Huntington Prep's Wiggins named nation’s top basketball player
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Andrew Wiggins wanted to step up his game after moving from his native Canada to play basketball at a prep school in West Virginia.
No problem there.
The next step is more difficult - choosing a college to showcase his talents.
The Toronto-born Wiggins received the Gatorade Boys National Basketball Player of the Year award Wednesday, adding to the Naismith Foundation national honor he received last month.
The 6-foot-8 senior is the first Canadian to win the Gatorade award.
"It's a big honor, especially being Canadian," Wiggins said. "That's a great feeling to put Canada on the map."
Wiggins, who thought it would be a normal day and dressed in his regular school clothes, learned about the award in class at St. Joseph's Central Catholic High School during a surprise visit from past winner and former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning.
"Andrew's such a humble and polite kid," said Huntington Prep Coach Rob Fulford. "It's very gratifying to see a young man like him win an award such as this. He's put a lot of time and effort into his game. This award is more about his character. Everyone knows he's a great basketball player - one of the best in the country at any age."
Wiggins averaged 23.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per game this season for Huntington Prep, whose players attend St. Joseph.
He is being heavily recruited by Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Florida State.
He's still mulling his choice, one that's complicated by the fact that both his parents attended Florida State.
He's the son of former NBA first-round pick Mitchell Wiggins and Marita Payne-Wiggins, a former Canadian Olympic sprinter and silver medalist.
Older brother Nick plays guard at Wichita State.
"Obviously, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina are staples among the elite in college basketball and Florida State fits in there a little bit below that," Fulford said. "His parents going there makes it a tough decision."
Fulford tried to help out by creating a spreadsheet and listed different aspects of the four schools.
"I think, at least, for a day it made him think," Fulford said.
The Division I basketball signing period runs from April 17 to May 15.
For now, Wiggins is preparing to play in the McDonald's All-American game on April 3 in Chicago.
What might play a part in his decision is that five players in that game have verbally committed to Kentucky, two to North Carolina and one to Kansas.
"I don't think he's in any rush," Fulford said. "He'll play it out and continue to think it over, communicate with his parents, and figure out what the best fit for him is."
The city of Huntington produced basketball Hall of Famer Hal Greer in the early 1950s and has revived itself lately as a hotbed of talent. Dallas Mavericks guard O.J. Mayo and Sacramento Kings forward Patrick Patterson were teammates at state champion Huntington High in 2007.
Fulford founded Huntington Prep in 2009. His teams have produced college-bound talent such as Gorgui Dieng (Louisville), Javontae Hawkins (South Florida), and Stefan Jankovic and Negus Webster-Chan (Missouri).
Fulford didn't have to go anywhere to get his first look at Wiggins. As an eighth grader, Wiggins played on an opposing high school team that had come to play Huntington Prep in January 2010.
And so Fulford's pursuit began.
After about two dozen trips to watch Wiggins play AAU basketball, the player being labeled as "The Great Canadian Hope" headed south in fall 2011. Ontario natives Jankovic and Webster-Chan were on Huntington Prep's roster, and Wiggins credited their presence for making his transition easier.
"Once it was time for him to make a decision on which high school he was going to come in the United States and go to, he was comfortable with us," Fulford said. "We outworked everyone else, to be quite honest. I think it was an easy decision for him. It's worked out great for both."
Initially rated as a prospect for 2014, Wiggins decided in October to reclassify into his original high school class of 2013, joining the likes of Jabari Parker of Chicago Simeon Academy, the Morgan Wootten Player of the Year winner, in this year's senior class.