Andrew Wiggins Named Mr. Basketball USA

Kansas-bound wing from Huntington Prep (Huntington, W. Va.) is first foreign born choice since 1994

When 6-foot-7 Andrew Wiggins of Huntington Prep (Huntington, W. Va.) reclassified from the 2014 to the 2013 class back in October, he promptly was named the nation’s No. 1 prospect, supplanting Jabari Parker of Simeon (Chicago).

There was a valid argument on both sides of the coin regarding who was the better pro prospect at that time. There was no debate, however, who had the stronger resume as a high school player between Parker and Wiggins (who are separated in age by less than one month) going into the 2012-13 season.

That was Parker.

Parker was named class player of the year in each of his first three prep seasons after leading nationally-ranked Simeon to three consecutive Class 4A state titles. His national acclaim grew even further during his junior season when he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated and was named Gatorade’s National Player of the Year.

Wiggins, meanwhile, played for a program that wasn’t eligible for our Top 50 national team rankings, nor eligible to win a West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC) state title. Nevertheless, this past season proved Wiggins was a dominant high school performer against the backdrop of Huntington Prep’s national schedule.

In the end, Wiggins’ production for Huntington Prep, combined with his overwhelming individual talent, earned him the 2012-2013 HighSchoolHardwood Mr. Basketball USA title.

“It didn’t matter what types of games we played in, our schedule was one of the toughest in the country and we got every team’s best shot,” Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford said. “Andrew never disappointed knowing that all eyes were on him. You can look at high school, AAU, All-Star games and international competition. He dominated his one-on-one match-ups with every top player he faced.”

Wiggins’ dominance first hit the high school mainstream when the Toronto, Ontario native scored a team-high 20 points in the World Select’s victory over the USA select team at the 2012 Nike Hoop Summit. He was considered a sophomore then and the youngest player in the event facing a team made up of graduating seniors.

After averaging 19.3 ppg in leading the CIA Bounce travel ball club to the Nike EYBL championship game, Wiggins translated his 2012 summer play into a dominant senior season for the Express. He averaged 23.4 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game for a 30-3 team.

Wiggins candidacy for Mr. Basketball USA was almost as unique as his NBA-level athleticism. Huntington Prep carried a post-graduate player on its roster and its program (whose players actually attend St. Joseph Central Catholic High School) is not formally recognized by the WVSSAC. Either one of those facts automatically disqualifies a program from inclusion in the HighSchoolHardwood.com Top 50 national team rankings.

The criteria for Mr. Basketball USA and various All-American honors are slightly different. While post-graduates and those ineligible due to age or academics are not eligible, four-year student-athletes who attend programs that carry post-graduates are. Serious candidates in Wiggins’ situation have been rare over the years, but his production this season and individual talent were just too much to ignore.

“His level of competitiveness will be one of his biggest strengths as he moves forward in the game of basketball,” Fulford said. “We all know how talented he is and he has room to improve, but the gap between Andrew and others his own age is pretty wide.”

Wiggins was the top vote-getter in the preseason Mr. Basketball USA Tracker and widened the gap after Parker got off to a slow start because of a lingering summer injury. Spectacular season-ending performances by Aaron Gordon of Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) and Parker (who led Simeon to another Class 4A state title) once again tightened the race. In the final tracker, Wiggins out pointed Parker, 93 to 84.

Eventual 2011-12 Mr. Basketball USA winner Shabazz Muhammad of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) held a 11-point margin over Parker in the final tracker two seasons ago.

Wiggins is the second Mr. Basketball USA on the all-time list to attend a West Virginia school, joining O.J. Mayo (now of the Dallas Mavericks), the 2006-2007 honoree from Huntington High School. Wiggins is the second ever foreign-born national high school basketball player of the year. The first was Dominican Republic-born Felipe Lopez of now defunct Rice High in New York City for the 1993-94 season.

Another unique aspect of Wiggins’ selection is last season he was the national sophomore of the year before reclassifying. One could only imagine the hype that would have surrounded Wiggins had he remained in the 2014 class. He’s already the front-runner to be the No. 1 pick of the 2014 NBA Draft.

The only high school milestone left for Wiggins is the one everyone is anticipating — his May 14 decision on where he’ll play at in college for one season before heading to the NBA.

On that morning, Wiggins decided on Kansas University, sending shockwaves through the high school and college basketball world.

Ronnie Flores is the editor of HighSchoolHardwood.com. He can be reached at ronnie@studentsports.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores

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