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With Wiggins, seeing is believing

By Zac

NORTH CANTON, Ohio – It was my first in-person look at the Andrew Wiggins Show.

I’ll come back.

Wiggins is a senior who plays for Huntington (WV) Prep, which isn’t really a high school but is a traveling high-school basketball team. He’s a basketball prodigy, a human pogo-stick and a Toronto native, and if you haven’t heard of him before you’ll be hearing and seeing a lot of him soon. He reclassified from the class of 2014 last fall, doing the requisite academic work to be able to graduate this spring, then play college basketball next season.

It will be one season and one season only.

When it comes to Wiggins seeing is believing, though what we’re seeing now is very much an unfinished product. He’s an outstanding athlete and a gifted shot-blocker. His jump shot is a work in progress. He plays off the ball for a team that has a variety of scoring options. On his first isolation opportunity against Mentor on Saturday night, he was called for an offensive foul. It wasn’t the first time he showed the push-off as a go-to move off the dribble.

When Huntington Prep needed a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, he took one off the dribble and made it for a lead. On the next possession he was called for a charge; it was more bullying than blatant. Two possessions later, he sunk another 3-pointer.

The crowd gasped.

His final stat line: 30 points, 14 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 assists.

Wiggins looks like an NBA player right now; he’s 6’8 and just starting to fill out. He carries himself like a pro, too.

Like so many of the great ones, he makes the remarkable — especially in the air — look rather effortless. Maybe the only thing he can’t do right now is be as great as his reputation has painted him to be. He’s on different grading scale for myraid reasons.

Wiggins is the best of 50 or so Div. I prospects playing in the two-day, 13-game Dunk4Diabetes event this weekend at Walsh University. The crowd of over 1,600 at Walsh University’s Alumni Arena Saturday night was nothing new for Wiggins; in fact, it was a little less than he’s used to. Huntington Prep has played in front of more than 40,000 people this season and played in another multi-game event Friday night in Cincinnati.

Have superstar, will travel. So will fans. With Wiggins as the main attraction here, there were no parking spots and not many empty seats. There was a palpable buzz.

During earlier games, kids approached Wiggins in the bleachers for autographs. In the minutes before the Huntington Prep-Mentor game, grown men used their phones to record Wiggins warming up.

Minus the camera phones, this is what it was like for some guy named LeBron when he was a pro stuck in high school 10 and 11 years ago.

Chas Wolfe, Dunk4Diabetes event director and owner/director of scouting, PrepScouting LLC, needs a headliner like Wiggins to create real buzz for these events. With more than 1,900 tickets distributed for Saturday’s games and 50-plus media credentials distributed, he got it.

“(Wiggins) has that LeBron-like ‘wow’ factor,” Wolfe said. “He’s 17, but in the basketball world he’s a household name like Pepsi. He’s obviously the unanimous No. 1 prospect in America. He’s a guy who can choose where he wants to go to college.”

Most believe Wiggins will choose either Kentucky or Kansas, with North Carolina and his parents’ alma mater, Florida State, also in the running. His jump from the class of 2014 to the class of 2013 is the kind made to accelerate an NBA arrival. It’s not a stretch to say he’ll be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft — or that he might be this year, if he was eligible.

“That’s getting ahead, but if he stays on the same track he’s on and keeps adding to his game, he has that No. 1 overall pick potential,” Wolfe said.

In addition to those big 3-pointers, he dunked at will. He made 9 of 12 shots in the second half. They all counted; it came down to the final 1.5 seconds before Wiggins and Huntington Prep sealed a 61-59 win.

Among the highlights: A one-handed rebound, one power dribble and a two-hand dunk. A sudden move to the baseline and a no-look pass for a cutting teammate. A blocked shot that traveled probably 20 feet in the exact direction he intended to send it.

His teammates are gifted, too. Fellow Canadian and point guard Xavier Rathan-Meyes is going to Florida State. Post player Moses Kingsley is going to Arkansas. Sophomore forward Montaque Gill-Caesar is a top-20 player in the class of 2015, according to Scout.com. Baylor signee Dominic Woodson was dressed but did not play on Saturday night.

Kinglsey had 12 rebounds and 8 blocks. Huntington Prep is a freak show, and Wiggins is the star.

Huntington Prep plays again here Sunday, at 5 p.m. vs. Cleveland Benedictine. SportsTime Ohio will televise Sunday’s last four games live, starting at 3 p.m.

Wolfe expects dozens of college coaches to be on hand for various prospects Sunday, including at least one assistant from Ohio State. Kenny Johnson, an Indiana assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, was here Saturday to see Cleveland VASJ sophomore Carlton Bragg.

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