No. 1 Andrew Wiggins picks Kansas
Andrew Wiggins, a 6-foot-7 small forward and the top player in the senior class, has signed a national letter of intent with the Kansas Jayhawks after also considering Florida State, Kentucky and North Carolina.
Wiggins, the best Canadian prospect since Steve Nash, averaged 23.6 points, 11.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists for Huntington Prep in West Virginia last season after growing up in Toronto. He was named the Naismith High School player of the year.
“I’m looking forward to getting there and just doing my thing,” Wiggins said.
Kansas coach Bill Self said he was pleasantly surprised by Wiggins’ announcement because “we never had an idea which way he was leading.
“Andrew did this the exact way he said he was going to,” Self said in a news release. “He played his cards very close to his vest as did his mother and father. I knew we were one of four. The competition was very stiff and we were fortunate that we were able to ink him today. He’s a tremendous talent and a terrific kid.”
Wiggins signed the letter of intent at a private ceremony Tuesday afternoon in Huntington, W.Va.
“I just followed my heart,” he said.
Rob Fulford, the head coach at Huntington Prep, envisions a smooth transition out of his star to the college game.
“I don’t know that he’s got to change anything,” Fulford said Monday. “He’s wired to score and I think that’s what he’ll do. He’s going to continue to be who he is.
“I think he’s going to be a great college player but I think he’ll be a better pro because of the way the defenses are. You can’t guard him in space.”
Wiggins hit the genetic lottery. His mother, Marita Payne-Wiggins, competed for Canada in track and field and won two silver medals at the 1984 Olympics. His father, Mitchell Wiggins, played six years in the NBA after a standout career at Florida State. Payne-Wiggins was also a star athlete at Florida State. Older brother Nick plays guard at Wichita State and another brother, Mitchell Jr., plays at NAIA school Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla.
The Seminoles were a major player in his recruitment but in the end, Kansas was the choice.
“Florida State was great for mom, it was great for dad,” Mitchell Wiggins said. But he recalled telling his son, “it’s your time. It’s not 20-30 years ago. And Florida State (would have been) a great choice.”
But the father said Kansas will “be a great fit. Hopefully Andrew stays humble, stays hungry. We’ll see how it plays out.”
During Wiggins’ recruitment, it was reported he had the best relationship with Self among the coaches at the schools in consideration. Before Tuesday’s decision, Wiggins had shut down his recruitment and communication with his suitors.
“There hasn’t been a ton of communication between the college coaches and Andrew,” Fulford said. “I think they’d all probably tell you they don’t really know where they stand.”
Initially rated as a 2014 prospect, Wiggins shot to the top of recruiting charts when he decided last October to reclassify into his original high school class of 2013. He had until Wednesday to sign with a Division I school.
“He’s the best high school player who has come around in a long time,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz on Tuesday. “He’s freakishly athletic and has great size and great length. He’s a special player and a special talent in our conference.”
Numerous times during his recruiting process, Wiggins hinted that he did not enjoy the media attention and wasn’t thrilled with the process. At Kansas, he’ll be under the glare of the national media.
His coach isn’t worried.
“I think it’s something he’s going to have to adjust to,” Fulford said. “From this point on, it’ll be more about his game. Everything that’s been talked about or written about up to now have been 15 percent game and 85 percent ‘where you going?’ He hated the recruiting conversations and he shied away from most media attention because of that.”
Kansas, which had the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class, strengthened its hold on the spot, trailing only Kentucky. Headed to Lawrence next year are guards Wayne Selden, Conner Frankamp, Brannen Greene and Frank Mason. The nation’s No. 1 center Joel Embiid is also on board.
Rather than turn his announcement into a spectacle, Wiggins wanted a private signing ceremony where he attends classes at St. Joseph’s Central Catholic High School in Huntington.
“I didn’t really want to open it up to the public,” he said. “I knew it would be jam packed in here. I wanted people who appreciated me and people I appreciate to be here watching me. I wanted a lot of people I knew.”
Wiggins had kept quiet on his intentions. He had yet to even make a verbal commitment and delayed his signing until almost the very end — Wednesday is the deadline for recruits to sign with NCAA Division I schools.
“This is the way I like it to be done — on my own time,” he said. “I’ve got a weight lifted off my shoulders. I can relax now.”
Interest grew in recent weeks. As one fan put told Wiggins in a Twitter post, “You’re driving 4 schools and 4 fan bases absolutely insane.”