While NBA fans wait in earnest for the day Derrick Rose decides to return from his knee injury, another impending decision will be rocking the college basketball world in the next couple weeks.
Andrew Wiggins, the all-everything who is the undisputed top high school player in this year’s class, has until May 15 to sign his letter of intent. Wiggins does have the option to simply sign scholarship papers if he makes his decision after that date.
The final four schools on his list—Kentucky, Florida State, Kansas and North Carolina—have seemingly been known forever. But Wiggins’ ultimate destination seems just as up in the air as it was when he announced those finalists.
As of publication, there is no word on which way Wiggins is leaning. There have been constant inklings and rampant speculation, as everyone simply wants to know where this young man will end up. CBS Sports’ Will Brinson notes that even a certain Maryland-based restaurant is trying to scoop the Wiggins decision:
Will Brinson @WillBrinson
Walk away from Twitter for 30 seconds and you miss Captain Crab Cakes trying to scoop Andrew Wiggins decision.2013-5-3 17:22:45
With recruiting classes set almost across the entire nation—Wiggins is the only top-25 player yet to commit and one of just three top-50 players, per 247 Sports—the wait has to be excruciating for these schools. We’ve seen players hold schools proverbially hostage before making their decisions before, this is nothing new.
However, Wiggins’ decision comes with connotations that will undoubtedly alter the entire college basketball landscape.
I know what you’re wondering—yes, he’s that good. Outside of LeBron James, there has been no prep star more deserving of the praise heaped upon him this century.
Wiggins is a 6’7” forward who can play either wing position and can move over to the 4 in small-ball sets. A physical marvel in the open court, Wiggins’ dunking prowess has become something of legend already; his senior highlight mixtape damn near broke the Internet.
But what is so remarkable about Wiggins is that he’s much more than an explosive leaper. He’s well-rounded enough to be the unquestioned top pick in the 2013 NBA draft had the one-and-done rule not been implemented, and it would have been a more than deserving selection.
The son of former NBA player Mitchell Wiggins, Andrew has excelled at the hallowed Huntington Prep School in West Virginia. Showing off an adept shooting stroke from almost anywhere on the court to go with his prodigious athletic talents, Wiggins emerged as unquestionably the best high school player in the nation. He averaged 23.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 2.5 assists as a senior, showing flashes of that perimeter skill set and his ever-improving defensive prowess.
He was named the Naismith Player of the Year back in February, and followed that up with the Gatorade Player of the Year honors a month later.
It almost goes without saying that whatever team lands him will be grabbing the national spotlight.
Still, the rising forward means much more than a big name to the schools desperately grasping at his heartstrings.
For Kentucky, Wiggins brings guaranteed history. John Calipari’s recruiting class already boasts six McDonald’s All-Americans, which is already an all-time best. It’s already arguably the greatest recruiting class in Division I history, boasting the type of talent that would make Michigan’s Fab Five blush.
Wiggins cements Calipari’s 2013 class as the best ever—no more questions can be asked. The Wildcats would have seven McDonald’s All Americans, four of the top five recruits in the entire nation and seven of the 14 best players, according to 247 Sports. The 2013-14 Kentucky team would come with arguably the most hype in college basketball history with expectations of becoming the first undefeated team since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers.
History will have been made before Wiggins ever sets foot on a collegiate floor.
The aftermath of Wiggins choosing Florida State is even more obvious. Led by head coach Leonard Hamilton, the Seminoles have built themselves into a workmanlike program. They play hard-nosed defense, a Hamilton trademark, and finish somewhere in the middle of the ACC pack.
During Hamilton’s 11-year tenure, Florida State has captured just one ACC title and made it past the NCAA tournament’s first weekend just once. It’s a program that has been more than happy to settle for second place, burrowed far behind the football team’s standing as one of Division I’s most proud programs.
Landing Wiggins flips that script. It would undoubtedly be the 64-year-old Hamilton’s greatest accomplishment as a head coach, eclipsed only by what Wiggins could possibly do with the Seminoles next season.
North Carolina and Kansas are less interesting than the two aforementioned schools, thus why they’ve been covered less. Neither the Tar Heels nor the Jayhawks are in need of saving, and both schools are bringing in a good, not great crop of players for next season. Roy Williams and Bill Self have built stable ground to walk on, and their programs’ histories are littered with ascendant talents with resumes far greater than Wiggins’ (note: So does Kentucky).
But that doesn’t mean either school will be just fine without Wiggins. This is a once-in-a-generation player. As CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman notes, his talent outweighs anyone in the hallowed Class of 2007, which included Derrick Rose, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin, among others:
Jeff Goodman @GoodmanESPN
Andrew Wiggins is so talented he would have been the No. 1 player in the loaded Class of 2007 (Rose, Love, Gordon, Blake, Beasley, Mayo).2013-5-1 17:14:08
Colleague Gary Parrish took things even further, saying Wiggins should be the preseason National Player of the Year no matter which school he attends:
Gary Parrish @GaryParrishCBS
I'll take the Andrew Wiggins thing a step farther. He should be the preseason National Player of the Year regardless of where he plays.2013-5-1 16:56:06
In other words, this player is special. The next LeBron James special? Probably not. But Wiggins is on another playing field, the rarefied air that so few prep stars have ever touched.
When talents like Andrew Wiggins tells you to jump, you ask “how high?” But when Andrew Wiggins asks you to wait on bated breath for his decision, you don’t ask “until when?”
You just wait.