Andrew Wiggins: McDonald's All-American Forward Should Attend Kentucky

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Andrew Wiggins: McDonald's All-American Forward Should Attend Kentucky
Via 247Sports

Valentine's Day may have come and gone, but there is plenty of love being given and received in the life of Huntington Prep forward Andrew Wiggins at the moment.

The receiving of love happened on Thursday, as Wiggins was (unsurprisingly) named to the 2013 McDonald's All-American team. He will head up the East side, with pseudo-rival Jabari Parker being the biggest name on the West team.

Wiggins' giving of love happened earlier this week, and is sure to come as a massive disappointment to basketball fans in Syracuse and Columbus. According to CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello, the consensus top-ranked player in the Class of 2013 has narrowed his list down to four schools: Florida State, Kentucky, North Carolina and Kansas.

Each of Wiggins' four remaining schools makes perfect sense and are in line with what was expected. Though Syracuse and Ohio State are both among the preeminent programs in the nation, the schools' ultimate dismissal has seemed like a mere formality. They were never considered favorites at any point in his recruitment, and we've reached the point where narrowing the list down is both necessary and respectful to those schools.

Wiggins has also set up tentative dates with each of the remaining schools. He had already been to Florida State in December, but will now head to Kentucky on Feb. 27, Kansas on Mar. 3 and North Carolina on Mar. 9, per CBS Sports. From there, we'll likely get a pretty good idea of where Wiggins' head lies. He will have until May 15 to make a final decision and will likely use much of that time, but official visits are where schools truly pull out all the stops.

However, if Wiggins is looking out for the best interest of his career, he won't even need to take official visits. He'll call John Calipari tomorrow, tell him he'll be attending Kentucky and be on the first flight to Lexington.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Since LeBron James entered the NBA, there have been countless attempts at comparing high-schoolers to the St. Vincent-St. Mary legend. Harrison Barnes was supposed to be the second coming at North Carolina. DeMar DeRozan was the type of talent who could put USC basketball firmly on the map. Both of those players (and the countless others compared to LeBron) went on to semi-successful collegiate careers, but could (understandably) never quite reach that pinnacle of excellence. 

Wiggins is the first one with a realistic opportunity to live up to the hype. He's listed at 6'7" and 205 pounds and will become the complete package physically once his body matures. Almost inarguably the best leaper and athlete in this class, Wiggins is already throwing down dunks that could make professional faces cringe.

And he's not just physically dominant. Wiggins also possesses the ability to guard three different positions on the floor, a strong handle for his age and a solid stroke from beyond the three-point line. As someone who is usually roundly skeptical of the merits of a high school player, watching Wiggins' game tape even made me ready to stand at the altar. 

Will he be able to put it all together in college? No one can answer that question. But no one can get him in a better position to do so than Calipari.

A legendary flameout in the Association, Calipari has become the face of college basketball's one-and-done era. Ever since the league instituted the one-and-done rule in 2006, every Calipari-led team has made it to at least the Sweet 16 and had a player who stayed in college for just one season.

Those one-and-done players who have been drafted in the lottery go as follows: Derrick Rose,Tyreke Evans, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Enes Kanter (was ineligible), Brandon Knight, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd Gilchrist.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

If you haven't noticed, every name on that list has had some success in the NBA. It ranges from being a league MVP (Rose) to being a replacement-level starter (Knight), but none have been abject busts. 

Eric Bledsoe, Marquis Teague and Daniel Orton also declared following their freshman seasons at Kentucky, but were drafted outside the lottery. Bledsoe is among the best backup guards in the league, while Orton and Teague are, well, Daniel Orton and Marquis Teague.

Even if you chalk up Teague and Orton as failures, Calipari has an 80 percent success rate at developing NBA talent among his drafted freshmen. That's not just impressive, it's absolutely astounding.

And make no mistake, Wiggins is not going to college to do anything but become an NBA player. He would be the hands-down top pick in the 2013 draft if eligible, and his year-long stay in college will merely be an apprenticeship before shaking Adam Silver's hand in 2014. 

He'll be gone before he arrives in Lexington (or wherever he goes). Calipari seems like the only coach who knows this and is willing to even encourage his players to declare early. Say what you will about his tactics, but no one can accuse Calipari of being anything but a players-first coach.

It also doesn't hurt that Kentucky's 2013 recruiting class sets up for a national championship run. 

If Wiggins chooses to attend Kentucky, he will undoubtedly be considered to be the massive cherry on top of arguably the greatest single-season recruiting class since Michigan's Fab Five. And that's not even remotely approaching hyperbole.

Via 247Sports

Even if Calipari is unable to land Wiggins, the Wildcats already have a virtual lock on being the top class of 2013, barring decommitments. They have already landed the best point guard (Andrew Harrison), shooting guard (Aaron Harrison) and center (Dakari Johnson) in the country, per ESPN's Top 100 rankings. Not to be outdone, Calipari has already scooped up small forward James Young and power forward Marcus Lee, both of whom rank among the top players at their respective positions.  

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The first four players named rank among the 11 best players in the Class of 2013. Lee, the outlier, ranks a "meager" 18th. Calipari has landed a starting lineup's worth of future stars, all of whom will likely play in the NBA within the next few years. 

The only overarching argument working in Kentucky's detriment is if Wiggins sees himself as a lone wolf-type talent. He can go to North Carolina or Kansas and play hero ball for a season while being surrounded by solid, but non-ascendant talents for the most part. Or he could put Leonard Hamilton and the Florida State program on the map, becoming a pioneer in the process.

However, Kentucky provides an opportunity for Wiggins to truly be a part of something spectacular. It's a chance to play at one of the preeminent college programs in the nation, be surrounded by a bevy of McDonald's All-American talent on a nightly basis and be guided by arguably the nation's best college basketball coach. 

The other schools offer an opportunity for individual greatness. Kentucky offers a potential ascent to college basketball royalty.

Wiggins has a very big decision to make in the coming months, but it's one that should be pretty easy if he takes the time to think about it. 

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