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Andrew Wiggins chooses Kansas

May. 14, 2013 @ 05:50 PM

HUNTINGTON — Huntington Prep’s Andrew Wiggins might have been seen clicking his Jordans together underneath the table at St. Joseph Central Catholic School in Huntington where he signed his National Letter of Intent on Tuesday.

For Wiggins, Kansas is the place that felt like home.

Flanked by his parents, coaches and teammates on Tuesday, Wiggins announced to the world at 12:09 p.m. that he will be attending the University of Kansas in the fall.

“I just followed my heart,” Wiggins said. “Kansas had my heart so that’s where I wanted to go.”

In an intimate gathering in front of the student body and those close to Wiggins, the announcement did include its own bit of irony.

The entire basketball world had been on the collective edge of their seats since he reclassified in October, waiting for the minute that he would make a decision.

And there had even been scrutiny for Wiggins because many thought he was dragging the process out.

The ceremony had been scheduled for 12:15 p.m., but with Wiggins already in place at 12:05, Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford started the ceremony and immediately turned things over to Wiggins, who didn’t take long to announce his decision.

In this instance, he announced it earlier than everyone had thought — especially those in the social media world.

It was an announcement that honestly surprised Fulford, who did not learn of the choice until Wiggins said so.

“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,” 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’ afterwards and he said that he just felt it in his heart. You can’t go against that.”

Even Wiggins admitted he wasn’t sure of the answer until over the weekend.

He said that as soon as he decided, he let his family know and they made the plans to come to Huntington.

Upon arrival at Huntington St. Joe, his parents — former NBA player Mitchell Wiggins and former Olympian Marita Payne-Wiggins — joined their son for a closed-door meeting to make sure the decision was final.

They then all came into the gym — Wiggins with his arm around mother Marita — to announce the conclusion of what has been the biggest high school hoopla since LeBron James’ senior year at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in 2003.

Wiggins was at ease and looked surprisingly comfortable throughout the whole process, smiling and taking pictures with the student body and faculty at Huntington St. Joe, who were also in attendance for the event.

There’s good reason why Wiggins should be at ease with his decision, too.

He will be playing for a coach in Bill Self whose demeanor is much like his — laid-back and calm on the outside but burning with passion for basketball on the inside.

Like others, Self was elated after receiving Wiggins’ faxed National Letter of Intent on Tuesday.

“Obviously, everyone in Jayhawk-land is overwhelmed and excited today,” Self said. “This was a pleasant surprise because we never had an idea which way he was leading. Andrew did this the exact way he said he was going to. He played his cards very close to his vest, as did his mother and father.”

In the hours leading up to the announcement, speculation grew and social media took off as experts and basketball fans alike tried to take their best guess at which school Wiggins would choose out of his four finalists — Kansas, Kentucky, Florida State and North Carolina.

Many thought Wiggins would lean the way of Florida State, which is where his mother and father both stood out as athletes in college before Mitchell went on to the NBA and Marita went on to compete in the Olympics.

The Seminoles were also in contention because Huntington Prep teammate Xavier Rathan-Mayes has already signed for the Class of 2013 to go to Florida State.

In Kentucky, Wiggins would have been joining one of the elite classes in basketball history as John Calipari signed six McDonald’s All-Americans this year.

However, Wiggins’ addition to the lineup in Kansas bolstered the Jayhawks to make a run at the Wildcats next season.

North Carolina was also an option for Wiggins, who visited several times with coach Roy Williams and traveled down to take in the Duke-UNC rivalry on the final day of the regular season.

While Wiggins was all smiles after finalizing his plans on Tuesday, he did say there was one thing about the process that posed a tremendous amount of difficulty.

“Just letting down the other schools,” Wiggins said. “All the other three schools were great schools. I couldn’t go wrong with any one of them.”

One big aspect in which Kansas had an advantage was that his brother — Wichita State guard Nick Wiggins — will be within an easy drive of him this season.

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

Unlike the other fairy tale that involved the clicking of heels, there are no tornadoes involved in this one.

Instead, the tornado is replaced by the whirlwind of scrutiny and spotlight placed on an 18-year-old who is not only the No. 1 overall prospect, but also the projected No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft and arguably, the best player to ever come out of Canada.

For Wiggins, it matters not, though.

He is eager to get to Kansas and get to work after enjoying his final summer before college — a summer that will likely include playing for the Canadian U-19 team.

“I’ve always liked Kansas and I like their style of play,” Wiggins said. “I’m just looking forward to getting there and doing my thing.”

The 6-8, 215-pound star out of Toronto, Canada, led Huntington Prep to a 30-3 record this season while gaining many accolades along the way.

Those accolades include the 2013 Naismith High School Basketball Player of the Year, the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year and McDonald’s All-American. Along with the McDonald’s All-American Game, Wiggins was chosen to compete in the Jordan Brand Classic.

Wiggins averaged 23.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 2.5 assists on the season for Huntington Prep.

He joins a talented recruiting class for Self that includes fellow McDonald’s All-American Wayne Selden as well as talented center Joel Embiid, guards Frank Mason and Connor Frankamp and forward Brannen Greene.