Large crowd shows up for Wiggins showcase
Or just one Andrew Wiggins.
The nation's top-ranked high school basketball prospect came to central Kentucky Sunday afternoon with his Huntington (W.Va.) Prep squad for a game designed to showcase his talents for a near-capacity crowd of 2,000-plus mostly decked out head to toe in Kentucky Wildcats gear.
Wiggins, who recently ascended to the No. 1 spot in the senior class rankings after reclassifying to 2013, scored 17 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked two shots against Christian Faith Center Academy (N.C.) in what the 6-foot-8 swingman deemed a subpar game for himself, but most fans in attendance seemed thrilled to get a glimpse of the potential future Wildcat, chanting "Go Big Blue!" after many of his best plays.
"It was amazing," said Wiggins, whose team pulled away late for a 61-44 victory. "The atmosphere was great. All the fans loved me, supported my team. It's a great place to play basketball. They love basketball, when you work hard and the desire for the game. I appreciate that.
"I know Kentucky fans are crazy for basketball players... It's a big factor (in his recruitment). I want to go to a school where I'm wanted and loved and the fans support me and I'll have a good coaching staff."
"The crowd was great," Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford said. "I think it was humbling for our guys to see that, not only Andrew. The other guys really don't get to see that kind of crowd. A lot of times fans just show up at showcases we play in and just cheer for good plays. We had a crowd trying to get behind us, we just didn't play very well."
Among those in attendance were Kentucky coach John Calipari and assistant coaches Orlando Antigua and Kenny Payne. The Wildcats' Kyle Wiltjer and Jarrod Polson also made the 15-minute drive to Georgetown to see the player they hope will join UK's No. 1 ranked 2013 recruiting class.
"It's an honor that they're coming out to watch me play, the love and support they're giving me," Wiggins said.
Wiggins plans to make his college decision in the spring. Many have long believed it's a two-team battle between Kentucky and Florida State, but he has recently added Kansas, Ohio State and North Carolina to the mix.
Kentucky recently announced the fall signings of five-star Texas twin guards Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison, as well as five-star Michigan wing James Young along with two frontcourt players in Derek Willis and Marcus Lee. Some have questioned whether there's room for another dynamic backcourt player in this class, but Wiggins does not see the talent-rich situation as a deterrent.
"I think it's great," he said. "The Harrison twins, I've never really watched them play in person, but I've seen highlights of them. They look unselfish, great teammates. I wouldn't mind playing with them."
Wiggins added that there's no scenario at UK, whether its returning players on the current roster or incoming freshmen, that will affect his final decision.
Many recruiting analysts have suggested UK could have the greatest class in the history of the game if the Canadian product joins the current signees. The soft-spoken Wiggins, however, shrugged off that notion.
"I'm just trying to live my life and play basketball because the season just started, and just cherish every moment I have in high school," he said. "I know college is coming soon."
Asked what else he finds appealing about UK, Wiggins added: "It's a basketball school. The fans support you. The atmosphere at every game is crazy. They treat you like rock stars there, and the coaching staff is great. It's just a great atmosphere to be in."
He said he speaks with the UK staff "every once in a while. The message is simple. "They say they want me, and with me they can do big things.
"They just basically said we could be unstoppable, all of us great players... We'd be the team to beat."
Florida State also has some factors that could help its cause. Wiggins' parents met at the school, and his current Huntington Prep teammate, guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, will play for the Seminoles next year. Mayes had a team-high 21 points on Sunday, hitting four of 9 from behind the 3-point arc.
"It does (help)," Wiggins said. "Me and him are close. We hang out off the court. Our relationship is strong."
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