'Kansas had my heart,' top recruit Wiggins explains

jtipton@herald-leader.com broberts@herald-leader.comMay 14, 2013 

Kentucky Coach John Calipari spent more than two years trying to bring Andrew Wiggins to Lexington.

On Tuesday, Wiggins decided to go his own way.

The No. 1 high school basketball prospect in the country announced Tuesday that he will play next season at Kansas, picking the Jayhawks over UK, Florida State and North Carolina.

It was a somewhat surprising end to a recruitment that looked like a two-horse race for most of the past two years. Florida State, his parents' alma mater, and Kentucky were perceived as the favorites.

"I just followed my heart," Wiggins said at a tightly controlled announcement at his school, Huntington (W.Va.) Prep. "Kansas had my heart, so that's where I wanted to go."

Wiggins noted that a brother, Nick, will be a senior next season for Wichita State.

"I felt like that was the right place for me, and my brother is right there with me," he said. "Wichita State is like an hour and a half travel away, so I can be close to my brother."

In speaking with a pool reporter, Grant Traylor of The Huntington Herald-Dispatch, Wiggins said, "I've always liked Kansas and I like their style of play. I'm just looking forward to getting there and doing my thing."

Florida State was the legacy school where Wiggins' parents had excelled as athletes in the 1980s. Kentucky was the other program that had been on him the longest, with Wiggins immediately establishing what was believed to be a strong connection with Calipari and the UK staff.

Kansas, along with North Carolina, didn't get seriously involved with Wiggins' recruitment until last fall. Kentucky reportedly was not among the two finalists, with Wiggins picking Kansas over Florida State.

"I kept changing my mind about where I thought he was going to go and, at the end of the day, I kept thinking he would pick Florida State, so I was shocked," Huntington Prep Coach Rob Fulford said. "Everybody did a great job of recruiting him and I don't think any one thing won out. I asked him, 'Why Kansas' afterward, and he said that he just felt it in his heart. You can't go against that."

Yes, you can. The announcement caused a stir on the Internet, with some fans spewing venom.

An SI.com blog collected tweets, which included an ugly thought from someone identified as @Colton_Kent21 that read, "I hope Andrew Wiggins tears both of his acl's and then catches on fire."

But not all reaction was so emotional, if not irrational.

On Wiggins' Facebook page, there were a mix of comments: positive, negative and neutral.

Someone identified as Tim Beason wrote, "Best of luck from THE BBN!"

Reid Brockway wrote, "Wrong choice, but good luck. ... Watch out for UK knocking Kansas out of the tourney."

Before the announcement, former UK player Perry Stevenson cautioned fans on Twitter from criticizing Wiggins. "If by a small chance Wiggins doesn't pick UK, don't send hate mail," Stevenson posted. "He'll have a hard time already w/ nightly 2 & 3 man coverages."

Scout, Rivals, ESPN and 24/7 Sports made Wiggins a consensus No. 1 overall player in the class of 2013.

The 6-foot-8 small forward from Toronto has been called the best high school prospect since LeBron James, and Scout.com analyst Evan Daniels says he has a legitimate claim to the title.

"I think Andrew is every bit as good as people have talked about," Daniels told the Herald-Leader. "He's an elite-level athlete, he's an elite-level defender, he has tremendous physical and athletic attributes. The scary thing is he's just scratching the surface. ... I think his upside is tremendous.

"He's one of the best high school players we've seen since LeBron. I don't think there's any doubt about it."

Wiggins will join an impressive class at Kansas that features McDonald's All-American Wayne Selden and highly touted big man Joel Embiid. The leading returning players include point guard Naadir Tharpe and power forward Perry Ellis, who was also a one-time UK recruit.

The Cats already boasted an eight-player recruiting class that is being discussed as possibly the greatest of all time, and they're widely considered to be the No. 1 team going into next season. That class includes six McDonald's All-Americans: Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Julius Randle, Marcus Lee, Dakari Johnson and James Young. UK also returns two former McDonald's All-Americans from last season's team: Alex Poythress and Kyle Wiltjer.

With Wiggins, Daniels said UK would have been "the odds-on favorite to win the national championship" in 2014. "They're still in the conversation," Daniels said. "Maybe not the guaranteed No. 1 going into the season, but they have so much talent. Their roster is full of guys that are going to play in the NBA.

"Kentucky is fine without Andrew Wiggins. They still have elite-level players at just about every position."

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.

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