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Prep coach: Wiggins’ ability ‘off the charts’

May 15, 2013

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Huntington (W. Va.) Prep coach Rob Fulford — who has worked with Canadian sensation Andrew Wiggins the past two seasons — laughed when asked when he learned Wiggins had selected Kansas University over Kentucky, Florida State and North Carolina.

“When he announced it,” Fulford said of a Tuesday morning ceremony in which the 6-8, 215-pounder signed a letter-of-intent with Bill Self’s Jayhawks. “It was kind of fun being part of that. Myself, our staff and his teammates, we didn’t know. I never asked him where he was going.”

Fulford did ask the soft-spoken Wiggins why he chose KU over the others.

“I said, ‘Andrew, I know you are not going to talk to anybody, so they (reporters) are going to call me. I need to know why,’” Fulford said. “He was very sincere. He said, ‘I felt it in my heart and it was a long process.’

“He did his homework, too, due diligence trying to factor everything involved. It was a situation he felt it was the best place for him,” Fulford added.

Of Wiggins the person, Fulford said: “Unbelievable kid. I texted coach Self and told him, ‘Congratulations, you are not only getting a great basketball player, but even better person.’ It’s been an honor to have him here. He’s one of the most respectful kids you’ll ever meet. He gets a bad rap for not wanting to handle media, but I think the part of the media he didn’t like to deal with is over. He didn’t like to talk about recruiting, comparing colleges. Talking basketball, he’s fine.”

As far as Wiggins the player, the coach said: “He has off the charts ability. It’s unfair to compare anyone to (Michael) Jordan or LeBron (James). I hope people don’t do that and set him up. He has unbelievable potential. His future is very bright. If he stays healthy, he will have a great NBA career. But comparisons are unfair at this point.

“He showed up at Huntington Prep as an elite athlete; he’s leaving an elite basketball player. He’s gotten so much better in the couple years he’s been here. He has room to improve certain things. It will be fun to sit back and watch how he develops at Kansas and into the future,” Fulford noted.

Papa speaks: Wiggins’ dad, Mitchell, who played in the NBA, explained the decision-making process to the Louisville Courier-Journal: “We looked at all the offense, the players coming in. He said, ‘Dad I love Florida State. I love Kentucky, North Carolina, the history of Michael Jordan.’ I said, ‘Andrew, exhale, take your time.’ At the end of the day, he said, ‘OK, dad, I’m going to Kansas.’ It’s a great choice. I think coach (Bill) Self is kind of happy,” Mitchell Wiggins said.

Some NBA players have helped Wiggins, who is expected to be taken No. 1 in the 2014 NBA Draft. ESPN says he’d be No. 1 if he could enter this June’s draft.

“LeBron (James) took him under his wing for the last two years,” Mitchell Wiggins told the Courier-Journal. “Kevin Durant has given him a lot of advice. Ray Allen has given him advice. Michael Jordan a couple weeks ago. He is a very humble kid, works hard. The biggest thing is he listens and has a little talent.”

Of Wiggins’ family, KU coach Self said: “Andrew’s father, Mitchell, played at Florida State and had a very good NBA career. His mother, Marita, ran track at Florida State and went on to be a two-time Olympian and would have been a three-time Olympian if it wasn’t for the boycott (1980). It’s a great athletic family and certainly I look forward to spending more time with them and getting to know them better. I’m so thrilled they put their trust in us and the belief he was going to mature as a man and a player.”

Busy summer outside of Lawrence: Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News points out that Wiggins could compete this summer for his native Canada in the Under-19 World championships and also the FIBA Americas senior national championship.

Wiggins played for the Canadian team that won bronze at last summer’s Americas qualifying tournament for the Under 19 worlds. The U19 Worlds will be contested June 27-July 7 in Prague.

The qualifying tournament for the FIBA World Cup will be Aug. 30-Sept. 11 in Venezuela. Wiggins said Tuesday his immediate plans are to take finals, return home to Canada to relax with friends and family.

“He has some desires, which I totally support 100 percent, of playing on the Canadian 19 and under team,” Self said. “Whatever he wants to do I’m cool with, as long as it’s a situation where he’s getting better. One of the advantages of being here (in summer) is for camaraderie and chemistry with teammates. If he has a chance to do some things from a worldwide competition standpoint, we’ll support that 100 percent. To have the opportunity to play for one or, even better, both teams I think would be a remarkable experience for him.”

Great class: KU has a recruiting class of No. 1-ranked Wiggins, plus No. 12 Wayne Selden, 6-5 shooting guard, Tilton (N.H.) School; No. 25-ranked Joel Embiid, 7-0 center, Rock School, Gainesville, Fla.; No. 29 Brannen Greene, 6-7 small forward, Tift County High, Tifton, Ga.; No. 34 Conner Frankamp, 6-0, combo guard, Wichita North; and No. 76 Frank Mason, 5-11 point guard, Massanutten Military Academy, Woodstock, Va. KU also has a transfer arriving in former Arkansas center Hunter Mickelson, who will practice but not play in games this season in accordance with transfer rules. KU has one scholarship left to give. Tarik Black, a 6-9 junior from the University of Memphis, who recently announced plans to transfer, is on KU’s campus on a recruiting visit. He has visited Duke, Georgetown and Oregon. Rivals.com rates KU’s class No. 2 in the country. Kentucky is No. 1.

Twitter: Here are some comments on Twitter regarding Wiggins.

“Happy to have @22wiggins as a part of the family! Great addition,” tweeted KU signee Brannen Greene.

“Everybody welcome the newest member to the family @22wiggins ! Time to get to work,” tweeted Wayne Selden.

“BIG Welcome to the Family @22wiggins let’s get to work and win all next year #KUCMB #KUbball,” tweeted Joel Embiid.

“I just landed in Atlanta and found out Andrew Wiggins is coming to KU!!! What a great day!#RockChalk,” tweeted actor Rob Riggle.

“ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK - KU now legit top 10 team with Andrew Wiggins!” tweeted ESPNs Dick Vitale.

“Andrew Wiggins is another example that every school would take a player for one year if they could get him. Remember this is an NBA rule,” tweeted ESPN’s Andy Katz.

“Heading into the day, Kansas was likely second in Big 12. Now, Jayhawks are a Final Four contender. Wiggins effect,” tweeted Jeff Borzello of cbssports.com.

“Welcome to the fam @22wiggins. ... next season needs to hurry up and get here,” tweeted Landen Lucas.

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