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Ben Fields: Wiggins' humility will serve him well

Mar. 29, 2013 @ 12:54 AM

As the nation's No. 1 college basketball prospect was recognized Thursday as a member of the McDonald's All-American team, his classmates at Huntington St. Joe yelled out "Speech!"

Andrew Wiggins, who attends St. Joe but plays for the Huntington Prep basketball team, just smiled and nodded his head sideways. Not going to happen.

"I gave a speech yesterday," Wiggins said with a sly grin after signing dozens of autographs and posing for photos with just about everyone in attendance. "I wasn't really ready to give a speech today."

Wiggins got a surprise visit Wednesday in his history class from former NBA great Alonzo Mourning to inform him he had been named as the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

Thursday's pep rally to see Wiggins off to the McDonald's All-American Game coming up Wednesday in Chicago put the 6-foot-8 Toronto native at the center of attention for the second day in a row, with coaches and media members singing his praises, and Huntington Mayor Steve Williams declaring it "Andrew Wiggins Day" in the city.

The whole time, Wiggins just flashed that winning grin.

It's not arrogance or ego that keeps Wiggins somewhat distant from those he comes in contact with. It's humility, and genuine shyness.

Having just turned 18, Wiggins is basically a normal kid who happens to be extraordinarily good at basketball.

He's been courted by college coaches all year, won the Naismith Award -- the most prestigious award a high school basketball player can receive -- and is the unanimous No. 1 2013 college prospect from every scouting agency out there.

Within an hour at St. Joe's gym, Huntington Prep had retired his number, McDonald's had given him a trophy and a shirt that read "Future Basketball Royalty" and the St. Joe cheerleaders led the crowd in numerous chants that worked the player's name into them.

After everything had settled down and the gym had emptied, University of Kentucky coach John Callipari walked in the door to chat up the prospect.

That's a full day.

And wherever Wiggins chooses to attend college, probably for one year and from there, the NBA awaits, things will only get more hectic.

For the rest of his life, there are going to be throngs of people who want something from Wiggins, whether it's time, money or both.

Thursday morning was a Rotary meeting compared to what will be coming at him in a few short months.

One place where Wiggins is not shy is on the basketball court, and that's as it should be.

And he has the right to be proud of his accomplishments.

Wiggins is only the fifth West Virginia player to be named to a McDonald's All-American team, and the first Canadian-born player to receive the honor.

He was one of 13 players selected out of a pool of 800 for the team.

I hope he never stops having fun on the court, and doesn't start buying into the "basketball royalty" stuff.

If he can keep the quiet grin, the humbleness and willingness to be accommodating while not being taken advantage of, he'll get through it.

Ben Fields is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or befields@herald-dispatch.com.

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