Fingers crossed at KU on decision day for prep basketball star Andrew Wiggins

05/14/2013 9:49 AM

05/20/2014 10:44 AM

The decision that could fundamentally alter the college basketball power structure will come on Tuesday at the campus of a small prep school in Huntington, W.Va.

There will be no television cameras, no press-conference setup, and presumably no hats. Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall basketball recruit in the country, will simply announce his choice at 11:15 central time in a small ceremony with family, classmates and one selected media member — a local scribe from Huntington.

By the afternoon, one program will be cemented as a Final Four contender in 2013-14, and Kansas coach Bill Self will no doubt be crossing his fingers or saying a prayer to the basketball gods that Wiggins winds up in Lawrence.

Such is the power of Wiggins, a 6-foot-7 swingman who is still considering Kansas, Kentucky, Florida State and North Carolina — in no particular order. No one is quite sure which school Wiggins will choose. On Sunday, his coach at Huntington Prep, Rob Fulford, sent a blanket text to media members that he had “no clue where he’s going or leaning.”

But if Wiggins were to select Kansas, it would perhaps be the Jayhawks’ biggest recruiting coup since Self arrived at Kansas.

Wiggins, the son of a former NBA shooting guard, Mitchell Wiggins, and a Canadian Olympic sprinter, Marita Payne-Wiggins, is rated as the No. 1 overall recruit by every major recruiting outlet. He has been labeled one of the best high school athletes since LeBron James. And the general consensus among industry observers — both college and pro — is that Wiggins would be the No. 1 overall pick in this summer’s NBA Draft if he were eligible.

“A lot of what makes him No. 1 is what we all believe to be his future potential,” said Eric Bossi, national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. “He’s not a No. 1 guy with no flaws or nothing to work on. But he’s the best in his class, and maybe one of the best five to 10 in the last decade.”

For Kansas, a program that is replacing its top five scorers for the first time in the Self era, it all makes Wiggins a tantalizing possibility as the Jayhawks attempt to reload for a run at a 10th straight Big 12 title.

Without Wiggins, the Jayhawks will add a highly touted five-man freshman class to a nucleus that includes soon-to-be junior guard Naadir Tharpe and sophomore forwards Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor. KU will also return sophomore wing Andrew White III and redshirt freshman forward Landen Lucas, but the Jayhawks will be largely dependent on freshmen.

Wayne Selden, a McDonald’s All-American combo guard, projects as a possible starter. And 7-foot center Joel Embiid is a five-star recruit who will add size and athleticism to the frontcourt. But from a basketball standpoint, the Jayhawks appear to be a solid fit for Wiggins, who could slide into a starting spot on the wing and command a substantial offensive role. Another bonus: Wiggins’ older brother, Nick, will be a senior at Wichita State, meaning he could play reasonably close to family.

But in a recruitment story with few leads, Kansas will face fierce competition for Wiggins’ services. Wiggins’ mother and father both attended Florida State, and if there’s a favorite, it may be the Seminoles. Kentucky coach John Calipari has been a recruiting juggernaut, already landing six five-star recruits in the 2013 class. And finally, North Carolina offers blue-blood tradition and a talented roster.

What’s the pick? After a long wait, the decision finally comes today.

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