Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Andrew Wiggins is giving fans at North Carolina, Duke and Syracuse hope of landing arguably the best high school basketball player in North America.
But his high school coach said two other schools appear to have the inside track on the 6-foot-7 Wiggins, who may or may not reclassify to the Class of 2013 from 2014.
“Right now if I had to say the two that stick out more as far as just been there the longest, it’s Florida State and Kentucky,” Huntington (W.V.) coach Rob Fulford told SNY.tv Sunday night.
“Obviously, Florida State for family reasons [both his parents, former NBA player Mitchell Wiggins and former Canadian track star Marita Payne-Wiggins, went there]. Andrew’s comfortable with everything there. And Kentucky’s been around the longest and been the closest.”
Still, in an extensive interview with CatsIllustrated.com from the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas, Wiggins, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2014, said “those five” — Kentucky, Florida State, North Carolina, Duke and Syracuse — were his “favorite.”
“I know he likes Florida State, I know he likes Kentucky and I know he likes North Carolina, but I don’t know anything outside of that,” his AAU coach, Mike George of CIA Bounce, told SNY.tv.
Kentucky coach John Calipari just won a national championship with a group of one-and-done freshmen like Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, as well several elite sophomores, and he would appear to have the inside track on Wiggins, another likely one-and-done, too.
“Cal saw him play in Germany when he was playing with Team Canada two years ago so he obviously saw him then and I’m not sure that any of these other guys were over there but I would think that he probably saw him first on kind of a big scale,” Fulford said of Calipari.
“They were the first ones at that level to really see him.”
Wiggins has visited Kentucky several times, Fulford said, to watch the North Carolina basketball game and the Florida football game.
“That school’s a great school, great environment, great fans, players and coach,” Wiggins told SNY.tv earlier this year after Huntington Prep played St. Anthony at the PrimeTime Shootout in New Jersey.
Florida State is the other key school in Wiggins’ recruitment.
“He would like to go to Florida State to follow his parents, but at the same time he knows it would be a lot of pressure to follow in his dad’s footsteps, so I think it just depends on what day of the week it is,” Fulford said after the St. Anthony game.
Said Wiggins: “I always liked Florida State because my parents went there…My mom and dad went there, they were like legends there.”
North Carolina and Duke appear to have made some strong inroads, too.
“I hear from both of them, Carolina probably a little more at this point but not to say that Duke doesn’t call,” Fulford said Sunday. “[Carolina] Coach [Roy] Williams came and watched him play when we were in D.C. this year.”
Fulford said he hadn’t heard personally from Syracuse but conceded that coaches could now directly contact recruits, although Wiggins doesn’t give his Canadian phone number to them.
“No, he doesn’t give it out,” Fulford said. “He has a U.S. number that I know they all have. It just doesn’t work in Canada.”
Fulford said Wiggins hasn’t been to anxious to discuss the recruiting process, but that he expects it to heat up later this summer and fall.
“I think he’s going to go through the process,” Fulford said. “Right now he doesn’t care much for the process. He’s right now just getting used to the calls and things like that because up until June 15 he couldn’t get calls so it’s still all kind of new to him.
“He still hasn’t had the full effect of it because he’s been in Canada and hasn’t really had [to deal with the] calls. When we start back in August, those things will change.”
Another thing that could change is Wiggins’ year of graduation.
Right now he’s 2014 but that could change to 2013, which would enable him to be eligible for the 2014 NBA Draft.
Wiggins told CatsPause.com that he was “not going to do it,” but left the door open that he could change his mind during the school year.
In that regard, Wiggins would be similar to incoming Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel, who changed from 2013 to 2012, allowing him to go in the 2013 NBA Draft, where he is currently projected as the No. 1 overall pick by DraftExpress.com.
“If we could get him to college early which would then get him to the NBA earlier, as a coach and a mentor to him, then we have to tell him, ‘Hey, this is probably the direction for your development that you will probably want to go,'” Fulford said.
“But also if he’s not ready we’re not going to push him because he’s still young. He wants to experience high school. It’s not like coming back here for a year is not going to help him. He’s gotten bigger, stronger. He’s gotta develop.”
He added: “Obviously, from a coaching standpoint we’d love to have him back but in the best interest of what he thinks is the way we’ll go. If he’s back for 14, great. The point is that it’s not that Andrew Wiggins is going to need another year of high school basketball.”
Fulford said Wiggins, 17, would need to do some additional coursework at Huntington Prep in order to reclassify to 2013.
“He’s a ’14 and he’s in the correct grade,” Fulford daid. “In Canada they take so many more classes than we do here kind of on a course level that when you get to transfer over, he’s got a lot of credits.
“Our school requires a few extra graduation credits than what public schools do. He has to have a few extra classes, but it’s something that if he wants to to, we’re going to have to do some extra work. He might take a couple extra classes.”
Fulford said Wiggins and his inner circle would likely meet sometime in the near future to decide one way or the other, which, in turn, could radically transform both Wiggins’ recruiting process and the shape of the 2014 NBA Draft.
“I think we’ll all sit down and talk at one of these AAU events and try to get it out of the way,” Fulford said, “and it’s either going to be the no for good or yes, let’s do it, kind of plan towards that.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.