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Naismith candidate Wiggins scores 57, silences criticism

Feb. 08, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

POINT PLEASANT -- It was quite a roller-coaster over the last 24 hours for Huntington Prep's Andrew Wiggins.

On Thursday afternoon, Wiggins was named a finalist for the Naismith Player of the Year award, given to the top high school basketball player in the nation.

Just an hour later, Wiggins caught wind of an article in Sports Illustrated written by Pete Thamel asking whether Wiggins would deliver on his potential or whether he would be the next great basketball player from Canada with more hype than hope.

That was around noon on Thursday.

"I was happy about becoming a candidate for the Naismith Award, but when the article came out, I didn't pay it too much mind," Wiggins said.

Wiggins had to wait until 7:30 p.m. to formulate his answer, and he let his game do the majority of his speaking.

The 6-8, 215-pound phenom for the Express finished 24-of-28 from the floor with 57 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks in Huntington Prep's 111-59 win over Marietta College JV in front of a packed house at Point Pleasant High School.

The performance was two-fold -- it showed exactly why he was named a candidate for the Naismith Player of the Year award while also responding to the criticisms put forth in Thamel's article.

"I just had to respond to the negative outlook that the reporter gave me," Wiggins said. "I thought I responded well. Negative media happens to everybody. You just have to work through it and respond."

On a day when Wiggins was named one of three finalists for the Naismith Player of the Year Award, he showed the packed house his array of talents from the opening tip.

Wiggins said he cherished the accolades from early in the day.

"It's a blessing to be a candidate for the Naismith Player of the Year, and it's a blessing just to play basketball," Wiggins said.

Just hours after reading an article that portrayed him as a player who gets up for big competition and doesn't go full-tilt against lesser competition, Wiggins was full-throttle against Marietta College JV, which didn't have a chance.

After scoring 12 points in the first quarter, Wiggins grew stronger and ended the first half with 27 points.

Sensing the night to come, Wiggins' teammates were happy to facilitate the hot-handed sensation as he continued to stroke from all areas of the court.

Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford said Wiggins' teammates also saw the article and wanted to do what they could as well.

Arguably, it was one of the best games of the year for the team as a whole as they rallied around Wiggins to make a statement.

"His teammates are proud of the fact that they are playing alongside a guy in Andrew that is nominated for that award," Fulford said. "They saw the article and they were (ticked) off about it, which is good. There's one thing about this team and that's that we have each other's back.

"His teammates were mad and upset and it was one of those nights. I thanked his teammates in the locker room, too, for recognizing that and allowing that to happen because he needed it. He had an extreme roller coaster today, but I'm proud of how everyone surrounding it responded."

In regard to the Naismith Award , Fulford said Wiggins showed why he should be the Player of the Year on Thursday night. The other Naismith Award candidates are Simeon's Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon of Archbishop Mitty (Calif.).

While the 24-of-28 shooting performance is one reason, it isn't the only one. Fulford also highlighted that he guarded A.J. Davis, Marietta's leading scorer and held him to six points on 3-of-11 shooting through three quarters. Davis hit his final three shots in the fourth to finish with 14 to lead Marietta.

"All three are great players and I think Andrew separates himself from the other two in that he can dominate games in ways on both ends of the court," Fulford said.

Huntington Prep, which also got 15 points from Patrick Strake and 12 points, nine assists and five rebounds from Xavier Rathan-Mayes, travels to New Jersey to take on St. Patrick (N.J.) on Thursday.

MARIETTA JV 14 14 10 21 -- 59: Davis 14, Grennert 10, Lawson 5, Peterson 5, Crawford 9, Garcia 2, Meson 4, Tucci 10.

HUNTINGTON PREP 25 26 27 33 -- 111: Wiggins 57, Strake 15, Rathan-Mayes 12, Gill-Caesar 9, Woodson 6, Arroyo 4, Kingsley 4, Gabriel 4.

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