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Wiggins chooses Kansas

Wiggins
May. 15, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

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

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

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

"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 other people close to Wiggins, the announcement did include its own bit of irony.

The college basketball world had been on the collective edge of their seats since he reclassified in October to the Class of 2013, waiting for the minute that he would make a decision.

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

The ceremony was scheduled for 12:15 p.m., but with Wiggins already in place at 12:05, Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford 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 last weekend. He said as soon as he decided, he let his family know and they made 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 walked into the gym -- Wiggins with his arm around his mother -- 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.

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

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

Like others, Self was pleasantly surprised Tuesday after receiving Wiggins' faxed National Letter of Intent.

"Obviously, everyone in Jayhawk-land is overwhelmed and excited today," Self said in a news release. "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 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 people thought Wiggins would lean the way of Florida State, which is where his mother and father both stood out as athletes. Florida State was also in contention because Huntington Prep teammate Xavier Rathan-Mayes has already signed to join the Seminoles.

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

However, Wiggins' addition to the lineup at Kansas bolstered the Jayhawks to make a run at Kentucky next season.

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

While Wiggins was all smiles Tuesday, he said 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 advantage Kansas had was Wiggins' brother -- Wichita State guard Nick Wiggins -- being within an easy drive of Lawrence, Kan.

"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 nation's 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.

Wiggins is eager to get to Kansas and go 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-foot-8, 215-pound star out of Toronto, Canada, led Huntington Prep to a 30-3 record last season while gaining many accolades along the way.

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

For the season Wiggins averaged 23.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 2.5 assists.

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.

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