Next Cats: Wiggins inspires awe from rivals at Hoop Fest

broberts@herald-leader.comDecember 2, 2012 

Andrew Wiggins of Huntington (W.Va.) Prep drew high praise from those watching him play for the first time.

MATT GOINS — Herald-Leader Buy Photo

The show is over, and the reviews are in: Andrew Wiggins is a pretty good basketball player.

The Kentucky recruit spent the weekend proving himself to the thousands of (mostly UK) fans who filled Marshall County High School's gym for the annual Hoop Fest event in Benton, Ky.

Wiggins, the No. 1-ranked high school prospect in the country, averaged 27 points and 13 rebounds, leading Huntington Prep to two blowout victories in games against well-regarded teams from Tennessee.

He had eight dunks over the two days, put on a defensive clinic in the first game, a shooting exhibition in the second, and easily won over the UK faithful in attendance.

The fans weren't the only ones impressed.

Huntington Prep point guard Travon Landry, a Tennessee signee, plays alongside Wiggins every day. And he never takes it for granted.

"It's amazing," Landry said. "An easy fix. If I'm coming down and I see him, I kick it to him. It's a guaranteed assist every time. Easy work for a point guard."

Andrew Harrison would like to take on that workload next season. The UK signee and No. 1-rated point guard had to do just about everything in his team's victory over Madison Central on Saturday.

Harrison made some spectacular passes that bounced off the hands of teammates, and he attracted double teams on a regular basis.

"Andrew would be great to come to Kentucky," Harrison said. "I would be very happy about that."

Harrison and his twin brother, Aaron, also a UK signee, were seeing Wiggins play for the first time in person.

"He's probably one of the most athletic people I've ever seen in my life," Aaron said.

Derek Willis, another UK signee watching Wiggins for the first time Friday, took it a step further.

"He's a freak. He's probably the best player I've seen in my entire life," Willis said.

It's one thing when the kids are in awe. It's quite another when the Hall of Famers break out the superlatives.

Former UK coach Joe B. Hall was at Friday's game and saw Wiggins throw down seven dunks and finish with 29 points and 17 rebounds.

Hall sought out Huntington Prep Coach Rob Fulford afterward to share his compliments. He also praised Wiggins for his unselfishness — five assists in that contest — and attention to defense.

"I've never seen anybody that quick," said the coach who led the Wildcats to a national championship and three Final Fours.

Wiggins was certainly too quick for Memphis East forward Nick King, the University of Memphis signee who spent the first quarter of Friday's game knocking down three-pointers and flashing big smiles at the Huntington Prep players.

After King terrorized the Express for a full quarter, Wiggins told Fulford he wanted to defend the five-star recruit.

Wiggins blocked three three-point attempts by King, who scored only four points while the 6-foot-8 senior was on him.

By the end of the night, King was all frowns.

"Andrew has a tendency, when he's playing against people that don't have a name, he kind of comes in and out," Fulford said. "And I think (Friday), that one was personal because he was playing against another ranked guy that people have heard of. And when Andrew was guarding him he scored, what, four points? So I think the case was made on that."

There's no doubt about Wiggins' talent. The only question is where he'll play next season.

UK and Florida State are the co-favorites, with North Carolina and Kansas also in the running.

"He's a great player," said Aaron Harrison. "I'm sure he'll make the right decision."

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog:

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