HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Andrew Wiggins, sporting the crushing weight of LeBron James comparisons and capturing the attention of college basketball fans and media for months during his recruitment, chose to sign with Kansas on Tuesday during a ceremony at Huntington Prep.
Sorry, Kentucky. (You’ll have to settle for only six blue-chippers this year). Good effort, North Carolina. (Maybe Roy would’ve had a better shot in Lawrence?). Nice try, Florida State. (As if.)
Though West Virginia wasn’t in the running for the 6-foot-8 player with guard skills, forward length and Herculean expectations, the Mountaineers should get to face him at least twice in Big 12 action next season. That likely will be his only college season — a one-and-done Wiggins is widely projected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA draft.
Born and raised in Toronto, Wiggins was hailed in recent weeks as the best high school prospect since the LeBron James spectacle sprang from Akron in 2003.
How talented and hyped is Wiggins? ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale, never one to duck superlatives, told USA Today: “This kid is even better than advertised when you see him in person. He fits into the category of LeBron James as a high school player we’ve never seen before because of his explosiveness.”
A CBSsports,com story posted minutes after the announcement hailed Kansas as a Final Four contender next season, even though the Jayhawks must replace all five starters. In fairness to that blogger, Bill Self had already signed four other top prospects.
Though the top-rated prospect in the 2013 class opted not to have Tuesday’s decision televised, that didn’t prevent social media from delivering second-by-second details. The hashtag #WigginsWatch was blowing up with speculation about which school he would attend and fashion reviews poured in regarding the denim threads he wore to the ceremony.
Conversely, all the widespread love Twitterverse showed Wiggins before his announcement promptly turned to vitriol when spurned corners of the Kentucky and UNC fan bases began wishing the kid torn ACLs and an NIT bid. (Instead of hijacking the AP’s phone records, perhaps the Obama administration should be rounding up these Twidiots, if only to make our society less repulsive.)
Wiggins led Huntington Prep to a 30-3 record this season by averaging 23.4 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists last season.
With an NBA dad (guard Mitchell Wiggins played six seasons with the Bulls, Rockets and Sixers) and an Olympic mom (Marita Payne-Wiggins medaled twice for the Canadian 4 x 400 relay team), Wiggins certainly has the genetics to become a legend.
Now it’s up to him to prove he has the follow-through.