By LARRY VAUGHT
Over a month ago Huntington (W.Va.) Prep sophomore point guard Nevell Provo said that teammate Andrew Wiggins had Kansas No. 1 on his recruiting list. That came as a bit of a shock because the logic was that Kentucky and Florida State were the leaders for the nation’s top high school prospect. However, Provo’s proclamation came true Tuesday when the 6-8 Wiggins announced he was going to Kansas and not UK, Florida State or North Carolina.
So why Kansas? Provo said at the time Wiggins had listed the pros and cons of each team on his recruiting list and Kansas was the clear winner. Norrie (Clevenger) Price, a Mercer County native and the host mother for Provo and Huntington teammate Montaque Gill-Ceasar, thinks it might have had more to do with Kansas coach Bill Self and his similarities to Huntington coach Rob Fulford.
“I think he absolutely loved Bill Self. I think if (UK commit) Julius Randle had gone there, there’s no question he would have been at Kansas. He really liked Julius Randle,” said Price after attending Wiggins’ announcement. “Honestly, I believe there was ongoing discussions as late as last night with his parents. He seemed very relieved and happy, so I am happy with him.
“I know he loved Self from prior conversations he had with my husband. My husband loves him (Self), too. His host mom said Bill Self was more like Rob than (Kentucky coach) John Calipari and that is how Andrew is. He is not a flashy kid. He is not about pomp and circumstance. He’s just a humble kid.”
While Price said his decision is likely a major surprise to most picking UK or Florida State to land Wiggins, she says those close to Huntington Prep were not stunned.
“I think those that were not close to the program did not know how much he liked Bill Self,” she said. “I would not have predicted Kansas because no one really had an idea, but it’s not a big surprise to me. I think the longer things went on, it probably hurt Kentucky. A year ago, it was Kentucky and Florida State. The more players Kentucky signed and then going through the all-star games, I just think too many things stacked up against Kentucky in the long run. I think if he had made a decision early, it would have been Kentucky. By waiting, he changed his mind.”
Some are speculating that Wiggins might not have had a warm and fuzzy relationship with twin guard Aaron and Andrew Harrison, two of UK’s six signees he played with in various all-star games. Fulford also coached the twins in the Jordan Brand Classic.
“I don’t think he really knew Harrison twins. I think playing in all-star games with them probably clarified things for him about them when he had a chance to be around them,” Price said. “But the biggest thing, I think, is just that he felt comfortable with Bill Self.”
That’s the same reasoning in part that led to Perry Ellis picking home-state Kansas over UK last year. And it obviously didn’t hurt Kansas that Wiggins’ brother plays at nearby Wichita State.
Kentucky won’t play Kansas, a team that lost all five starters, next season — unless it would be in the NCAA tourney. However, Kansas will play Duke in the opening game of the Champions Classic Nov. 12 in Chicago followed by UK-Michigan State. That could be a Final Four preview and will showcase a plethora of freshman stars.
And don’t believe anything about Wiggins not coming to UK because he didn’t want to attend summer school. He’s planning to spend a month in the Czech Republic playing with the Canadian national team this summer and that’s why he won’t be in summer school with his future Kansas teammates.
“I just know he’s relieved to have this all behind him and had a hard time making this decision,” Price said. “But he really is a great kid and I hope everyone respects the decision he made.”