had any belief left in him. When she was gone, he literally had nothing, in his eyes."

Jake played well on Feb. 5, 2011. He was starting on varsity and scored 30 points. He was so good, he made the local Sunday paper. That was really cool because it was the Super Bowl Sunday edition. Jeff went to Jake's game and everything went great. Because of the route back after the game, they opted to stay at Jake's grandparents house instead of driving all the way back to their attic. By that point in his high school career, Jake was personally emailing basketball coaches as means to draw any interest in recruitment. Jake woke up early Sunday morning and sent emails following his big game, his dad sleeping next to him in the living room.

"Or where I thought he was sleeping," Jake said. "Then I noticed he wasn't snoring. And he always snored."

When he saw himself in the newspaper, he tried to wake up his father. He shook him, no response. Jake's grandfather, John Wiley, heard Jake yelling, "Dad, wake up!"

"No … no, no, no no," Jake remembers John saying as he entered the room. John opened Jeff's mouth to attempt to do CPR to discover food all inside of it and down his throat. Jeff Wiley was dead at 50.

Was it suicide? Jake never asked and never found out. To this day, he does not not know, nor does he seek to know, why or how his father died.

"I asked my grandfather at the time how he died and he said, 'Jake, just let it be,'" he said.

Jake soon found out more about his father, only adding to his confusion. 

"I found out my father was married for 10 years, he never told me about anything with that," Jake said. "Never told me about his childhood or his past. I barely knew he was even married. I met his ex-wife at the memorial and she told me how great of a person he was and he was fun, energetic, but that wasn't the person I knew. It made it more sad about how much his problems brought him down."


After his father's death, Wiley did not spiral -- he steadied. His grades improved and so did his game. But given his location, he did not hit the AAU circuit regularly the way most other eventual D-I players do. He'd gone from a high school of 5,000 kids in California to one with 300 located 73 miles from the Canadian border. He played in just three AAU tournaments, total, while in high school and only managed a scholarship offer to Montana because then-Grizziles coach Wayne Tinkle saw him play in one of those tournaments and witnessed Wiley's wily capability.

"Wayne saw the potential in him early," Jim Hayford, Wiley's coach at Eastern Washington, said. 

In fact, Hayford debated offering Wiley a scholarship out of high school. But at the time he just got the job and there was another kid named Venky Jois who was in the wings for EWU. He couldn't take both. Jois went on to become EWU's all-time leading scorer. Redshirting for EWU at that time was a kid name Tyler Harvey, who was drafted in the second round in 2015.

"I felt like throwing up, it was weird man. I don't know what was going on at that time. I literally couldn't take another day."Jake Wiley

"When you take a D-I job and turning over a roster, it had to be an either/or decision," Hayford said. "Venky or Jake. I also say this: Montana was the sitting power in the Big Sky at the time."

Jake was among the most athletic kids in the state, and by the time he was a senior at Newport High he was a clear-cut top-25 basketball talent in Washington. But nearby Gonzaga didn't give him a sniff and it bothered him. 

"We knew he was a diamond in the rough with big-time potential when we recruited him," said Tinkle, now the coach at Oregon State. 

Wiley had two offers to play college basketball coming out of high school: Montana and Lewis-Clark State. He nearly signed with Lewis-Clark, citing a "genuine love" from L-C coach Brandon Rinta. The two would eventually unite, but not before the next bizarre stage of Wiley's life.  

Wiley remembers "shellshock" almost immediately after getting to Missoula in August of 2012. Within a month, he was exceedingly uneasy. Montana had outstanding, all-time program stars in Will Cherry, a three-time All-Big Sky honoree, and Kareem Jamar, the league's player of the year in 2012-13. These are guys Wiley still looks up to and models his current work ethic after.

But as a freshman Wiley found himself, mysteriously, hating playing basketball almost immediately after getting to campus. The weightlifting and individual conditioning workouts were good; practice was psychological hell. He'd sit for two hours prior to and force himself to go against his will.

"Now it's the complete opposite," Wiley said. "I'll show up two hours early. But then, I was the last one to get there, first one to leave. I was overwhelmed of the academic side of it, plus the jump from playing small high school basketball. This was only my fourth year of playing competitive basketball, it's Division I, and it's like a full-time job. It wasn't what I expected. When you have an image in your head and you're not prepared, it hits you like a ton of bricks."

One of the assistant coaches said Wiley called to mind a "deer on ice" in how he was slow to adapt to college-level ball. 

"He was easy to coach, you could just tell that he was very young, immature, just a fish out of water almost," Tinkle said. "He was very quiet, unassuming. I think it was a little bit of a shock being away from home."

Wiley barely saw the floor his freshman year and didn't play in 12 of Montana's games. Ironically, he tied as Montana's leading scorer -- with five points -- in the team's humiliating 81-34 first-round loss in the 2013 NCAA Tournament to Syracuse.

"As the game ended I remember the [PA announcer] saying something like, 'This is one of the worst losses in NCAA Tournament history,'" Wiley said with a laugh. "I'm like, 'Damn, dude. Did he really just say that?' I also remember getting the ball at the top of the key, and I can't see anybody. It's SYRACUSE everywhere. That zone. I just shot the ball at the top of the key, a prayer, it went in. I got fouled by Jerami Grant, who's in the NBA now. You don't forget that stuff."

The 47-point loss was in fact the biggest margin between teams in NCAA Tournament history that didn't involve a No. 1 or 2 seed. It was the last game Wiley ever played at Montana. The loss was so dispiriting, it made him want to quit basketball even more than what he'd felt in the months prior.

"For me, it was all this stress, all this work, we killed ourselves and here we get blown out and the guy on the loudspeaker is letting you know how bad it was," Wiley said.

But he did not quit right away. Wiley, who ran track in high school, starting doing sprints at Montana's facilities when he had openings during the season. Then he thought, Why am I only doing basketball? Eventually, he made up his mind and decided he'd ask to join the track team when the season was over. Only he wasn't asking Tinkle, he was going directly to the track coach.

So Wiley simply joined the track team and competed in the 200, 400, the 4x400 and 4x100.

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Jake as a high school player in Washington, and at right, as part of the track team at Montana. Photos provided by Jake Wiley  

"He (Tinkle) was pissed because he saw a picture of me in the newspaper in a track meet," Wiley said. "When my phone rang I knew what it was. 'What is this?' Because I had mentioned it to him when he recruited me. 'I thought we talked about me maybe running track.' But I was so immature at that time it was a justifiable excuse, but it was so disrespectful."

Wiley kept with the basketball team through the summer, and in fact he got significantly better. Then came official fall practice. He went once, then quit for good. He could not take it anymore. He did not want to feel depressed, to struggle even getting out of bed.

"I felt like throwing up, it was weird man," Wiley said. "I don't know what was going on at that time. I literally couldn't take another day."

"Wayne was the first person who ever coached him hard," Hayford said. "As someone who hadn't been fathered and didn't necessarily know what was behind this was love, so he gets discouraged and quits." 

Wiley called Tinkle to tell him they had to talk, that it was important and urgent. Tinkle was in a bind, but gave him an address to meet him: 3710 American Way, Missoula. That brought Wiley to a senior living and care center. Wiley had no idea, but Tinkle was there to see his mother, who suffered a stroke the day before and would die the day after. They met in the lobby.

"He gave me an address and in my mind I'm going, What the hell?" Wiley said. "If I would've known, I would not have done that. I didn't know the condition his mother was in."

Wiley was done with basketball. He was focusing on track -- and seemingly within a week he was floating to football too. Montana's football program is, arguably, the best in FCS over the past 30 years. It is an elite school at the level formerly known as I-AA. 

"What you've gotta love is, his first reaction is, if I can't play basketball then I'm going to play football and I'm going to play track," Hayford said. 

Tinkle's recollection: "We had big expectations for him down the road. Then he came back and it wasn't a month into the next school year and said that his heart wasn't into it, that he wanted to quit. And I said, 'Quit and do what?' And he wasn't sure. Next thing we know, he's working out with the track and field team, tried to do football, it was kind of weird how it turned that quickly." 

Wiley wanted to play wideout. He said he did well in practice -- until he busted a bursa sac in his knee diving to make a catch in single-digit temperatures.

Then he couldn't run track. Wiley's scholarship was revoked after the first semester. He took out loans to keep going to Montana and needed to get a job. He eventually did as a dishwasher -- at the very facility where he met Tinkle to tell him he was quitting the team. Wiley made just over $7 an hour and brought home approximately $200 every two weeks after taxes. 

"Nobody knew I was working at an old folks' home," he said. "I kind of wanted to keep that a secret because people would think I was an idiot to give all this up."

His weekdays consisted of school, working his knee back to form for track competition, then shifts at night. On weekends, he'd travel with the track team. In a span of a few months he'd gone from having a full ride and the potential to be a starter on a team that had made the NCAA Tournament, to washing dishes and being the butt of jokes from coworkers who knew what he gave up. Even his manager, an avowed Grizzlies fan, only hired him because he knew him from being on the team.

So Wiley quit that, too, opting to stop being ridiculed and deciding to go to track practice one day when it collided with the start of his scheduled work shift.

"I'm getting treated like sh-- for 7 dollars an hour, busting my ass, what's the point?" Wiley said. 


Wiley did not touch a basketball from early October until the end of March of his sophomore year at Montana. He was rejuvenated by something primal, something many feel every March: the urge to simply shoot hoops while watching the NCAA Tournament. One year removed from the deflating demolition at the hands of Syracuse, Wiley had an epiphany about how special the opportunity was to play in the Dance, to experience college basketball, to be on a team.

He immediately started going to school's rec center and began training for a return, getting up at 5 a.m. and developing a discipline for basketball. Practice had no psychological hold over him any more. One time, he caught Tinkle walking by as he did a full-blown workout and felt pointed guilt. After word got out that he quit at Montana, dozens of schools reached out to him, he said. But he didn't respond to anyone. Eventually, he called Rinta at Lewis-Clark.  

Wiley went to Lewis-Clark and experienced a complete personal reboot. He accepted coming off the bench to start his career, but by the end of his first season at L-C was an all-conference players and was an honorable mention for All-American. Wiley's raw athleticism enabled him to dominate most other NAIA players. He was a different breed.

"Nobody knew I was working at an old folks' home. I kind of wanted to keep that a secret because people would think I was an idiot to give all this up."Jake Wiley

"It was a growth and maturity period," he said. "It was a two-year voyage of growing up. A lot of things happened along the way that forced me to grow up."

Wiley's grades continued to ascend. Being on a smaller campus helped his focus. He wasn't thinking about Division I basketball, let alone the NBA. He compares starting over at L-C akin to moving from California to Newport. Meanwhile, his girlfriend dating back to high school, Brittany, took up three jobs and worked nearly 70 hours a week back home. And by the end of Wiley's first year at L-C, Brittany was pregnant. Wiley was 20 at the time and convinced he would have to quit basketball again. He was ready to drop everything athletic and focus only on getting his degree and working whatever jobs he needed to in order to be the father that his own father was not.

"When I found out my wife was pregnant, I said I will not ever be like he was," Wiley said. "He loved me, and I knew that. He loved me a lot. At the end of the day, he was proud of me and loved me but had these tremendous issues that made that hard to show. I said I'm not going to take that approach he took with me. I'm going to be there 100 percent for my kids. I'm going to be sober, I'm going to present, and it showed how me to be a father in a weird way."

Wiley took a gig at a gas station. He also worked on a Native American reservation. The reservation had a weight room and a basketball court, so he spent extra hours there staying in shape.

"I didn't even know what day it was half the time, but I was so committed," Wiley said. "I was staying to make basketball work, to make it all work. It's not like, 'Oh, I'm going to make it to the league!' I just had a newfound passion for the game."

Death came to Jake's life again, in 2015. His grandfather, John, died just before Christmas. Jake delivered the eulogy. John Wiley wanted nothing more late in life than to see his incoming great grandchild, but his health went south in a hurry and he never got the chance. On the precipice of adding a family member, Jake lost another. 

Then, on Jan. 10, 2016, Jake collapsed to his knees. Brittany endured more than 24 hours of labor, bled out more than twice the normal amount and entered into a danger zone. Jake, at one point, looked at Brittany's mother and got really worried. But, at almost nine pounds, Aliya Wiley was born and Brittany was worked back to health after almost needing a blood transfusion.

In the weeks that followed, Jake built a campaign as a First Team NAIA All-American while getting almost no sleep at home, instead catching rest on 12-hour bus rides to and from games. He began drinking coffee, desperate to be alert and at his best during practice. He got grumpy. Being grumpy made him better. 

"We were really close with the Lewis and Clark staff, so they told us once he found his girlfriend and had a baby, that he had really grown up," Tinkle said. "He's really done an incredible job of bouncing back."

Eventually, Lewis-Clark earned a No. 1 ranking. The team won its first NAIA tournament game in program history. Wiley was now a father without a father, a player reborn, a new man in many ways. And he wanted to keep playing basketball, but also continue to get his master's degree. 

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Jake Wiley went from Montana to NAIA to Eastern Washington. NBA next? Icon Sportswire

Wiley barely made a blip on the national scene last season at Eastern Washington, but from an NBA perspective, it is the most critical period of his life to this point. He was a powerful player in the Big Sky, putting up numbers comparable to Damian Lillard's dominance in the league while at Weber State.

Wiley chose EWU not because Jim Hayford turned the tiny Pacific Northwest school into a place where overlooked projects became pro prospects. In truth, the school was close to home (65 miles from Newport), had a master's program he liked and made the most sense for his family.

"I would've reached out to Gonzaga but I didn't feel like I had a chance to play there," Wiley said.

Despite his solid play at L-C, Wiley wasn't given a scholarship guarantee at first at EWU. Then things changed in stages. The first was getting a chance to show Hayford how good he was during EWU's officially sanctioned 10-day practice period before a trip to Australia. That's when he earned the scholarship. In Australia, Wiley turned into the team's best player. That's when he really knew he'd have a chance at playing pro overseas.

"We're on his shoulders the whole two week trip, the guy doesn't fatigue, plays hard and I said to my assistants, 'I think everyone's going to be shocked because we are going to be just fine without Venky,'" Hayford said. "Jake has always been very, very careful in his move to Eastern to not make it like he was moving 'up.' No one, including me, realized that this guy would keep getting that much better."

Hayford recalled "some superhuman performances" -- including a 45-point showing against Portland State -- that helped a supposedly rebuilding EWU team win 21 of its 31 regular-season games. 

"It was never, ever thinking about the NBA," Wiley said. "I really didn't start thinking about the NBA until the season was over at Eastern."

Grad school struck a scare in him at first. He was really worried the work was too hard, on top of needing to be a dad and wanting to play basketball. Flunking out seemed possible. He didn't, though. With the flip of the calendar to 2017, Wiley went through the most successful and rewarding period of his life. After an inconsistent start to the season, Wiley convinced himself -- following a three-game skid prior to Christmas -- that he was going to be the Big Sky Player of the Year.

"Sometimes in life things don't come quickly or easily, but hard work will be rewarded and Jake's one of the hardest workers I've ever coached," Hayford said. 

He went on to average 24.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.5 blocks and shot 66 percent from the field in league play. The only games he struggled in came against his former team. EWU split against Montana, and he had the fan base booing and cursing at him in EWU's 72-60 win there on Jan. 26. Wiley had only 10 points that night. He almost cried before stepping into the gym, recalling how he never thought he'd ever return to that place.

Wiley, who was somewhat reluctantly dominant but basically was forced into the alpha role because his coaches and teammates knew he was special, became a draft prospect almost virtually overnight. While at EWU, he was the focal point of an offense for the first time in his college career. He showed what he was capable of when that happened. Almost no scouts traveled to watch him play, but his stat line and reputation was so good he earned an invite to the Portsmouth Invitational in April. There, Wiley was among the most impressive participants (averaging 17 points and nine rebounds against guys fighting for a sip of NBA oxygen). Since then, NBA interest has been steady. It is nearly impossible to be a late-blooming, unknown player when it comes to being an NBA prospect, but Wiley's unique passage has put him in position to be the best player too few know about.

"To my knowledge, I had zero interest until Portsmouth," Wiley said. "It's positive because, in many ways, I shouldn't be here. I'm going to enjoy it, the travel, the workouts. The feedback has been positive. I think I'm definitely generating a serious interest from a few teams."

Wiley is not projected as an NBA pick, but that doesn't mean he can't be a surprise selection in the late second round on June 22. His athleticism is elite. He has a 7-foot wingspan, tested at Portsmouth with a 37.5-inch vertical jump, and had an impressive three-quarter-court sprint of 3.17 seconds, one of the fastest times tracked this spring at any official event. 

"I do assure you this," said Hayford, "if he was 2.5 inches taller, he would be a first-round draft choice. He's a 4 man if he's that much taller. He has a lot more going for him than maybe Dennis Rodman did at the same size and height 25 years ago."

He is worth a flier. And even if he isn't drafted, he'll be picked up almost immediately by some team hoping to snag a bargain. Wiley will almost certainly be a part of the NBA's Summer League circuit. He has an energy quota that few prospects will be able to match. That vitality will translate to the highest level. Beyond that, he's essentially open to anything at this point. He'll play overseas, perhaps he's destined to star there for a decade. 

"No. 1, he comes out of a tough spot in California," Hayford said. "No. 2, he moves far away from home, his mother. He comes to the house and finds his father dead at the house in Washington. No. 3, he goes to D-I, it doesn't work out. No. 4, he's in Lewiston, Idaho, and he makes the most of that. Then he's at Eastern, which gets him to Portsmouth and he makes the most of that. Don't put something that looks like a locked door in front of Jake. He just might break through it."

After a life filled of drama, death and depression, Wiley is now coming off his greatest month. He cleared his first year of grad school, and prior to potentially changing his life forever with a superb Portsmouth showing, he finally did the one thing he'd wanted to do for a long time. Brittany and Jake, high school sweethearts, were married on April 8. 

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Jake and Brittany in April, on their wedding day, with Aliyah.  Jake Wiley
CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning senior writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his eighth season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics,... Full Bio

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