Scrutiny of Wiggins begins
HUNTINGTON -- Questions arose well before commissioner Adam Silver's announcement of the No. 1 overall selection Thursday night in the NBA Draft.
Who was going to be better professional basketball player -- former Huntington Prep and University of Kansas standout Andrew Wiggins or Duke University star Jabari Parker?
While many so-called experts had the duo as a toss-up going into the draft Wiggins was chosen No. 1 by the Cleveland Cavaliers, ending a dizzying span of 400 days in which he had gone from a standout at Huntington Prep to the NBA's top overall selection.
And as soon as his name was called Wiggins received his welcome to the pro game -- a welcome that came in the form of scrutiny.
The 19-year-old Toronto native took the scrutiny just like he took everything else on the big night. He took it with a big smile.
"Andrew's mentality has always been that he's the No. 1 player and he doesn't care what others think about it," said Rob Fulford, the University of Missouri assistant who was Huntington Prep's head coach the last five seasons. "That's the way he plays. He just plays his game.
"Now that he's the No. 1 pick, the nights that he has subpar games, he's the lead on SportsCenter. No one else in this draft will get that treatment. He's had that, though, even at Huntington. People hated on him and he didn't pay any attention to it. He obviously used it for motivation."
Fulford also joked that while he spoke of Wiggins using the negativity as fuel, he read a graphic on ESPN's draft coverage about who would be the better pro -- Wiggins or Parker -- and many chose Parker.
"He's always going to get that, and probably unfairly so," Fulford said. "He's a Canadian player and the scrutiny is going to be much more for him because he's a non-American star."
Perhaps the most interesting portion of the night that might get lost in the hoopla surrounding one of the most talent-rich drafts in recent history was the words of Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin.
Griffin almost emphatically said that while people were raising the debates on Wiggins vs. Parker, the Cleveland Cavaliers were not. He even went as far to say that some of the media reports were erroneous in post-draft coverage
"We were really pulled toward Andrew because of the two-way player concept," Griffin said. "Coach (David) Blatt very much believes in a system defensively that is predicated on length and athleticism and this certainly goes with that. Andrew is a player that we thought had the most upside."
Fulford said he is convinced that Wiggins will surprise people with his ability at a young age in the NBA.
He said the pro game is geared more toward one-on-one situations and how there will be more open court for Wiggins than what he saw at Kansas.
"I've said all along that I thought Andrew would be a better professional than college player," Fulford said. "Andrew was the best player in the draft, period. Defensively, he's already elite and offensively, with the structure and the rules, he is going to be elite. I think he was clearly the top pick."
Fulford said he is interested to see how Wiggins responds.
He also said people in the Tri-State should remember Thursday night's draft as something big.
"It's a monumental thing -- not only for Huntington Prep, but for Huntington and the entire state, which is the picture of what we represent," Fulford said. "People may have mocked or laughed when we said we were going to bring in elite-level kids that would play in the NBA, but there it is.
"When you have your marquee guy step in and go No. 1 overall, everyone should be proud. They have to look at the big picture of what we represented at Huntington Prep with those elite guys. At the college level, how many guys have WVU and Marshall had go in the first round? The answer is zero.
"Our goal was to bring that pride to West Virginia. It's not going to end, either."
The Herald-Dispatch welcomes your comments on this article, but please be civil. Avoid profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, accusations of criminal activity, name-calling or insults to the other posters. Herald-dispatch.com does not control or monitor comments as they are posted, but if you find a comment offensive or uncivil, hover your mouse over the comment and click the X that appears in the upper right of the comment. If you do not want your comment to post to your personal Facebook page, uncheck the box below the comment.