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November 19, 2012

Wiggins loves the passion of Big Blue Nation

GEORGETOWN, Ky. - For Huntington (W.Va.) Prep, Sunday's game at Scott County High School was less about playing Raleigh (N.C.) than it was about the experience of playing in front of Big Blue Nation.

Express coach Rob Fulford admitted that much in comments before Sunday's game game, attended by more than 2,000 fans.

The team might not have played their best game, but Huntington Prep, and the man who everyone came to see - swingman Andrew Wiggins - got the win, 61-44.

The No. 1 prospect in the class of 2013 - and the unanimous choice for the best amateur player on the entire planet - Wiggins was not spectacular on Sunday.

But, the 6-foot-7 small forward did enough for his team to win, finish with 17 points and 11 rebounds in the Express win.

From the moment Wiggins and his teammates walked in, until the moment that they left, the Canadian native was surrounded by Wildcat faithful.

After struggling in the first quarter, Wiggins began to heat up in the second, scoring 10 points in a three-minute span, leading to wild applause from a crowd that was overwhelmingly full of blue and white attire.

With Kentucky coaches John Calipari, Orlando Antigua, and Kenny Payne in the stands, as well as current players Kyle Wiltjer, Jarrod Polson, and Sam Malone, the Big Blue crazies erupted late in the third quarter when Wiggins threw down one of his signature high-flying one-handed tip dunks.

After the game, Wiggins, who admittedly is not a huge fan of interviews, took the podium to answer questions from the dozen or so media members in attendance.

"The atmosphere was amazing tonight," Wiggins started. "All the fans showed me love and supported my team. It's a great state to play basketball in and I really appreciate all of the love."

In a ten-minute question and answer segment, Wiggins opened up to reporters about his college plans, his attraction to Kentucky, and his relationship with Calipari.

Usually, when a kid as young as Wiggins is surrounded by such a crowd there is a strong sense of pressure. But for the five-star, who is being called the best high school prospect since LeBron James, that pressure doesn't exist.

"There's no pressure," Wiggins said, "I know that these fans came out to support me no matter what the outcome of the game ended up being.

"That's a big factor to me, because I want to go to school at a place where I'm wanted, loved, and the fans just generally support me."

Even when the Huntington Prep team walked off the bus and saw the line of blue-clad fans as the crowd waited for the gates to open, Wiggins said he wasn't the least bit surprised by the dedication of Kentucky fans.

"It's about what I expected," said Wiggins. "I know that Kentucky fans are crazy about their basketball. Kentucky is just a basketball school; the atmosphere is always going to be crazy. They treat you like rock stars, and the coaching staff is excellent. They're a great option for me at this point."

Wiggins described it as an honor to have Calipari and his staff in the stands, but said that it didn't really have an effect on him in a game which he grew a bit frustrated when his shots were not falling.

On the recruiting front, Wiggins said that the schools that have been in the most contact him are Kentucky, Florida State, Kansas, Ohio State and North Carolina, but went on to mention that those are just the schools that popped up to him, "off the top of my head."

Wiggins said that he will not take any visits until the school season is over, and that his decision likely would come later in the spring.

Wiggins is a very normal kid for a prospect who has received so much hype.

As a humble teenager, Wiggins wants to enjoy the rest of his time in high school.

"It's an honor to be ranked number one and all that stuff," said Wiggins, "But I know that people are always gunning for me. I just pray every day that I stay hungry, healthy, and humble. Then more than anything else just keep on working on getting better.

"But I just want to enjoy living my life, have my high school experience, and play basketball."

As Wiggins has gotten deeper into his senior year since reclassifying to the class of 2013 - a decision which the small forward says was an easy one - the rumors about a future landing destination in Lexington are becoming increasingly more popular.

With five players already committed in the 2013 class, Wiggins was quick to say that it doesn't matter to him who is already on the team, or who will be joining him in the 2013 class wherever he goes.

"Great players should want to play with other great players," said Wiggins. "It would just make me better by practicing against those kinds of guys every day.

"I've never seen the Harrison twins play, but they look really talented on highlight tapes. They look unselfish, I can definitely see myself playing with them."

While Wiggins doesn't correspond with any current or future Wildcats, he does have a strong relationship with Calipari and Antigua.

Wiggins said that he frequently talks to the two through text, and has grown accustomed to seeing them pop up at his games or his school.

"Coach Calipari has told me that with the other great players that they have coming in that we could be unstoppable," Wiggins said.
"I think that we would be the team to beat."

Come back to Cats Illustrated on Monday afternoon for more from Wiggins, including analysis of the number one ranked player's performance on Sunday and quotes from Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford.


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