Mark Wiedmer: Andrew Wiggins' recruiting takes new odd turn

Mark Wiedmer: Andrew Wiggins' recruiting takes new odd turn

April 23rd, 2013 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

So Andrew Wiggins just stiffed the basketball coaches at North Carolina, Kansas and Florida State, canceling in-home visits with all three schools?

Who does this guy think he is, the most talented high school player since that LeBron James guy?

Yes. And no. The No. 1 recruit in the 2013 signing class -- and the only unsigned player of note (sorry, UTC) -- may or may not eventually become as good as King James. That's an unfair expectation for any 18-year-old, even one as gifted as the 6-foot-7 Wiggins.

But ego and attitude probably had little to do with the player requesting Monday morning that UNC coach Roy Williams, KU boss Bill Self and FSU coach Leonard Hamilton deliver their best sales pitches by phone rather than in person.

Instead, Wiggins' coach at Huntington (W.Va.) Prep, Rob Fulford, told that the change was due to something as simple as fatigue.

"It means nothing," said Fulford, who then explained that two flight delays from Portland -- where Wiggins had spent the weekend leading the World Select team (Wiggins is Canadian) over Team USA in the Nike Hoop Summit -- had delayed his return to West Virginia until Monday afternoon.

"He's just drained. He's shutting down."

Yet logical as that seems, it probably won't stop those rare college basketball recruiting junkies from surmising that Wiggins is about to become the seventh McDonald's All-American to sign with Kentucky coach John Calipari this year.

Thanks to Wiggins' request, Cal will be the only coach among the player's final four choices to have an in-home visit.

Beyond that, the smart money always has assumed the Kentucky and Florida State -- where Andrew's father, Mitchell, played before embarking on a six-year NBA career, and his mother, Marita, ran track before winning two silver medals in the 1984 Olympics -- ultimately would fight it out for his services.

Given the persuasive powers of UNC's Williams and KU's Self, some saw this week as a chance to change all that. But a phone conversation seems far less likely to sway the kid than Williams showing off his two NCAA championship rings -- Calipari and Self each has one and Hamilton has none as a head coach -- or Self touting his two championship game appearances in the past six seasons.

If seeing is believing, what does only listening deliver? An easy way to say thanks, but no thanks? Then again, what if the Tar Heels, Jayhawks or Seminoles land Wiggins through a phone?

Can't you see the endorsement possibilities for the winning coach? (Though not for Wiggins because that would violate his seven months of shamateurism while pretending to be a college student before heading off to the NBA next spring.)

Commercial pitch: "Hi, Roy Williams here. When I needed to sign the best player in the country, I turned on my good, ol' Roy Boy charm over the AT&T wireless network. See what AT&T can do for you."

The irony is that every recruit in the country -- be it basketball, football or field hockey -- now will be bombarded with phone calls and texts thanks to a new NCAA rule that no longer limits such practices.

How big a change is that? Consider that much of the NCAA's anger at former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl was over impermissible phone calls from Pearl and his staff. Same with UTC's violations under former coach John Shulman.

As former Pearl assistant Jason Shay -- who was hit with a one-year show-cause penalty by the NCAA and now assists fellow former UT assistant Steve Forbes at a Florida junior college -- noted during Final Four weekend, "What we did isn't even illegal now."

But all those phone calls, texts and tweets can be troublesome to at least some parents of high-end recruits such as Wiggins. Especially when statistics from the Pew Research Center show that 78 percent of young people from 12 to 17 years old own cell phones and 37 percent own smart phones.

"I think grown-ups should talk to grown-ups and kids should talk to kids," said Bob Stone -- whose son Diamond is a fast-rising prep star -- in an ESPN interview. "[Diamond's] not old enough to pay bills. He's not old enough to make decisions. I just think it's disrespectful to go through a 16- or 17-year-old kid when he has parents. I think there's an order for everything."

To hammer home that point, if Diamond talks to a college coach without his parents' permission, they take away his phone for 30 days.

Wiggins isn't 16 or 17, however. He's 18. Old enough to serve in the military. Old enough to vote. Old enough to decide where to spend his one year of college before becoming a multimillionaire.

And given that, perhaps it's fitting that his ability to make one of his four finalists deliriously happy is only a phone call, text or tweet away.

Of course, it's also a lot easier way to tell the other three they came in second. Let the conspiracy theories begin.