Andrew Wiggins enjoyed a taste of life in Kentucky on Sunday, and Wildcats fans and their coach hope he gets more of it next season.
With more than 2,000 fans and Kentucky coaches John Calipari, Orlando Antigua and Kenny Payne watching, the 6-foot-8 small forward went for 17 points and 11 rebounds as Huntington (W.V.) Prep routed Christian Faith Center Academy (N.C.), 61-44, at Scott County High School.
“It was amazing,” Wiggins told Steve Jones of the Louisville Courier Journal, who live-Tweeted game updates, quotes and pictures. “The atmosphere was great. All the fans loved me, supported my team. It’s a great place to play basketball.”
Of Calipari and his staff coming to the game, Wiggins said: “It’s an honor that they’re coming out to watch me play and show the love and support.”
After the game, as seen in this photo Jones Tweeted, Wiggins signed autographs for a line of anxious Kentucky fans, who are hopeful he will pick their program for the one year he is likely to play in college before heading into the 2014 NBA Draft.
Wiggins recently reclassified from 2014 to 2013, but won’t sign until the spring period, along with fellow elite prospects Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon.
It “wasn’t a hard decision,” he told Jones of the reclassification. “I know I’m ready … and I’m just one step closer to my team.”
Kentucky is in the mix for Wiggins, the 6-9 Randle out of Prestonwood (Texas) Christian Academy and the 6-8 Gordon out of San Jose (Calif.) Archbishop Mitty, who recently trimmed his list to Washington, Arizona and Kentucky.
“I really believe we’ll sign one or two more,” Calipari said on ESPNU.
Wiggins listed ”Kentucky, Florida State, Kansas, Ohio State and UNC” as schools recruiting him.
Kentucky already has the No. 1 class in the nation and is loaded on the perimeter and the wing with Andrew and Aaron Harrison and James Young in addition to forwards Marcus Lee and Derek Willis.
Still, Wiggins said that doesn’t bother him and that Calipari used the word “unstoppable” to describe the class that Wiggins could join.
Meantime, Wiggins said he would like to practice with and play against such other great talents.
“Great players can play with other great players, so I wouldn’t mind playing with them,” he told Jones.
Of the Harrison twins, the first players to commit to Kentucky in this class, Wiggins said: ”I’ve never really watched them play in person but I’ve seen highlights. … They look unselfish, great teammates.”
He added: ”It would just make me better playing against them in practice every day.”
Florida State has a pledge from Huntington shooting guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Wiggins’s close friend who led his team with 21 points and 5 rebounds in the game.
“Me and him are close,” he said. “Our relationship is strong.”
North Carolina has also been involved, and Wiggins will actually play at the Charlotte Hoops Challenge on Friday against Quality Education.
Huntington coach Rob Fulford – who Facebooked the above photo of the line of fans waiting to get into the game — has said Wiggins isn’t talking about much about recruiting right now and that his decision process will go well into the spring.
Still, on this night there was plenty of love from both Wiggins and Fulford for Kentucky and its fans.
Fulford Tweeted: “Thx to #BBN for making the game at Scott Co a huge success! Hard fought 61-44 W against very good Christian Faith. UK fans get it!!!”
Wiggins, for his part, told Jones of Kentucky: “It’s a basketball school. The fans support you. The atmosphere every game is crazy. They treat you like rock stars there.”
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Photos: Steve Jones and Rob Fulford