UK recruiting: Andrew Wiggins still mum on college choice

broberts@herald-leader.comFebruary 25, 2013 

The recruitment of high school basketball star Andrew Wiggins is finally nearing its conclusion, but his destination remains as unclear as ever.

The No. 1 prep player in the country plans to arrive in Lexington on Wednesday morning for his official visit to Kentucky. Next week will bring visits to Kansas and North Carolina.

And then comes decision time, when Wiggins will choose either the Wildcats, Jayhawks, Tar Heels or Florida State, which he visited earlier in the season.

Wiggins is already familiar with Kentucky. The 6-foot-8 senior forward from Toronto was in Rupp Arena last season for Big Blue Madness and returned for the much-hyped North Carolina game.

Wednesday's opponent is Mississippi State — the team with the worst record in the Southeastern Conference.

"He's excited, and he doesn't care who they're playing," Huntington Prep Coach Rob Fulford told the Herald-Leader. "I know it's probably not the greatest game in the world for Kentucky. But he was at the Carolina game last year, so he's seen the atmosphere when it's at its highest."

This trip will be more fact-finding mission than pleasure cruise.

Fulford said Wiggins is looking forward to meeting with the UK support staff, touring the facilities and observing Thursday's practice.

"Those kids are around a lot of different people, not just Cal and the coaching staff and the other players," he said. "I don't get involved in our guys' recruiting, but I make sure they understand what to look for when they go. It's just going to be what he's comfortable with and what his parents are comfortable with. He's looking at everything."

Wiggins will be accompanied by his parents, who are coming down from Canada for the visit and are expected to be by his side for the Kansas and North Carolina trips as well.

Mitchell and Marita Payne-Wiggins also traveled with their son to Florida State, — where both were standout athletes in the 1980s — and were honored at that game during a halftime ceremony.

Kentucky is planning to hand out rings to its 1996 championship team during halftime of Wednesday's game, perhaps a subtle suggestion to Wiggins that great things could be accomplished should he choose to join UK's No. 1-ranked recruiting class.

"He's going to get better wherever he goes," Fulford said. "Every school has player development. It's just figuring out what the best fit is for what he wants out of that one year."

And wherever Wiggins ends up, it'll almost certainly be for just one season.

He is already projected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, and he looks like a sure thing to be the first unanimous No. 1 prospect since Greg Oden in 2006.

Wiggins has stayed quiet throughout the recruiting process, responding to basketball-related questions but politely deflecting almost anything related to the colleges he's considering attending.

On Monday, Wiggins was honored with the Naismith Boys High School Player of the Year Award, which has been given to the country's top senior since 1987.

Fulford said he informed his star player of the honor Monday morning and got the reaction he was expecting.

"I think his exact quote was, 'Oh yeah? Hmm. Thanks,'" Fulford said with a chuckle. "He's just different. He doesn't get all riled up. I'm sure he was excited deep down, but he's not going to show it."

Wiggins will receive the award at a banquet in Atlanta on March 19. When asked if the event would require a speech from the quiet 18-year-old star, Fulford deadpanned: "I hope not. He won't go."

Fulford also said Monday that Huntington Prep has scheduled a game with United Leadership Academy (Canada) at Boyd County Middle School on Saturday.

It will be the sixth time Wiggins has played in Kentucky this season.

"We wanted to give Kentucky fans one last look," Fulford said.

With a college decision just weeks away, those fans surely hope Fulford meant one last look at Wiggins in a Huntington Prep uniform.

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

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