Most of the nation’s top high school basketball recruits have chosen a school for the 2013-14 season. Ironically enough, the one everyone wants to commit is the one still wavering between multiple programs.
Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 player in the nation and the player every school in the country would love to have, is still deciding between Florida State, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina. Each program has its own appeal, and it’s easy to understand his calculated approach to choosing his new home.
The 6’8” forward is undoubtedly a star in the making. With incredible athleticism and an ever-evolving skill set that would be a tremendous fit for any program, Wiggins isn’t going to have a problem finding a spot in a starting lineup next season.
All playing opportunities being equal, Wiggins has to weigh his priorities and fully understand what it is he wants in a college basketball experience.
The overwhelming collective is expecting Wiggins to eventually be swayed by Kentucky’s appeal. With the best recruiting class in the nation and a history of top NBA draft picks, Wiggins would put himself in perfect position to potentially win a national title and join the NBA ranks next season as the No. 1 overall pick.
The thing is, people expected that of Kentucky last year as well.
The Wildcats—though extremely young and incredibly talented—didn’t even earn a berth to the NCAA tournament after being a favorite to win the national title prior to the season. The program will likely experience another mass exodus to the NBA this offseason—reloading with perhaps even better talent—but the shortcomings of the 2012-13 team are resounding.
A national championship is never guaranteed, regardless of talent. There are just too many variables to ever rely on a tremendous freshman class to earn college basketball’s biggest prize.
Much of the same holds true for Kansas and North Carolina. Both programs are loaded with talent, and while freshman stars like Ben McLemore will be departing for the NBA after one season in college, both programs will continue to dominate as the talent is replenished.
To take nothing away from Florida State, it isn’t quite on the same level as Kentucky, Kansas or North Carolina. And that’s exactly why Wiggins should choose to make Tallahassee his home next season.
The family connection to Florida State is well-documented. Both of Wiggins’ parents attended the university, and many suggest familial influence will ultimately be the deciding factor. While that’s certainly reason to give the Seminoles a closer look, one can’t help but wonder how appealing it may be for the star forward to want to make his own mark.
Ironically, Wiggins could pave his own path by following in his parents’ footsteps.
Florida State didn’t have the success of Wiggins’ other suitors last season, missing out on an NCAA tournament berth by compiling an 18-16 record and a 9-9 mark in the ACC. There simply wasn’t enough talent to carry the Seminoles through the end of the season, and a trip to the NIT was the result.
While that may seem like a deterrent for some top recruits, Florida State’s lack of success should be appealing to perhaps the only recruit in the country who could single-handedly change its prospects.
Wiggins doesn’t search for attention or publicity off the court, but he certainly garners a ton of it between the baselines. Arguably the best high school player in the last five years, Wiggins has the talent to steal the spotlight in almost any arena.
But that spotlight gets a little less focused when it also has to encompass four or five top recruits from the same program. If Wiggins were to choose a school like Kentucky—and an incoming class with a gaudy amount of talent—a national championship wouldn’t mean the same thing.
Sure, it probably wouldn’t be any less important to Wiggins, but it would take away from the luster of what the best player in the country can do on the court, all by himself, without the help of a Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison or Aaron Harrison—let alone all three.
At Florida State, Wiggins could be the guy. He could be the player to stand out from the crowd. He could be the star who lifts the programs from the depth of mediocrity and into the national spotlight.
Ultimately, Wiggins’ decision will come down to his own list of priorities. Does he want to leave for the NBA after one year? Does he want to put himself in the best position to win a title?
Those aren’t questions we’ll likely know the answer to right away, but we’ll know soon enough.
No one will be surprised if he eventually chooses Kentucky or Kansas or North Carolina, and no one could blame him. But there’s something to be said for taking the road less traveled.
As Robert Frost would say, that could make all the difference.