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Big Time PG Prospect Tyus Jones talks hoops with BDN

Few positions in sports are able to control the tempo of a game like a point guard can. For some, speed is the key, while others like to slow the game down completely. Players such as Tyus Jones have the ability to change the pace back and forth, constantly keeping the defender on his toes. Jones has a feel for the game that is far beyond his years.

For Jones the attention he receives is nothing new. His local university, Minnesota, has been recruiting him since the eighth grade, and he has built a great relationship with Tubby Smith and his staff.

The Apple Valley product won a Gold medal this summer with the U17 Team USA squad in Lithuania. He had the chance to share the experience with close friends Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor.

Jones gave BDN a few minutes to discuss his summer and his recruitment, among other topics.

BlueDevilNation: Take me over your summer and how you think it went.

Tyus Jones: I think the summer's gone very well so far. I enjoyed [private] myself this summer. I had a blast this summer and traveling and everything like that and I think I played well. I think I improved. I don’t think I have any choice but to improve. You know, with the level of competition being as high as it is. So, you know, I enjoyed myself.

BDN: Do you feel you there is a difference in your role in AAU and high school?

TJ: You know, my AAU role, I think the games are different. Minnesota high school ball doesn’t have a shot clock so there’s not as many shots. Some teams will more slow it down and things like that but I think I still have a similar role. I got to score, but at the same time distribute the ball and get my teammates involved. So I think, my AAU team and high school team, I play a similar role.

BDN: You obviously had a great opportunity this summer to travel to the Canary Islands and Lithuania. How do you think that experience changed you?

TJ: It was great, it was great. You know the experience was unbelievable to go to a different country and see what their culture is like and how they do things over there. You know even the game of basketball over there, the fans, and just everything is different. So it was a great learning experience. But, you know, we had fun and played well over there.

BDN: Was there one major difference in the culture that you noticed?

TJ: All of their stuff is more compact. You know, the rooms are real small, restaurants and stores are all real small. You sit real close together. So everything was just compact.

BDN: Compared to here where most things are more open and spread out.

TJ: Yeah, exactly. We were able to walk everywhere there.

BDN: You also had a chance to watch the Team USA Men’s team when you got back. Can you go over that experience?

TJ: That was just crazy. To be in the room of the world’s best of the best right now. It didn’t even feel real. It was a great experience. We were very thankful that they gave us the opportunity to do that, and it was great to see even at that level how focused and intense those guys are.

BDN: What, if anything, did you notice about the players’ interaction with each other? Coaches?

TJ: One of the main things you notice is how much respect the players have for Coach K and the assistants. A lot of times you might think NBA players are on top, so they might not want to hear what coaches had to say, but they were tuned in, respectful and listened to anything they had to say. They were still learning the game, which is good to see.

BDN: Can you go over who’s recruiting you right now?

TJ: University of Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan State, Baylor, Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas.

BDN: Regarding Duke, obviously Coach K coaches the national team. Is that something that players either talk about to each other or take into heavy consideration?

TJ: I think everything goes into consideration. I think you look at every aspect of it, whether it be big or little. So it’s definitely something you look at and it could vary from player to player how big of an aspect that is from a college standpoint. But yeah, you definitely notice it.

BDN: Does it make any difference to you that he wasn’t able to be there to recruit in July?

TJ: No, I talked to him a little bit right before they left and I was still in contact with their assistant coaches. Obviously he had a much more important (laughs) job so you can’t really hold that against a coach or anything.

BDN: Tell me about the local school, Minnesota, that’s been recruiting you for awhile.

TJ: Oh I’ve got a good relationship with Tubby Smith and his staff. They’ve been recruiting me for awhile since I was an eighth grader, so we’ve gotten close since I’ve known them. They had a good run at the end of the year last year which is good to see.

BDN: Do you have any upcoming visits that are planned?

TJ: As of now I don’t have any officially planned out. I’m going to try and do some in the fall, I’m not sure to where.

BDN: Try and make a Midnight Madness event?

TJ: Yeah, I think so. I’m not sure to where though, but yeah I’m going to try and make some.

BDN: Reading a previous interview with you, I read that you said you wanted to become more vocal during the summer. Do you feel like you accomplished that?

TJ: I did, I did. It’s just something I think a point guard has to have, along with coaches think a point guard has to have. You have to be able to communicate. Communication on a team is key and the point guard being the leader out there on the floor, it starts with them. I tried to focus on that and I think my vocal leadership improved.

BDN: Thanks a lot for your time.

TJ: No problem, thank you. [/private]

Duke In-Home with Austin Nichols on September 10th

In today’s recruiting world, some recruits are targeted as early as the eighth grade. Those recruits largely have a target on their backs from the moment they enter the world of AAU and high school basketball. On the other hand, some recruits blossom later on in their high school careers and the attention can feel like a whirlwind. For Austin Nichols, his recruitment blew up as recently as April when Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski offered a scholarship to the 6’8" big man from Memphis.

Nichols, who described himself as more of a small forward/power forward, has recently cut his list down to six schools: Memphis, Auburn, Tennessee, Duke, Vanderbilt and Virginia. Nichols plans on taking all of his official visits at this point.  His official visit to Duke has been set for [private] October 6, when he will also get a chance to take in the Duke vs. Virginia football game as well as meet with academic counsellors to see what his future at Duke could look like.  This follows Duke's in-home visit with Austin, which has been set for September 10.

The lanky forward, who plays for NBA player Mike Miller’s AAU team M33M, ran the court extremely well at the practice this week at the Elite 24, helping him to many easy buckets. His large 7’2" wingspan helped him protect the paint, and he also got his giants paws on lots of  loose balls.

Nichols was kind enough to chat with BDN and discuss his summer, his upcoming visits, Duke’s pitch, and more.

BlueDevilNation: Let’s start off with how your summer has been so far?

Austin Nichols: Really good. It’s been really busy. I just narrowed my list down to six. But yeah, it’s been crazy and a great experience for my last summer.

BDN: Could you just go over that list for the readers?

AN: Memphis, Tennessee, Auburn, Duke, Vanderbilt and Virginia.

BDN: Do you feel there is a difference in your roles in AAU and in high school ball?

AN: Yeah, there is a little bit of a difference. I guess you could say in AAU I have a little bit more freedom where I play the 3/4. In high school I’m mainly a 5. But, you know, it just teaches me to play different positions.

BDN: It must be an honor to be selected to the Elite 24 amongst all these talented players. What do you think of the gear that they hook you guys up with?

AN: Oh yeah, I love it. I’ve never actually worn Under Armour stuff, so for it to be my first time it’s great. I love it.

BDN: What’s your current height and weight?

AN: 6’8 and 210 pounds.

BDN: You’re going into your senior year at Briarcrest. Will there be any difference in the way you take on your role?

AN: Being more of a leader since I’m a senior now. And just coming out every night ready to play. Just try and lead my team to a state championship, you know, that’s the main goal.

BDN: What was it like to play with the pro’s last night?

AN: Yeah, I actually played with them, not against them. That was really great. Brandon Jennings, James Harden, Will Barton and those guys.

BDN: That sounds like fun.

AN: It was. It was great and a really good experience. I loved it.  They’re hilarious. I had a lot of fun and a great experience.

BDN: What do you feel separates where you are from where they are?

AN: I mean there’s definitely a huge difference. I mean they’re pro’s and I’m only in high school, but time will tell once I get into college and take a few years, maybe I’ll get up to their level.

BDN: You said your role changes from high school to AAU.  What do you view yourself as now that your game has evolved and gotten better? And where do you like to be on the court?

AN: About 15 feet and in. Yeah, I like to hit those jumpers, hook shots, I like to run the floor and offensive rebound, push the ball. I think I see myself as more of a 3/4.

BDN: Your recruitment really started blowing up over the last five months or so. How have you handled it?

AN: I just take it day by day and stay humble. Don’t let it get to my head and, you know, just have fun with it.

BDN: Can you just go over your experience of watching the Team USA practice in Vegas?

AN: Yeah, that was great. We were at the Lebron camp and we actually watched them practice at UNLV so that was great. And of course on TV I saw them just about every night they played.

BDN: What did you notice, if anything, between the interactions of the players and coaches?

AN: Camaraderie. They were really close to each other and intensity in practice. They try to bring it every day.

BDN: For your upcoming visits, is it a case where you are definitely taking all of them or could you perhaps decide early if it feels right?

AN: I’m planning on taking all of them. You know, Virginia I have the 8th of September, and I have an in-home visit with Duke on the 10th. On the 15th I’ll be going to Vanderbilt, and I’m not really sure other than that.

BDN: Speaking of Duke, you also have an official visit with them on October 6th. What are you looking for on that trip?

AN: Just, you know, to see how some of the players are practicing, see how the coaches play them. See the campus and everything and just see what the college life is like. I know how Coach K coaches and I’d like to see it in action.

BDN: Will you have a talk with the academic advisors?

AN: Yes, oh yes. In all my visits I’ll try and go meet with the academic part.

BDN: What’s their pitch been like to you?

AN: They said that one of the Plumlees will be gone and Ryan Kelly will be gone so maybe I can step in there and maybe play a pretty good bit as a freshman. But we’ll see. I have to get on campus and see what it’s like first and then we’ll go from there.

BDN: I’ve read a lot that you have a very big faith. Could you tell me how it helps you either on the court or off the court?

AN: Well on the court, I always like to walk through Him. Off the court, if I have no one to talk to I can just pray. You know, I like to keep my bible real close to me. I go to a Christian school and so we read it once in a while. Like I said, if I don`t have anybody to talk to I can just pray and tell him everything. He`s sort of my happy place I go to.

BDN: Thank you very much for your time, Austin.

AN: Oh, no problem.  Thank you. [/private]

Duke Basketball Team and Recruiting Update – New names and Vegas

 

Semi Ojeleye

 As the AAU season winds down, here is yet another BDN Premium Duke Basketball Team and Recruiting Update for our members.  Are you ready for a few thousand words on the latest?  If so, keep reading and be sure to join to get all the freshest info.   In this edition I reveal some new names on the radar, give an in-depth recap of the Duke targets from the recent Nike Peach Jam, and more.  Know that this is the perfect time to join BDN Premium in that we have recruiting analyst Andrew Slater reporting from Las Vegas all weekend long.

Let's start with a recap of Peach Jam happenings :
Semi Ojeleye - What you see is what you get, and that is consistent effort.  Ojeleye has a college-ready body, and he uses it to his advantage.  In Augusta, he struggled a bit from the outside, and never really found his rhythm, but nevertheless he is a versatile stat stuffer who guards multiple positions, and who plays team basketball, so what's not to like?  Semi is a classy young man on the court and off, and is a perfect fit for the Blue Devils -- and some of the Duke staff feel it is just a matter of time with Ojeleye.  I think he's a real Duke-type kid, and a player I would love to see in a Duke uniform.
Julius Randle - After his first game in Augusta, I was ready to proclaim him the top player in his class.  He dominated that game, but in the rest of the tournament, though his overall numbers were strong, [private] I saw him miss an unusually large number of chippies.  Part of that may be because, while he's a real physical specimen, he's not a great leaper.  Also, he moved outside more than expected.  He plays for a Texas Titans team that runs a three guard lineup, so it seemed unnecessary for him to handle the ball on the perimeter as much as he did.  Randle is great with the ball in his hands, but he will not be used that way in college unless he goes to a team with little talent.  Which is highly unlikely.  When he takes it to the hole,  he finishes with authority and when he draws fouls, he is a decent free throw shooter.  When Randle does go down to the blocks, he dominates, and while I realize he is trying to broaden his game, in my opinion he needs to go down in the low post more often, as at this point on the AAU circuit he is a man among boys down there.  He is also an intimidating defender down low.
I will say, however, that when Randle went against better competition, he struggled a bit.  He has the propensity to be a little foul prone; he is like a bull in a china shop, almost inviting contact on every play, and when he's out of control, it gets him in trouble.
The gym was packed for each Titans game.  Coach Capel missed only one, and in that instance Nate James was there in his stead.  The highlight was the matchup with CIA Bounce and stud forward Andrew Wiggins, in a game for the ages.  Wiggins got the better of Julius, but not by a wide margin.  Randle struggled getting his shot off when he went one-on-one versus the ultra-athletic (though smaller) Wiggins; Randle also was saddled with two early fouls, which did not allow him to remain aggressive down the stretch, and ultimately he fouled out.
While Randle may have fallen to #2 or #3 in the imaginary rankings, he can reclaim the top spot by simply taking his team far in Orlando over the next several days.  Make no mistake, Julius is a special talent, and is one of the four best players in high school basketball.  He's going to be an immediate impact player at the college level.  Randle, quite simply, is as likely as anyone to have a one-and-done type of freshman season.
Julius Randle

Matt Jones - Matt has improved his game.  He is better off the dribble, he is a good (but occasionally streaky) shooter and he now loves to mix it up on put-backs and other plays underneath.  He has improved defensively as well; he checked Andrew Wiggins for much of their matchup and did a great job on him on the perimeter despite giving up some size.  In fact, most of Wiggins's hoops came on angles and also off of steals and breakaways, meaning there were few times when he faced up Jones for a jump shot.  Jones tried to carry his team after Randle fouled out, but a dribble off the opponent's foot derailed that.  It was clear that he was the go-to guy when Randle was out.  Matt erupted for a couple of 25+ point games during the event, and overall played very well.

Jahlil Okafor -  There is always a game in each tournament when he is just not impressive, but he always bounces back.  As I've mentioned before, Okafor continues to be plagued by the fact that his Mac Irvin teammates simply do not look for him in the blocks as they should.  The result is they get dusted.  It didn't help that Jabari Parker did not play for Mac this past week due to his foot injury, and that certainly changed the team's dynamic.  It took them awhile to adjust as a team, but when they finally started going inside to Okafor, he answered the bell, shooting an efficient 7 of 8 from the field and grabbing 13 boards.  In the team's remaining games, his teammates continued to feed him, and Okafor really responded with solid numbers the rest of the way.  His body is still a work in progress -- it is truly frightening to think what he may look like once all the baby fat is off.
Marcus Lee - Two words.  Foul prone.  In three of his games, he landed on the bench with five fouls, and his numbers were down due to the reduced minutes.  But when he did play, he was good, and he did save his best two games for late.   But overall, I was disappointed by his play and that of his team, as California Supreme layed an egg, winning (if I'm not mistaken) but a single game.  Lee is athletic and long, but tends to disappear for stretches.  Personally, I think he hurt himself here, and he is not what I consider to be a super elite player.   The staff watched some of his games, but to be honest, most of them were a bore.
Theo Pinson - Pinson is steady and he's been that all summer long, and in the process he has solidified himself as one of the very best players in his class.  His jumper is ugly but it works for him, and his slashing ability is quite nice.  He's getting better and is just starting to get a bit more serious in thinking about schools, which is good because he and his dad have been talking for a long time about having a lot of time to decide.  Make no mistake, the offer to Justise Winslow did not go unnoticed by the Pinson camp.  While there was some concern, the fact is that Pinson has visited Duke, played at Duke, been to games at Duke, and he stays in contact with Duke, so there are no real worries.  I have to admit, it upsets me that I cannot share more about this, but the reason is the unwarranted knee-jerk reaction from some on the board who state that there has been no TLC for Theo from the staff, when in reality, that is hardly the case.  Again, Pinson has just not been that serious about his recruitment.  So why should Duke be all over him if he hasn't been that focused on it?  Duke has done its due diligence; Theo has an offer and has had an offer, but it simply got lost in translation.  Sure, he was excited by the UNC offer as well, but he and his dad know Duke features wings, so some members need to chill out a bit and try not to go into "sky is falling" mode when you really have only limited information on the details.  Pinson likes Duke and Duke likes Pinson, and thus the offer.  For now, enough said.
Justise Winslow

Justise Winslow - I love his game and I liked his demeanor during my interview, as he was respectful, he took his time with each response, and he said all the right things.  Justise is another kid who would be a great fit at Duke, as his education truly matters to him.  On the floor, in addition to a terrific skill set, he plays bigger than his size at times and he is ultra-athletic.  He is also a leader.  It's no surprise that so many analysts are raving about him now and all the top coaches are at every one of his games.   It was truly ridiculous the lengths that some coaches went just to be seen by him.  Anyhow, the Winslow offer is exciting;  I would take him on the spot.  But then again, I would take Pinson too.  There is room for one of them, but not both, at Duke.

Tyus Jones -  He is the best PG in his class.  He is a winner.  He is a team player.  He is a scoring point, but an unselfish one, and can put his team on his back despite their lacking much of an inside presence.  While Jones is not super athletic, his feel for the game is a thing of beauty.  Tyus is also a young man of character and maturity, and he will make any school he attends an immediate Final Four contender.  Lastly, every coach in America wants him. Did I mention his feel for the game?  Give him the ball, surround him with talent, and take home a trophy.  I hope Duke lands him.
Damien Jones - One assistant told me he was a long shot, so I did not pursue him initially.  I sat with Johnny Dawkins and Mark Madsen for a game, and they love him -- it's not surprising that a good ballplayer and good student like Damien would draw interest from the likes of Duke and Stanford.  Now Duke is a little more interested, so I am setting up an interview.  He's rising in the rankings, but it's hard to rate his game because he plays on the Texas Titans with Matt Jones and Randle, and as one coach said, it's hard to figure out just how good anybody is on the Titans because of Randle.  At this point Damien Jones is solid but not spectacular; he's a bit slender and needs to put on some muscle.  But in a class with few quality bigs, he has suddenly become a hotter commodity.  He told me he liked Duke a lot and that he would be open to them if they came calling.  Duke is evaluating him and will take another look in Orlando.
Tyus Jones

Peach Jam tidbits - I had a pretty incredible seat in between Bill Self and Leonard Hamilton for the classic matchup between the Texas Titans and CIA Bounce.   I cannot begin to tell you how entertaining this back-and-forth game was, and how good Andrew Wiggins looked.  Several times he drew the "wow" from the coaches seated next to me.  I had a good conversation with both.  Self, of course, was checking out Julius Randle and joked several times about all the ACC guys on his trail, not forgetting that he lost Matt Jones to Duke.  We discussed recruiting a bit, and he said that one of the challenges at Kansas is the lack of much local high school talent.   Still, kind of hard to feel sorry for him.  Hamilton warmed up and talked about last season as well as the future, and he seems happy that Syracuse and Pitt are coming into the league. He also feels that football needs to be better in order for hoops to be.  Not sure I agree, but he's a good guy and a heck of a coach, one who is getting a lot out of the pool of players he works with.  He  seemed to have a quiet confidence that the rebuilding job this season would be ahead of where most media and fans might think.  I sat with Coaches Capel and James as well.  While I try not to talk about that kind of thing too much, it is always cool to be near any of the Duke staff and just hang out and chat.  The gym was brutally cold and most coaches had on long sleeve shirts or jackets, including our guys who were both probably glad to get home and thaw out --  as was I.  Capel had a nasty bug and sure enough I caught it the last day as well, and it has slowed my reporting.  Thus the late update.

But the one thing that may tickle members is the musical chair show that Calipari and UK assistant Orlando Antigua played. Word is Kentucky covets a big-time PG.  So the two strategically scoped out and sat on the corner seats with the partition in between them in back to back seats while PG prospects Joel Berry and Tyus Jones were playing on opposite courts.  The two coaches would switch back and forth in an unapologetic fashion, literally pushing other coaches out of the way in an SRO crowd.  Antigua nudged a Western Kentucky assistant to the side without even a look, much less an apology.  They were by no means breaking any rules, but still.  Not cool.  Oh, and yes Virginia, Kentucky did start that rumor via Adam Zagoria, who sat beside me in the media area for most of the event.  If you missed it, they used Zagoria to put it out there that Duke leads for Jabari Parker, probably trying to sabotage it somehow.  As for Zagoria, he's a nice enough guy, but if you are being lured in by his sensationalist blog, you are not getting an accurate picture of what is really happening, for he is simply going for hits and hits alone, accuracy be darned.  Coaches know which media members to go to when they want to propagandize, and Zagoria is but one of many.  Other coaches leak a kid's secret on where he will go to school and ruin his big moment out of spite, even after the kid has the decency to make a courtesy call to show some respect to the coach who has lost out.  And some coaches even leak when a kid verbals to them in an effort to keep him from changing his mind.  You gotta love recruiting!

What happens in Vegas, goes on Twitter - Andrew is in Las Vegas and will be bouncing to various tournaments while following the nation's elite prospects.  Be sure to follow our site updates and our Twitter feeds for the latest information.  I have turned up a few names of kids catching the Blue Devils' eye, and one of those is Austin Grandstaff, a 2015 guard from Rowlett, Texas, whose father coaches his Team Texas AAU team.  He will be visiting Duke.  I originally kept that on the down low to avoid other local schools trying to get him on their campuses for an unofficial while he's in the area.  Grandstaff's teammate Elijah Thomas caught my attention too, and that of Coach Capel as well.  Thomas wasted no time retweeting our interview with him just moments ago.  Duke is evaluating a lot of young talent in an effort to lay early groundwork.  I will be checking in with Grayson Allen, who is a 2014 shooting guard that has contacted Duke and grew up rooting for the Blue Devils.  He carries a 4.0 GPA and played in the Peach State Classic down the road from the Augusta in Aiken, SC this past weekend.  He does not play for a  big-time AAU program, so like Robert Hubbs, he has flown under the radar.  I have two other names I need to keep on the down low until I can talk to them, but they will come out soon as well.  Once we put names out there, everybody jumps on them.
Orlando - I elected not to go due to the overall lack of #Duke prospects as well as the cost.  But Coach Capel is following the Texas Titans targets as well as a couple of other kids.  As Andrew has mentioned, Nate James is in Vegas.  We will surely be hearing a lot from the weekend as it's a loaded event out there, and Andrew is sure to do his usual excellent job of reporting.
A lot going on - I thank all members for their patience as we have been beyond busy. More members means more content, so encourage others to join.  I am in the process of doing whatever it takes to make BDN better, and will leave no rock unturned as we move towards making the promised changes actually happen.
Pro Am - Tonight is apt to be the last night Duke kids play, so take note.  I will let you know if something changes.  Some have asked if Murphy will play.  I think he'll be resting up after a long trip home, but we'll see.
ESPN U - will carry some games from Orlando, so check the listings.
Please note: I recently had to remove some information because the reaction to it was basically negativity and excessive paranoia.  I have said it before and will again: do not read so much into every little thing you see and hear on the Internet, and don't believe every little thing either.  After all, the reason you subscribe to BDN is to get accurate information that you can bank on.
Thanks to all of you who make up the Blue Devil Nation, and remember, Members, to check out Andrew Slater's work all weekend long.  Let's go Devils! [/private]

Mickey Mitchell garnering interest from Duke, Florida, Kansas and UNC

Plenty of prominent college coaches are showing early interest in budding young star Mickey Mitchell.  The 6'7"-6'8" lefty, a member of the class of 2015, plays at Prestonwood Christian Academy of Plano, TX, and if that school sounds familiar to Duke fans, it's because he's high school teammates with key Duke target Julius Randle.  Mitchell is a year older than his classmates, as the rising soph is already sixteen years old.  One potential wrinkle in his recruitiment is that Mitchell is also an outstanding football player, and is going to be highly sought after as a college quarterback as well.  But the basketball staffs at Duke, Florida, Kansas, North Carolina and Texas have shown early interest in Mitchell, w ho has been rebounding from a recent injury, and is still working back into his game.  BDN Premium caught up with Mitchell for a one-on-one chat during the Nike Peach Jam recently, and here is that conversation. [private]

More to come!  Discuss this video on the premium message board with fellow members. [/private]

The Quiet Storm: An Interview With Andrew Wiggins

6'7" Andrew Wiggins of Canada, Photo by Andrew Slater

"Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."

-Theodore Roosevelt 

 

 

Andrew Wiggins of CIA Bounce, Photo by Andrew Slater

Over the past four months, Andrew Wiggins has helped strengthen his case for being the best young prospect in the world. Blessed with having two parents who possessed the genetics and self-discipline required to be world-class athletes, Andrew has not squandered his opportunity.

This April, at the Nike Hoops Summit in Portland, Oregon, the then high school sophomore captured the MVP Award after he helped lead the World Team Select by scoring twenty points and grabbing seven rebounds to an 84-75 victory over Team USA Select, featuring some of the best American talent, including Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, and Rasheed Sulaimon.

The 6'7" Canadian followed that up by bringing his mix of elite athleticism, improved skill, scoring prowess, and competitive gusto to his balanced and deep AAU team, CIA Bounce, where they went on to dominate the Nike EYBL season, winning seventeen of their first nineteen games. Wiggins averaged over eighteen points and nearly six rebounds over the lengthy regular season, which included stops in Oakland, Dallas, Minnesota, and Virginia. In June, the patriotic young wing competed with the Canadian U-18 team in Brazil, where he averaged a team-leading 15.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2 assists at the FIBA Americas U-18 Championships.

This July, he has continued his whirlwind tour by first heading to Las Vegas for the prestigious LeBron James Skills Academy. Even amidst some of the exceptional talent accumulated by Nike for this year's version of their All-American camp, Andrew Wiggins, who enjoyed the playing style of Allen Iverson, stood out with his performance on both ends of the court. Pressure can break some young men, but, although he later said he was nervous before the game, he shined in front of the United States Men's Olympic team, including his favorite current NBA player, Kevin Durant, at Durango High School in Las Vegas. After that event, he then headed to Alexandria, Virginia and later Washington, D.C., where he helped lead Canada to the Finals of the Nike Global Challenge. In the Championship game, Andrew Wiggins, who enjoys a 6'11" wingspan, rose to the occasion, scoring twenty-four points, snatching seven rebounds, and creating four steals in a narrow defeat.

Gracious Canadian Star and Duke Recruit Andrew Wiggins, Photo by Andrew Slater

At his most recent event, the Nike Peach Jam, competing against arguably the best AAU teams in North America, Andrew took his game to greater heights. In his seven games in North Augusta, SC, Wiggins averaged twenty-two points and nine rebounds, while leading CIA Bounce to the Peach Jam Finals, before suffering a painful one point defeat, 51-50, to the Oakland Soldiers. In the Championship game, while guarded by a versatile and tough defender in Stanley Johnson, Wiggins generated twenty-three points, nine rebounds, and swatted three shots.

Genetically significant, his father, Mitchell, was an honorable mention All-American at Florida State and a first-round draft pick in 1983 for the Indiana Pacers. Mr. Wiggins, who was born in Kinston, North Carolina, played shooting guard professionally for a span of sixteen years, including six in the National Basketball Association.

Andrew’s mother, Marita Payne-Wiggins, originally from Barbados, was an All-American track star at Florida State, where she met her future husband. At age 23, the 5’8″ track star,  won two silver medals, representing Canada, in the 4 x 100 meter and 4 x 400 meter relays at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. More than twenty-five years later, she still holds the Canadian women’s outdoor record for speed in both the 200 meter (22.62 seconds) and 400 meter (49.91 seconds). Although Mrs. Payne-Wiggins didn’t win another medal, she competed for Canada in the 1988 Seoul Olympics as well.

Andrew played briefly in America during the 2009-10 season for Ro Russell and Christian Center Faith Academy in Creedmoor, North Carolina, a thirty-minute drive from the Duke campus. Wiggins’ parents elected to take him back to Canada to go to Vaughan Secondary School, just north of Toronto, for one year. While competing for the Vaughan Voyageurs, the nearly 6’7″ wing averaged twenty points per game. In his only high school year in his native Canada, Wiggins enjoyed a storybook ending, scoring twenty-five points and grabbing thirteen rebounds in the gold medal game to lead Vaughan to a OFSAA AAAA Championship. A year ago, Andrew Wiggins and his family decided to take his talents to Huntington, West Virginia, where he attends school at St. Joseph's Central Catholic High School, lives with a host family, and plays basketball for Coach Rob Fulford at Huntington Prep. Andrew liked the improved competition in both practice and games in America, the familiar camaraderie of knowing several of his Huntington Prep teammates through the CIA Bounce AAU basketball program, and the college-level facilities available through Huntington at Marshall University Recreation Center.

Andrew Wiggins, Whose Parents, Marita and Mitchell, Were World-Class Athletes, Photo by Andrew Slater

After a stellar 28-2 sophomore season at Huntington Prep, which included trips to Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, Canada, and Washington, D.C., the accolades flooded in for the soft-spoken young man with a loud game. Andrew Wiggins, who very well may be the best Canadian basketball player since two-time NBA MVP and eight-time NBA All-Star Steve Nash, was named the MaxPreps Sophomore Player of the Year nationally and won the Gatorade Player of the Year in West Virginia after averaging more than twenty-four points, four assists, and nearly nine rebounds per game on a deep Huntington Prep Express squad. Off the court, he earned a solid B average at St. Joseph's Central Catholic High School. Basketball can be a mercenary's life, but Andrew will enjoy the stability of being back at Huntington Prep for, at least, one more season.

Andrew Wiggins of Huntington Prep, Photo by Nike/Position Sports

Seemingly every year, there is a new middle-school phenom unearthed and hyped as the "next big thing," but, for a variety of reasons, a very small percentage ever ultimately live up to the initial billing. When Andrew was thirteen, a highlight video or mixtape, which has now been viewed more than 4.1 million times, spread virally throughout the internet, billing him as "the best thirteen year-old on the planet." Now, at seventeen, with significantly more skill and physical development, he has managed to navigate the waters and be even closer to realizing his ultimate potential, through sheer competitive drive, guidance, and maximizing his natural talent.

In an ongoing interview with the friendly Andrew Wiggins, who visited Duke when he was younger, we spoke about a variety of topics, including his lethal mindset when he steps on the court, Duke's interest in him, and playing in front of LeBron James.

 

 

 

How has the transition to Huntington Prep gone and what you’ve gained from that experience?

It’s been good…probably because I knew a lot of people and know a lot of people from AAU or other things. That’s helped a lot. They've helped treat me like I’m family. 

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You actually lived with a host family. How has that aspect of the experience gone so far?

Oh, that’s been great. They’ve been treating me like it’s a real family. They’ve taken me into their home, they help me out when I need it. 

Well, that’s great.

They’ve acted like parents. They’ve been really nice to me. 

You’re lucky in that regard.

Yeah, I am.

For the audience that may not know, you go to a local Catholic school, but you play for Huntington Prep. Explain how that works. It’s probably a solid school.

Yeah, it’s a private school, it’s a great education. Teachers support us 100%. They’ll help us when we need help. 

I saw that you had a B average this year in school.

Yeah, I’m working hard this year in school. I don’t want any problems. (laughs)

Exactly, that’s a casualty I don’t want to hear about. 

Yeah, yeah.

What are you working on most over the last year in terms of skills, body, etc.?

I would think my shot has improved a lot. 

That would be the thing that people would notice most?

Yeah, that and my ball-handling, probably. Playing without the ball.

There’s been some talk about you re-classifying. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. Can you address that issue? 

Oh, well, that’s something I haven’t really thought about yet. 

I didn’t mean to put you on the spot. Alright, we’ll move on. You’ve had a lot of international experience. How do you think that’s benefited you? What was the Nike Hoops Summit experience like for you?

The international experience has been great. You get to meet new people. 

You get to travel.

Yeah, that’s cool and we’re all friendly. We love each other. 

And, in terms of the Hoops Summit, you got the win.

Yeah, that was good. I thought I played a good game. I got my shots. My shots were falling. I had a lot of fun and a lot of support from my teammates. They’re all friendly. 

Now transitioning into EYBL, can you compare this year versus last year in terms of experience? How have you benefited?

Well, this year and last year, I think our teams are great. Last year, I think we did great. We went to Peach Jam. We played good. Last year, we didn’t win it, but we still went out hard. This year, I think we’ll win it. I think we actually have a better chance of winning it this year. Our team is pretty deep this year.

Pretty balanced.  Last time we talked about working out with your Dad. Do you still work out with him in the off-season and, if so, what do you try to work on most?

Oh, yeah, yeah, I definitely work out with him. He teaches me a lot.

Well, he was an ex-pro, that must help a lot. What does he teach you?

He tries to tell me what he knows and what it will take to get to the League. 

What advice does he give you now? I know in the past, he would always try to tell you to stay humble.

Yeah, he likes to say, “Stay humble and the sky’s the limit.”

I saw that your brother committed to Wichita State.  What was your and your family’s reaction to that?

Yeah, I was happy for him. He had a lot of options. He was looking at Baylor, Oregon, but he felt most comfortable at Wichita State.

Are you guys pretty close?

Oh, yeah, we play all of the time. We’re very close.

You guys must kill it at the local YMCA when you two walk in.

(laughs) Yeah.

I was looking back at a prior interview with you. You said defense is where you wanted to focus a lot of your energy. How would you assess that aspect of your game at this point?

I’ve tried to improve my man defense and my off-the-ball defense. I try to really get up on my guys. I’d say that my man-to-man defense is pretty good at this point, actually.

What’s your current height, by the way?

I’m about 6’7 ½” and that’s my real height..unlike some guys. (laughs)

Is the number one ranking still very important to you? I know in the past that was something that you were striving for.

I would say more than anything, it would really be an honor to me. I don’t want to say it’s incredibly important, but it would definitely be an honor and something I’m certainly shooting for and working hard to get there.

Talk about Allen Iverson being your role model. Well, not role model, but someone you’re trying to model your game after.

Oh, oh, I wouldn’t say role model.

God forbid.

(laughs) What I liked about him is he was under 6’, he was under-sized, but he could score whenever he wanted to. He played hard both ways and we really don’t have any superstars like him anymore. He helped them to the Finals.

I would think to a degree that you would try to model your game after guys like LeBron, Kobe, and Kevin Durant.

Oh, yeah, those guys are all like the best players in the League right now.

 For better or worse, I just thought those guys are versatile wings like you.

My favorite player in the League right now is Kevin Durant, but probably all-time is still Allen Iverson. It's amazing to me that he was able to get his team to the Finals and play like he did at that size.

The only time I ever spoke with him was the day before he was drafted. He had an amazing watch on his wrist. I used to like to watch how he used his hands and feet on defense. He had an amazing ability to rip point  guards with weak crossovers.

Yeah, he was amazing.

 Your parents both went to Florida State and you grew up as a Florida State fan from a very young age watching them on the television. It’ll obviously have some influence on your decision.

Yeah, it’ll definitely have an influence on my decision and Florida State did big things this year, but I still have to make my own decision.

You had mentioned in the past that you appreciate playing such a tough schedule. How would you assess the competition this year and compare it to what you faced in Canada last year?

The competition this year was very good. It’s a lot different than Canada. A lot of people knock Canada.

Oh, no, I wasn’t trying to insult Canada at all. I love Canada.

(laughs) Yeah, me too. I wasn’t trying to knock it either, but the people are a lot bigger and stronger down here.

Well, there’s a lot more people. 

Yeah, there definitely is a lot more people and, yeah, the competition is much better down here.

Who will you turn to for guidance whenever you do make your college decision?

It will pretty much just be my parents.

Coach K was watching you earlier in the year. Can you talk about that?

It’s an honor. He’s a big-time coach. He’s been able to coach and develop some great players. 

What do you know about the program?

I watched a game there a couple of years ago. It’s a great basketball program. They’ve been winning for a lot of years. They’ve developed a lot of pros. They play really fast and fun. 

Well, you actually lived in North Carolina for a couple of months a few years ago, but we don’t need to talk about that. What has it been like to have Tyler Ennis as your point guard?

Oh, he’s a great point guard. He’ll find you wherever you are. He’s a pass-first point guard and he has to be ready to get the ball. He’s very fast in transition. He’s very unselfish. 

He’s very efficient as well.

Oh, yeah, he definitely is. He’s a smooth passer. He can score whenever he wants to score. 

What do you think he’s like off of the court?

Oh, he’s a great kid off of the court. He’s unselfish, he’s humble, he’s friendly.  He’s a good person to be around.

One of the things you wanted to improve on was your three-point shooting. You can be a tough self-critic, but how would you assess your three-point shooting at this point?

I think I’ve actually improved a lot since last year. I feel much more comfortable shooting the ball up there. I’ve tried to take away my weaknesses.

Yeah, I think you have in terms of the three-point shooting. Last year, you felt comfortable anywhere from your mid-range and in. I think the word you said was you could “kill,” but you wanted to push it out this year.

(laughs) Yeah, yeah. 

Your handle is another thing you wanted to improve on. You mentioned that you think that was something that you improved on.

Yeah, that’s been an area I was trying to work on all winter. 

Have you taken any visits and or do you have any planned?

Well, I visited unofficially to WVU. 

That’s a pretty local school.

Yeah, exactly, it was pretty close to me and I don’t have any plans at this point, no.

What about your strengths? You look a little more ripped in your arms, so to speak.  Is that something you guys work on at Huntington?

Oh, yeah, we go hard. You know. (laughs)  

Yeah, I've heard.

We work hard on and off the court. We play hard on the court and in the weight room.

Do they have a good weight room facility there?

Oh, we have great facilities there.

Who would you say the toughest competitor  is that you’ve ever gone against? Would Shabazz be up there?

I think I would go with Anthony Bennett instead. (laughs)

Oh, a little hometown shout-out!

(laughs) Yeah, he’s my boy.

Do you have any lingering injuries?

Well, my back hurts just a little bit, but it's nothing.

I’ve seen you lying on the floor occasionally. I just hope everything will wind up being okay for you.

Yeah, definitely, thanks.

Now, in terms of Huntington, you’re going to go back next year. Is that definite?

Yes, it’s definite.

What’s the latest in your recruitment? There’s not really any new schools?

It’s the same schools that have in there. 

For the sake of the fans and my writing, can you please reiterate what schools are in the running? I just want it for the record.

Florida State, Kentucky, Duke, Syracuse, UNC.

What was it like playing in front of LeBron?

Oh, that was great. It was like a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was a huge opportunity and a real honor. I was a little nervous before the game. You know, these guys are big-time players and they’re coming to watch you. 

Well, the only guy I know at all on the team is Kyrie and I just quickly tried to tell him to make sure to watch you.

Oh, yeah, thanks. It was a great experience and a real honor to play in front of those guys. 

I thought you played well, too.

Thank you, thank you. 

Have you felt any changes in your recruitment now that these coaches are allowed to text all of the time?

Oh, no, not at all, cause I haven’t given out my phone number. (laughs)

Oh, smart man.

(laughs)

You mentioned before that Duke is recruiting you. What do you know about the program?

Yeah, they've been speaking with my coaches. It's obviously a tremendous basketball program and a great school. Coach K is a legendary coach and now he's working with the Olympic team. They've had great players develop and play at Duke. I visited the school when I was younger. They've been winning for a long time. 

You guys are traveling like crazy, but what are you working on most on your down period?

When I get a chance, I work out with my AAU coach and my dad. We’re working mostly on jump-shots whenever I’m home. I try to work out really hard whenever I’m home.  

By the way, are you ever home?

(laughs) 

What’s the story with that? Are you ever home?

(laughs) Hardly ever. 

What’s your mind-set whenever you’re on the court? Is it attack? In the past, you said like to think of you as a killer or that others think of you as a killer on the court.

Yeah, I guess I would say more than anything, I just to kill them.

(laughs) That’s what I love about your game- that you have an absolutely killer attitude, totally cold-blooded.

Yeah, I just try to play my game, play hard, and take the other guy out. 

Would you say you try to intimidate guys?

No, I can’t say that. What I would say is that when I step on the court, if they’re not intimidated, I’ll try to, well, they’ll….

They’ll learn?

(laughs) Yeah, they’ll see very soon learn that they should be. 

By the way, what does your father think of all of this? The success, the notoriety, your recruitment, your development?

Oh, he’s very proud of me.

I’m sure.

He sees me working very hard in the gym. 

Did he think this would happen for you?

Oh, yeah, he always thought since I was really young that I would be up for something special. He told me that I would be something special, very special. 

Yeah, well, hopefully, he turns out right. It looks like you've got a good head-start.

Thanks. 

What are your goals for next year?

I just want to make the ESPN tournament at the end of the year and win it. I’d really like to go undefeated. I’d just like to keep improving my game, that’s all. 

Lastly, I've mentioned this to you before, but I'm counting on you to bring a little basketball glory to the name Andrew. You and Andrew Harrison are my two current hopes. We've got Drew Breeze and now Andrew Luck in football, but Bynum is just not cutting it. You're my hope. I'm looking for single name recognition like Kobe, Shaq, or Michael.

(laughs) All right, I'll definitely try.

Thanks a lot for your time, Andrew.

Sure, thank you.

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