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By LARRY VAUGHT
How good is Huntington Prep’s Andrew Wiggins?
“Quite frankly, his potential is still to be determined. Right now, I don’t see a limit to his potential right now,” said Paul Biancardi, a former college basketball coach and current national recruiting director for ESPN. “He has every physical tool you can imagine as well as a great skill level and great understanding of how to play the game.”
Wait. There’s more.
“And he plays hard. He really competes every time,” Biancardi said.
Wiggins is contemplating whether to remain in the 2014 recruiting class, where he is ranked No. 1, or move to the 2013 class, where he will also be ranked No. 1.
Kentucky and Florida State, where his father played, continue to be the perceived leaders for Wiggins. Biancardi says he will star in any system, but would be perfectly suited to the style John Calipari uses at Kentucky.
“He has always been so athletic. He is just an incredible athlete, one you have to see to believe,” Biancardi said. “He has one of the highest verticals (jumps) in his class and then one of the quickest second jumps I have seen in a long time. He’s always had incredible athletic ability, but his skills have gotten better as far as shooting the ball with range. He has a nice pull-up game. He’s almost unstoppable when he drives. He will either score get fouled because of his strength, athletic ability and length. He just explodes to the rim. That’s why he lives at the free throw line.”
So does he have a weakness?
“He has it all from a scoring standpoint. He has every conceivable physical tool and his skill level is so good,” Biancardi said. “Like any player, he can always find things to work on. But he’s very, very good and he’s going to be a player that makes someone a great college player.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky fans should get a chance to see Huntington Prep — and UK target Andrew Wiggins — play several times this season.
Coach Rob Fulford is working on scheduling games against two teams from Canada on consecutive nights in Lexington and Louisville possibly at places like Bellarmine College and Lexington Christian Academy. His team not only has Wiggins, but also 6-3 Xavier Rathan-Mayes, currently a UK target, and 6-9 Moses Kingsley, a Louisville target.
“We just don’t get the turnout here for games that we could get in Louisville and Lexington,” Fulford said. “I am a pretty savvy business guy and know sellouts in Lexington and Louisville would make us more money.”
His team will also be playing in the Flying to the Hoop in Dayton, Ohio, in January and the Marshall County Hoopfest. He says several top prep teams — Oak Hill Academy and Findlay Prep — have turned down his requests to play Huntington in those tournaments.
“Our problem is just getting people to play us,” Fulford said. “The big boys are dodging us. But we are going to the City of Palms in Florida. We are everywhere this year just to get games.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
When Andrew Wiggins’ father tells him whether his son is going to stay in the 2014 recruiting class or try to graduate this year and go into the 2013 talent pool, then Huntington (W.Va.) Prep coach Rob Fulford will know what his star player will do.
However, the coach already knows enough about Wiggins’ talent to know that if he wants to reclassify, it makes perfect financial sense.
“I was in Toronto last week and have already had a conversation with the family,” said Fulford. “They are going to meet before he comes back to school. But until I hear one way or the other out of Mitchell Wiggins’ mouth, nothing else means anything. They are still discussing it as a family and figuring out what direction they want to go.
“My view on all of it, he was wasting time going to college. An extra year of high school is throwing away money (from the NBA). There are too many risks (of injury) involved. He does not need to be in high school another year. He could use it to get stronger and work on his skills, but he is just prolonging not getting the money. He grew an inch last year to 6-8. He’s not finished growing. He’s 17 and looks 12. This is not a normal situation. I can’t say what his decision will be, but from our end he does not need to go to high school (for two more years).”
Wiggins is the top-ranked player in the 2014 recruiting class. If he reclassifies, he’ll go to No. 1 in the 2013 class just as UK freshman Nerlens Noel did when he switched from the 2013 class to 2012.
“He will have a ton of classes, and they will all be core classes, no fluff. It will be a very difficult year academically for him to graduate. Those are the things his family has to talk about and he has to make sure he is really ready to buckle down academically,” Fulford said.
Wiggins had a huge game last month at an AAU tourney when he thoroughly outplayed Julius Randle, another UK recruiting target and a top-10 player nationally.
“Everybody said that was like his coming out party, but he plays like that all the time,” Fulford said. “He just destroyed Julius Randle doing it. But it was not anything different than we see every day.
“He’s very humble. Never complains. Most guys in the NBA that are elite players are like that. You have a few knuckleheads, but there are not many highly successful NBA guys that are not good guys. That’s not to say there are not some, but not the big superstars. And Andrew is going to be a superstar.”
He’s 6-8 with an incredible 44-inch vertical jump. Fulford says he could play shooting guard or small forward with no problems. He says he could be used at point guard at needed or maybe even at power forward.
“He can play any of those positions and play them very well,” Fulford said. “Basically, he plays wherever he wants. He can score, shoot. You can’t stay in front of him. He makes plays for other guys. If there ever was a point forward, he is it. He is just one of those kids that does not come along very often.”
Wiggins has Kentucky and Florida State, where his father played, at the top of his recruiting list. Fulford says coach John Calipari’s job at UK would be “to figure out where to play him” and notes how well he has done that with other high school stars the last three years.
Fulford says he does not know twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison, two top-five guards out of Texas who also have UK high on their list, or how they would mesh with his star.
“But if they are unselfish and value winning, they certainly can play together. They are all different players and they can all play multiple positions. It would not be hard to them to all three play together,” Fulford said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Huntington (W.Va.) Prep shooting guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes did not make an unofficial visit to Kentucky Friday as he originally planned because of a long delay at the Canada-U.S. border when he was returning to school from his home in Canada..
“He got stuck at the border crossing for several hour and did not get to Huntington to almost midnight Friday,” said Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford. “Saturday he had to get situated with his housing and all that stuff. His mom was here to help him get his room set up.
“To be honest, I am not sure they were planning to make a special trip out of it to UK but were just going as part of the trip back. I am sure he will get back down there if need be.”
The 6-3 Rathan-Mayes, a top 25 prospect in the ESPN 100, has scholarship offers from Alabama, Baylor, Connecticut, Florida State, Illinois, Kansas, Memphis, Texas, UCLA and more.
His decision about Kentucky will be impacted by what Texas twin guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison decide since they are all similar players.
“Xavier can play but right now it is just wait and see. He is not going there (UK) if the Harrison twins do. He’s not going there to be a four (power forward),” Fulford said. “Coaches always want things done and finished in a hurry, but I do not anticipate him doing anything soon.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Since her father is a former University of Kentucky basketball player and long-time high school coach — not to mention that both of her brothers played high school basketball — it’s no surprise that Norrie Clevenger Price still finds herself around the game.
However, it’s in a different perspective than most. Price and her family have two basketball players at Huntington (W.V.) Prep living with them while they attend school and that’s given her an opportunity to be around some highly recruited and talented players.
“This is our second year with the program,” said Price, the daughter of former UK player/Mercer County coach Steve Clevenger. “I grew up around the sport, my husband played at VCU (Virginia Commonwealth) and his father played at Marshall. Our son, 13, plays school ball and AAU.
“I didn’t know much about the program with the players until our son, T.C., and my husband got involved and volunteered at some games and started going to practice. T.C. came home and asked if we could have a player live with us and about then two kids transferred in from Canada and there were not places for them. I had a room in our basement. We had a concrete floor and I had one bed. We got carpet, bought another bed and they moved in.”
One was 7-4 Sim Bhullar, who is now at New Mexico State where former Wildcat Tony Delk is an assistant coach. Another player, 6-9 Stefan Jankovic, signed with Missouri. Tanveer Bhullar, who is 7-2, also lived with the Prices.
“Because we had two Canadian players, all the Canadian players tended to come over. They would sit in our baseman, play video games and eat my food and try to get my 17-year-old daughter to invite her friends over. They are just normal high school kids, just maybe a little more high profile,” Price said.
Little more? Try a lot more.
One of those players who visits her house is 6-7 Andrew Wiggins, regarded as the nation’s top player in the 2014 recruiting class and even ranked as the best high school player in any class by some recruiting analysts.
“I think last year during soccer season we had seven Division I basketball coaches at a Huntington High soccer game because the players went to watch my daughter play and all the coaches followed,” she said.
Kentucky coach John Calipari and his staff certainly know about Wiggins. They have seen him play recently and will plenty more times this summer during the evaluation period. Price says Wiggins knows about her UK connections, but they don’t talk about schools.
“I have a picture of my dad’s team framed in the basemen and a UK cutting board on my (kitchen) counter,” she said. “I told him last year if he was invited to a Kentucky game I would be happy to take him, but I was out of town with my daughter playing soccer when he went to the North Carolina game with Xavier (Rathan-Mayes) and my husband took them. I really don’t talk basketball with him or any of the players. I am there mor to talk about girls, not missing curfew, keeping their grades up and cleaning up my basement.
“But Andrew is a great kid with the greatest smile in the world. He’s just always kind of grinning at you. He’s just a real normal kid. He plays video games. He might be out having a water balloon fight. He’s just really a normal teenaget except for when he’s on the basketball court and he is not normal at all.”
Price is not a recruiting analyst. But she says anyone who knows anything about basketball knows how gifted he is.
“He is absolutely special. He is just an amazing athlete. You can’t miss it when you watch him play. You don’t have to know anything about basketball to see how special he is,” Price said.
She says he doesn’t talk about recruiting, but realizes that could change as he goes into his junior season.
“The amount of attention he’ll get is only going to pick up even more with visits and phone calls,” she said. “But he still seems very humble about it all. He just went and tried out for the Canadian national team. I wish him good luck and he just grinned at me. Maybe he knew he didn’t need a lot of luck.”
Wiggins’ father, Mitchell, played at Florida State and then had a six-year NBA career. His mother, Marita Payne-Wiggins, was a Canadian track Olympic silver medalist. He was dominating at times at the Nike Hoop Summit and will have both Tanveer Bhullar and Mayes, who has a scholarship offer from UCLA, on his Toronto-based CIA Bounce AAU team that also included recent UNLV signee Anthony Bennett, a Kentucky target.
“Andrew’s father is very knowledgeable obviously about the game and will be very capable of handling all the recruiting questions,” Price said. “His dad is very involved in that role as they start through this process.”
Still, for Price and her family, being around these high profile basketball players away from the gym has been fun.
“We are a sports family. Our daughter played basketball and is committed to play soccer at Gardner-Webb. We are always in the gym or on a field somewhere,” she said. “It’s just what we do. We have no artistic ability, no musical ability. Sports are what our families do and that’s why we’ve had so much fun being host to these players and great kids. It has really been more fun than I ever imagined.”