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UNC on Andrew Wiggins' list

By Luke DeCock - staff columnist
ldecock@newsobserver.com
Luke has worked for The News & Observer since 2000. He covered the Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a sports columnist in August 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.
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It has taken Andrew Wiggins an impossibly long time to come to this decision. At least he's announcing his college choice the right way.

Wiggins, the top-rated prospect in the country, will announce Tuesday where he intends to play what is almost certainly his one year of college basketball, choosing among North Carolina, Florida State, Kansas and Kentucky. He'll do it with little fanfare at his prep school in Huntington, W.Va., relatively speaking, before a small group of family and friends with the only media in attendance a single reporter from the local paper.

No live national TV coverage. No speeches by coaches, principals, parents, teachers, former coaches, friends, former teachers, local celebrities, former principals, former friends or former local celebrities. No lengthy tribute video (and we're pointing the finger at you, Tony Parker). Presumably no array of hats on the table, either.

In an era when the shenanigans surrounding recruits announcing where they'll attend college has become the latest athletic arms race – Parker, a power forward from Georgia, declared he would attend UCLA last spring with an hour-long ceremony that shamed the unveiling of the Oscar nominations – Wiggins' decision to keep his decision simple is a refreshing change.

Especially because if there was ever a high-school kid who was justified making a big deal about his college decision, it's Wiggins.

The Canadian small forward has drawn comparisons to LeBron James for his shooting-guard skills in a power-forward package. He isn't LeBron, not by a long shot, but he's the closest thing out there. If he could declare for the draft this year, he'd likely go first overall. Whichever school he chooses will become an instant national-title contender, although Kentucky and North Carolina already clear that bar, and with two ACC schools on his list, Wiggins may hold the future of the league race in his hands.

Each of the four schools presents a different situation, each appealing in its own way to a player like Wiggins.

At Kentucky, he'd be the latest piece in John Calipari's puzzle, giving the Wildcats the top recruit at each position this year. If he wants to win a national title, that's probably his best shot, but he won't be as big a star on that all-star team as he might be some other places.

At Kansas, where the Jayhawks lose just about everything – four seniors, including Jeff Withey, Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson, as well as one-and-done Ben McLemore – Wiggins would be the unquestioned centerpiece player at one of college basketball's marquee programs, but it'll be a challenge to compete for a national title with such a young team.

Florida State is the sentimental choice, the school where his father played basketball and his mother ran track. He could be a program-changer for Leonard Hamilton, instantly vaulting the Seminoles into the ACC elite and putting pressure on Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse at the top of the conference next season.

That's nothing compared to what he would do to the ACC race if he chose the Tar Heels, who would be able to surround him with three solid secondary scorers (P.J. Hairston, Marcus Paige and James Michael McAdoo) in an extremely potent lineup while solving what could be a serious match-up problem against Duke, where the Blue Devils will have a pair of tall, outside-in scorers in Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker.

The Blue Devils may be the favorite at this moment, but if Wiggins arrives in the neighborhood, they'll be under serious pressure to land a stronger post player such as Memphis transfer Tarik Black – who visited Duke's campus Monday and would fill the biggest void on their roster – and hold that spot atop the ACC going into the season.

After all this time, what Wiggins says Tuesday may have a lot to say about what the ACC looks like next season.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock, (919) 829-8947
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