Andrew Wiggins will decide on Tuesday among four fairly different options
On Sunday, Rob Fulford, the head coach at Huntington (W. Va.) Prep, confirmed that the nation's No. 1 prospect, Andrew Wiggins, would finally be making his college decision on Tuesday. Now we have just about all the pieces in place to frame the story as Wiggins picks from a reported final list of Florida State, Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina.
The who and what of this story -- Wiggins, arguably the best prep prospect since LeBron James -- have been known for awhile. Ever since last October, when Wiggins reclassified back into the Class of 2013, he has been the top-rated player in what is a loaded incoming class. The where and when of his decision are now in place, with Wiggins announcing tomorrow at 12:15 p.m. ET at his school, with friends, classmates, family and just one local reporter on site to relay the information once Wiggins makes his choice.
So now we're down to the why, which will be an interesting retro-question once Wiggins makes his pick. Each of the four options has very compelling reasons to be the right fit for Wiggins, but some of the things that make those situations appealing for others may actually not apply here, for this particular prospect in this particular year.
If Wiggins chooses the Wildcats, they would have landed the No. 1 prospect at all five positions in this class. It would easily be the top recruiting class in (ratings) history, and when you mix in returnees like Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, etc., the pure talent on this roster would be unsurpassed in the college game, even with defending national champ Louisville bringing back a ton. The question with the Cats is does Wiggins want to be part of something where he's not going to be the clear star, with the pressure (40-0 talk?) of playing for Big Blue Nation and an outspoken media star in John Calipari.
Calipari obviously has a track record of getting guys high into the lottery, but that's not really in play here. It's hard to believe anything would keep Wiggins from being the top NBA selection next summer, even if someone else outplays him in his one college season. Is Wiggins the type of person who wants to join a superteam, with all the egos and agendas that could come with it? The Cats certainly could make a run at history next season, even with a relatively stiff nonleague slate and a very good Florida team looming in the SEC. It would just be a choice that would be very different than the others he is considering.
The Jayhawks have a lot of what Kentucky offers -- a blueblood program, an elite coach, a track record of good NBA draft placement, a great fanbase, a great schedule with national TV exposure -- but without as much of the supporting talent that would be in place in Lexington. The Jayhawks are, however, returning potential talents like Naadir Tharpe, Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor and also have well-regarded freshmen like center Joel Embiid and wing Wayne Selden coming in.
Wiggins could slot in as the star on this team, but he'd have more help than many people think. As much as Tharpe struggled with his offense last season, he should settle down more as a junior starter, and his passing ability could come in handy on a young team that will need to score easy baskets. If it matters, Wiggins' brother, Nick, is at Wichita State, which makes a parental swing a lot easier, too.
What about a hybrid option of the first two. All the blueblood quality you need, with a loaded, experienced roster coming back that just needs a stud small forward to round it out. With James Michael McAdoo back in the fold, the Heels will just need him and/or one or two of their other frontcourt guys to become efficient contributors to be really, really good. They have a point guard, perimeter shooting and the depth to be a leading contender to win the ACC, which will be the nation's best conference next season.
Does Harrison Barnes' development come into play here, where a former top-rated prospect really stagnated in his two seasons at Carolina before showing more of his full game down the stretch of his rookie season at Golden State? Would Wiggins pick an ACC rival of his parents' alma mater and preference, Florida State? When I first sized up his choices, this felt like the best roster fit in terms of slotting into a team that immediately would become a Final Four favorite, but we'll see.
The family choice. Also the college choice of his best friend, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who is signed to come to Tallahassee. It's also the oddest pick for a talent like Wiggins, mostly because Leonard Hamilton is a) not known for his offensive basketball and b) has never managed a talent anywhere close to Wiggins' projected level.
Since 2003 (as far back at KenPom.com goes), the Seminoles have finished in the nation's top 50 in adjusted offensive efficiency just once, in 2007. That was a team led by senior forward Al Thornton, supported by then-redshirt sophomore guard Toney Douglas. Despite his defense-first philosophy, though, it's misleading to say that Hamilton has never enabled players to carry pretty large offensive burdens.
Guys like Tim Pickett, Von Wafer, Thornton, Douglas, and Chris Singleton all have carried shot percentage and usage rates above 25 percent for Hamilton. A couple of them were much closer to the 30 percent mark generally reserved for superstars (or teams that really lack a second scoring option). So the precedent is there for Wiggins to be able to come into a Hamilton team and get his shots, if that's what he wants.
Florida State's supporting cast around him is also better than people will perceive, but it's certainly not the talent that Kentucky or North Carolina can offer, and probably doesn't have the upside of Kansas' offerings, either. Will it be good enough for Wiggins to survive an ACC gauntlet against loaded Duke, UNC and Syracuse teams, plus a number of second-level contenders? The Seminoles, even with Wiggins, would have work to do to contend in the ACC, and there are no guarantees about a deep NCAA tournament run, either. This team would have a lot more experience than Kevin Durant's Texas team which lost in the Round of 32, but it also doesn't have a second lottery pick in the lineup, like point guard D.J. Augustin. In about 24 hours, we'll have our answer, and then we can really start mentally planning for the 2013-14 season. One fanbase will be in raptures while three others will feel the sting of disappointment. Everyone else? We'll be anxiously waiting to see what he can do on a college court.