POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — The consensus best high-school basketball player in America was angry on Thursday.
Andrew Wiggins took it out on Marietta College’s junior-varsity team.
Playing, per usual, in front of a packed gymnasium that was packed primarily to see his high-flying dunks, Wiggins scored 57 points on 24-of-28 shooting, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked 4 shots in a 111-59 win for the traveling road show that is Huntington (W.Va.) Prep. The Wiggins-led Express improved to 25-2 on the season.
Wiggins, a native Canadian who plays high-school basketball for Huntington Prep, re-classified last fall to the class of 2013, a move made to get him one step — and one year — closer to the NBA draft. He’s Scout.com’s No. 1 player in the class, and on Thursday he was named one of three finalists for the Naismith National High School Player of the Year Award.
Also on Thursday, Sports Illustrated released an article on Wiggins that highlighted his many talents, but also detailed his prior, short stay at an illegitimate North Carolina academy, past failures of highly touted Canadian players at basketball’s higher levels, family issues and the thought that Wiggins must improve his work ethic.
“After that article dropped, I knew I had to respond,” Wiggins said. “That was the best way to respond.”
Wiggins was especially upset with the article’s charge that he plays hard only when necessary.
“You’d have to be an idiot to believe that,” Wiggins said.
It was a rare game in West Virginia for Huntington Prep, which plays a national schedule and plays in almost every marquee national event nationwide. Huntington Prep played the Marietta JV twice last year and won both, but both games were close and ultimately decided by single-digits.
Not this time. Not with Wiggins locked in.
“I tweeted earlier in the day that I had a feeling he’d get 50 points,” Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford said. “He responded in the way I knew he would.
“The entire article was based on things everyone already knew. I thought it was unfair … classless. I challenged Andrew (to realize) that’s not going to be the last negative piece written on him, his dad, school, character issues, things like that from his past.”
Fulford said there are no character or academic concerns with Wiggins, who said he’s not thinking about where he’ll attend college and will decide after the season. Kentucky, Florida State, Kansas and North Carolina are thought to be the finalists.
“There are no issues,” Fulford said. “His academics are a non-issue.”
Fulford said Wiggins does have “a bad habit” of playing harder “in spurts,” but blames that on Huntington Prep’s busy, national schedule and the team’s reliance on Wiggins “to do so much.”
“When he gets to college and there’s another guy his level — wait, bad word choice,” Fulford said. “There’s not going to be another guy on his level, but he will have somebody pushing him.
“I know he has to prepare to be in the public light, but it’s different when he gets to college or is pro. Right now he had a long day because he’s a high-school kid, but he responded in the way we knew he would.”