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.
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker were supposed to settle the question of who’s the No. 1 high school basketball player in America at high noon here on Friday.
But Parker, the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2013, was a no-show at the Peach Jam due to a foot injury that has shelved him for the summer.
All Wiggins could do then was go out and beat the No. 2 player in 2013, Julius Randle.
And that’s exactly what he did.
In a dramatic game played before a few thousand people in a jam-packed gym, including Kentucky coach John Calipari and Kansas coach Bill Self, Wiggins put up a game-high 28 points and 13 rebounds as CIA Bounce remained undefeated here with an 81-80 OT victory over the Team Texas Titans. Wiggins outscored the Titans by himself in the extra period, 8-7.
Asked afterward if he had made a statement about who the best player in high school basketball is, regardless of class, Wiggins said, “Everyone has different opinions. If they think I’m better, then that’s their opinion. I think I’m the best.”
He added: “I’ll put myself before anyone.”
The 6-foot-7, 200-pound Wiggins certainly outplayed the 6-9 Randle, who finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out during regulation.
“I really don’t pay attention to [rankings],” Randle, who scored 46 points and grabbed 30 rebounds but went 0-2 on Friday, told The Augusta Chronicle early Friday. “If I’m No. 1, I’m No. 1. It doesn’t matter to me. I just want to be ready for the next level.”
Whether Wiggins would’ve outplayed the 6-8 Parker, the recent Sports Illustrated cover boy, remains an open question.
Wiggins has outscored Parker in their two meetings but is s 0-2 against him in his career. He said he was disappointed that he couldn’t play Parker.
“There’s been a lot of talk about who’s the best in the country and everything, so that would’ve gave a little idea who came out on top in that game,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins said he wasn’t bothered that Parker recently got the SI cover before helping the U.S. U17 team to a gold medal in the World Championships in Lithuania.
“That’s just somebody’s opinion, it doesn’t matter to me,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins said he chose to defend the bullish Randle in the game, despite giving up two inches and 30 or 40 pounds. On the other end, Randle did not defend Wiggins.
Still, Wiggins frustrated Randle and forced him into foul trouble.
“It was a key matchup, everyone wanted to see Andrew vs. Julius Randle, so that’s what I gave them,” he said.
“I had to force one way and rely on my team to help, and I think that that’s what we did,” Wiggins said. “He’s a big guy, he’s strong.”
Wiggins struggled on 3-for-10 shooting in the first half to score only 6 points, but came alive by scoring 22 in the second half and the OT.
“Whether he is scoring 20 or scoring 2, I think he always plays at the same level,” said Mark Bayne, the Ontario-based Nike rep.
Despite being a long, wiry jumping jack, Wiggins said he models his game after LeBron James and wants to be like him.
Yet his own father, Mitchell Wiggins, the former NBA player, was his role model growing up.
“He taught me everything I knew,” Andrew said. “At a young age he put me on basketball so I give it all to him.”
Despite his rivalry with Randle, Wiggins could end up playing with Randle at Kentucky in 2013.
Wiggins would have to reclassify from 2014 to 2013, as SNY.tv previously reported is an option.
He and Randle would then have to both pick Kentucky, which is possible.
“I think it could be the best class they’ve ever had,” Randle told SNY.tv about a potential 2013 class that includes himself, the Harrison Twins, James Young and potentially Wiggins.
So on this day we didn’t learn how Wiggins and Parker would have matched up.
But we did learn that Wiggins outplayed Randle, giving himself a leg up on the title of “Best High School Basketball Player in America.”
Said Wiggins with a smile: “I think me and him will go far in basketball in the future.”
FREE THROWS: Xavier Rathan-Mayes had 22 points, including 4-of-10 from 3 for CIA Bounce, and Tyler Ennis added 12 points in the win…Duke commit Matt Jones scored 26 and was 4-of-9 from 3 for Texas Titans. Marquan Botley added 13 points.
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.