Andrew Wiggins: The Nation’s Best Prep Player Keeps Kentucky Waiting

By: 01.22.13
Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins (photo. Bryan Horowitz)

A grin spread across Andrew Wiggins‘ face when asked about his visit to the Basketball Hall of Fame and a playful rivalry with his fellow Canada native, St. Benedict’s Syracuse-bound Tyler Ennis, who predicted a 20-point game if he were to play against Huntington Prep.

“If he faced us?” Wiggins deadpanned. “I’ll give him 10 points.”

But if the No. 1 recruit in the country had any thoughts on his ballyhooed recruitment, he wasn’t in the mood to share them on Sunday night, despite Huntington Prep’s 55-47 victory over New Hampton School at the Spalding Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass. Wiggins made a quick exit from Blake Arena before the inevitable questions about his impending college decision could begin.

“He won’t admit it,” Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford said, “but the recruiting part of it is starting to… it’s weighing on him a little bit. I think his mentality’s a little different, and his shot hasn’t been falling this year.

“He was a pretty consistent shooter last year; that’s one of the areas that he’s struggled with this year, his jump shooting. I think he hit a three tonight, that’s probably the first one he’s hit in a few games. His free throw percentage is pretty low right now, for a guy who gets there as much as he does.”

True enough, Wiggins had no trouble getting to the line against New Hampton, shooting 15 free throws. But he made just eight of them. However, that was about the only blemish on his performance – Wiggins scored 19 points, collected 10 rebounds and was named MVP of the game. He easily got the better of his much-hyped matchup with Indiana-bound Noah Vonleh, who was limited to just 16 minutes by foul trouble, much of it stemming from attempting to guard Wiggins.

“(Wiggins) was looking forward to the matchup because he likes to play against other elite guys,” Fulford said. “In games where there’s not that five-star name, he kind of coasts a little bit. But when there’s somebody across from him who has that elite status like he has, he steps up a little bit.”

If the recruitment process is wearing on Wiggins – who has also dealt with bouts with the flu and bronchitis over the past couple of weeks – it’s understandable. Karl Towns of St. Joseph’s Metuchen, a 2014 top 5 recruit, recently detailed to Dime how relieved he was to make his decision public early, so as to stop the endless questions and allow him to focus on winning a state title.

“You don’t want to worry about having a bad game and have a scholarship offer go away or something,” said Towns, who verbally committed to Kentucky in early December.

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Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins (photo. Nike)

In actuality, there’s no game so bad that Towns – or Wiggins – couldn’t still have their pick of universities. But the reasoning still made sense. UK coach John Calipari recently attended one of Towns’ games, and the 7-foot center said he was free to implement the advice Calipari had given him without his decision hovering over his head.

Speaking of Kentucky, the leaders for Wiggins’ services are generally acknowledged to be the Wildcats and Florida State, where both his parents were student-athletes. North Carolina and Kansas are also in the mix; visits to both schools are in the plans. (Wiggins’ parents have signed off on every college on his list.)

“Deep down, I think he may know where he wants to go,” Fulford said. “But I think he hates making decisions.”

Prep has played six games in Kentucky this year in front of about 35,000 people, and Fulford said Wiggins – who he describes as “sheltered” in West Virginia – was hardly comfortable with that level of attention. For a kid who seems rankled by the intense scrutiny of the recruitment process, the pro-style program of Kentucky offers much the same level of attention for someone of Wiggins’ talents, even with a star-studded group of 2013 recruits already headed there.

Florida State, on the other hand, is far from a basketball powerhouse. FSU is 10-7 this season, with losses to South Alabama and Mercer on their ledger. During Wiggins’ official visit, he attended their game against Florida, which the Seminoles lost, 72-47. The fans held up signs and chanted his name, but it was still nothing like the hysteria he’d deal with during a year in Lexington.

For a kid who almost certainly will spend just one year in college, perhaps the lower-key atmosphere surrounding FSU’s basketball program would better suit him. That said, perhaps Wiggins will determine that the Kentucky spotlight would be a better crash course for the bright lights of NBA arenas.

Whichever way Wiggins eventually tilts, it’s unlikely his announcement will come with the fanfare that has been in vogue with other recent big-time recruits. Fulford said the organizers of the McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Classic, both of whom have been pursuing an announcement from Wiggins to take place at their events, will likely be disappointed.

“Obviously, ESPN wants (his decision), but he won’t do that,” Fulford said. “That’s not his style.

“I think he’ll send a text message, and that’s going to be that.”

Where do you think Wiggins will go?

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