REGENSBURG (David Hein’s Eye on the Future) – NBA fans this past week most likely saw a new superstar take over as frontrunner for the top overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft with Canada's Andrew Wiggins reclassifying his high school class from 2014 to 2013.
Wiggins, a 17-year-old native of Thornhill, Ontario, returned to his original high school class status and will play his senior season in 2012-13 at Huntington Prep in West Virginia. The reclassification – a move players often institute to get an additional year of development for either academic or athletic reasons – jumps Wiggins to the top of this season’s senior class. It also accelerates his clock to the NBA by one year.
The small forward overtakes Chicago high school star Jabari Parker as No 1 in the 2013 class. Wiggins is incredibly athletic with superior leaping ability and the skills to shoot from the outside as well as attack the basket in half-court sets. He was the fifth leading scorer at the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship. The 2.01m star also was fifth best in the tournament in rebounds and blocks in helping Canada qualify for the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship.
2013 will be a huge year for Wiggins. Not only will he have to live up to the hype of being the top player in the senior high school class – and fend off talk that Parker was passed up without proper reason - but there will also be a massive college recruitment push for his one season in the NCAA ranks.
The front-runner is likely Florida State University (FSU), where his father Mitchell Wiggins played in the early 1980s. The younger Wiggins, whose mother is former track and field Olympian silver-medalist Marita Payne-Wiggins, could also be pulled to FSU thanks to his high school, travel ball and U18 FIBA Americas teammate Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who has already pledged to become a Seminole.
Rathan-Mayes’ dad also played at FSU and the two fathers played together in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton worked hard on recruiting Wiggins this past summer but the stiffest competition for Wiggins – who was considered the best prospect at the 2012 LeBron James Skills Academy – will likely come from the University of Kentucky (UK).
UK head coach John Calipari is the king of the one-and-dones having finally turned pre-NBA elite talent into NCAA champions last season. And he is out to do the same thing this season – coincidentally with Nerlens Noel, who also declassified prior to his senior season.
UConn star and current Detroit Pistons rookie Andre Drummond did the same thing two seasons ago.
It’s unclear when a decision on a college will be made, but Wiggins’ 2013 will also include the McDonald's All-American game next March and other post-season all-star events.
Then from 27 June-7 July, Wiggins is expected to star for Canada at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship in the Czech Republic, where he will team up with other top caliber talent such as Rathan-Mayes and Trey Lyles from this past summer's U18 team and possibly with Marial Shayok, Kevin Zabo and 15-year-old Justin Jackson who helped Canada to a fifth-place finish at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship.
There are at least two other impacts of the move. One may be that the trend of players classifying and declassifying. But the other is that there is a new sheriff in town in the 2014 class.
Tyus Jones, who helped the United States to the gold medal at the U17 tournament in Kaunas, Lithuania, moves from the number two junior in the USA to number one with the Wiggins move.
The point guard leader – who draws comparisons to Chris Paul at the high school level – ranks ahead of fellow U17 gold medalists Jahlil Okafor and Dakari Johnson in the ESPN top 60 ranking of high school juniors.
But all that can still change.
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