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Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford

By LARRY VAUGHT

GEORGETOWN — Even for the nation’s No. 1 recruit, having Kentucky coach John Calipari and two of his assistants watching him can be cause for a little anxiousness. Throw in about 2,000 Kentucky fans at Scott County Sunday who also came to see Huntington (W.Va.) Prep standout Andrew Wiggins and it was easy to understand why he might not have had his best game.

Not that he was bad. It’s just that he’s so good that a 17-point, 11-rebound performance in a 61-45 win over Christian Faith Center did not compare to the 29 points he scored in his team’s first two games. Still, he had a powerful tomahawk dunk on an offensive rebound that made the crowd erupt into a “Go Big Blue” chant, nailed a fallaway 3-pointer just before the first half buzzer and ran the court well even with Calipari leaning over the rail at the second level of the gym to watch his every movement.

“All the fans loved me, supported my team. It’s a great place to play basketball. Here people love basketball if you work hard. The desire for the game, so I appreciate that,” said Wiggins, who recently reclassified to the 2013 recruiting class and went to the top of the 2013 recruiting rankings. “I love Kentucky fans. They are crazy for basketball players, but I know there we just here to support me.

He said the UK fans didn’t add pressure. “They were just here to support me,” he smiled and said.

Still, Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford knows it did matter.

“This is a great experience for him and our other kids,” Fulford said. “He is not a kid that likes crowd. It’s kind of like interviews. He does well, but he doesn’t like them. He doesn’t like having the attention on himself.”

Fulford tries to tell him he better get used to it because he won’t be sheltered from all the attention like he is now when he leaves Huntington whether it is for Kentucky, Florida State, Kansas, Ohio State, North Carolina or another school recruiting him.

The 6-7 Wiggins was 6-for-18 from the field and probably “settled” for outside shots too much early in the game. He was scoreless for 13 minutes before scoring 10 points in the next three minutes. However, he seldom forced shots and was more than willing to pass. He had five turnovers — several came when he appeared to be fouled driving to the basket — but he can handle the ball.

“I can shoot the ball. I’m better at getting to the basket. I can find my open teammate. I can dominate the ball, and I can dominate the game without having the ball in my hands,” Wiggins said.

His biggest flaw is that he sometimes takes plays off.

“People tend to say I take breaks on the court, so it’s always working hard, always putting all my effort into both offense and defense,” Wiggins said when asked what he needed to do better.

Did he notice Calipari and assistants Kenny Payne and Orlando Antigua watching so intently along with UK players Kyle Wiltjer, Jarrod Polson and Brian Long?

“It’s an honor that they’re coming out to watch me play and show the love and support they’re giving me,” Wiggins said.

He said the UK coaches “pop up at a game ever now and then or shoot me a text” and always tell him what big things he can do at UK.

“They said we’d basically be unstoppable if all of us, all the great players playing there, if I come next year to 2013 and you’d get the team to beat,” Wiggins said.

No kidding. Kentucky has already signed twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison, James Young, Marcus Lee and Derek Willis. That’s probably already more than enough to assure Calipari of having a fifth straight No. 1 class.

“I think it’s great. The Harrison twins — I’ve never really watched them play in person, but I’ve seen highlights of them. They look unselfish, great teammates. I wouldn’t mind playing with them,” Wiggins said.

His teammate, Xavier Rathan-Mayes who was briefly recruited by UK before committing to Florida State, had 21 points Sunday. Wiggins says they are “close” and have a strong relationship and it could impact his college choice in the spring.

What about talk that if signed with Kentucky that it would be the greatest recruiting class ever? Does he pay attention to that?

“No, I’m just trying to live my life and play basketball because the season just started, and just cherish every moment I have in high school for now because I know college is coming up soon,” Wiggins, who said it was not a hard decision to reclassify, said.

What about the UK fans? Could they impact his choice?

“I still have the same look at Kentucky from what happened today. I still know that the fans are crazy, and I know they’re always going to be able to support me,” Wiggins said. “It’s a basketball school. The fans support you. The atmosphere every game is crazy. They treat you like rock stars there. And the coaching staff is great. It’s just a great atmosphere to be in. I want to go to a school where I’m wanted, I’m loved and the fans support me and has a good coaching staff.”

One thing that won’t impact his decision is who is at Kentucky. He’s not worried about which current players may or may not come back or what spots players in UK’s recruiting class wil play.

“Great players can play with other great players, so I wouldn’t mind playing with them. It would just make me better playing against them in practice every day,” Wiggins said.

If Kentucky gets Wiggins, it would do the same for other players, too, because going against him daily would make anyone better.

“He’s a rare talent,” Fulford said. “You don’t find many like him.”

Just don’t try getting Wiggins to brag on himself about being ranked No. 1.

“It’s an honor to be ranked No. 1, but I know other people are coming for my spot, so I’ve just got to keep working hard every day in practice and just keep playing my game, staying humble. I know any day that life can be cut short, so I just stay praising God and hoping I stay healthy,” Wiggins said. “It’s not important to me because rankings are just somebody’s opinion.”

13 Responses to Top recruit Andrew Wiggins enjoys support from Kentucky fans

  • Juan4UK says:

    Boy, goosebumps just contemplating what the current class could be with him in the fold. And then, if Cal were to grab one more top ten? “Brrrrrr” If people think there is hype around UK these last couple years, just wait til they hit campus.

  • Mr. Morals says:

    I don’t know if it is just wishful thinking but listening to Andrew’s responses to questions and the responses of his coach to questions, he sure seems like a UK lean at this point. The boy sure can ball, but seems to be a little on the shy side. The BBN will help him get out of that, and teach him how to be a rock star.

    • I’m thinking the same thing….Florida State (Coach Hamilton, formerly Kentucky), has some chance, Wiggins best friend signed with the Noles and his Mom and Dad went there…

      • Mr. Morals says:

        Yes I had read about that, and to be honest it kind of worried me when his best friend committed to state but after reading this article and watching the post game interview with his coach, I feel better about our chances of landing him.

  • Kokamo Joe says:

    Wiggins will likely join next year’s super group. But first this year’s super centers must go. Noel is a given. Caulley-Stein must also go in order to make room for Wiggins unless he is down with playing second fiddle to Wiggins. Calipari has a great weapon to encourage this year’s team. Be good, be gone, or be sittin on the bench next year. Calipari will give this year’s team every opportunity to get lots of playing time and show their stuff but they have to know that unles they come together and make a run next spring that they will be replaced. Wiggins has to know that next year he must be the man because in 2015 here comes Carl Towns.

  • Matt Slone says:

    I agree with you Karen! He seems more of a wing player to me. An incredibly high flying one at that. But Julius Randle is more “Big Body” Power Forward/Center type. He may be the one that needs to see who stays & who goes as far as our big men are concerned!
    Thanks Larry!
    Go Big Blue!!!

    • Kokamo Joe says:

      You are right, Wiggins will be a wing player. Neverless, the point remains the same. Calipari will round up another “big body” and he will not be expecting to sit on the bench. Today’s players have to perform because others are coming….and others….and others. There is NO school in history has been able to thrill to next year’s recruits while this year’s recruits are just getting started and look down the road to the stars for year after next.

  • I really liked the way Coach Rob Fulford handled himself in answering the various questions posed to him…real cool guy, I thought.

  • King Ghidora says:

    Let’s not forget potential recruits Randle and Gordon. I think the next UK is destined to set a high water mark that can’t be surpassed. Someone might equal it but I don’t see how it can be done better.

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