At North Carolina, we have an awesome set of videos at the Dean Smith Center. During men’s basketball games, former Tar Heel greats appear on the video board in a montage where they take turns saying- I’m __________, and I’m a Tar Heel. Michael Jordan. Rasheed Wallace. Jerry Stackhouse. Antawn Jamison. Vince Carter. Tyler Hansbrough. It’s incredible. But there’s one guy that I want to see up there that isn’t there yet- Andrew Wiggins.
By now, you know who he is. The consensus #1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. The best high school prospect since Lebron James. A guy they call “Maple Jordan.” Tomorrow is possibly the biggest day of the entire offseason for college basketball fans. At 12:15pm in a “low-key” ceremony, Wiggins will announce his decision between North Carolina, Florida State, Kentucky and Kansas. But where will he go?
I’m not sure. His coach says he’s not sure. Maybe even Wiggins himself doesn’t know….yet. But the official signing day window closes on Wednesday, so Wiggins is doing his due diligence and announcing at the last minute. In my opinion, there’s only one real option, and that’s to go to North Carolina. Stay with me, I know what you’re thinking. This guy’s name is “Mr. Tar Heel.” He’s a Carolina grad. He lives near Chapel Hill. OF COURSE he wants Wiggins to go to North Carolina. But no, really. It’s his best option.
Think about it. North Carolina is returning a suddenly veteran team with Marcus Paige, PJ Hairston and James Michael McAdoo. They’re receiving big-man help in top prospects Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks. They have an opening in the starting lineup that just happens to be at Wiggins’ position. And not only that, but the spot was vacated by a player from Kinston, NC- Wiggin’s father’s hometown. Wiggins’ North Carolina roots run deep. His father was raised here. He almost went to prep school here. And his father grew up wanting to play for North Carolina, only to be turned down by the legendary Dean Smith. So maybe the Wiggins’ family has a chip on their shoulder, I don’t know. Maybe his father still hates North Carolina? Or maybe he wants his son to realize the dream that he always had; to play on the biggest stage, with the best players, against the top teams. North Carolina is the only place he can do this.
If you ask anyone who’s not from the United States to name a college basketball player, they’ll almost always go back to Michael Jordan. Why? Because not only was he greatest ever, but he was the most visible ever. He made himself a brand. THE brand of college basketball. North Carolina is one of the most recognizable, if not THE most recognizable brands in all of college sports. Lebron James is on record stating that he wanted to go there. So is Kobe Bryant. And Dwight Howard. It’s not hard to see that Wiggins might like to be a part of that legend. So why not? Without Wiggins, the team’s ceiling is high for next year. With Wiggins, it’s immeasurable. Where else can he have this kind of schedule?-
Duke (twice) Kentucky
NC State (twice) Michigan State
Syracuse Louisville (possible Hall of Fame Tip-off matchup)
Notre Dame (twice)
The answer? Nowhere. That’s basically a who’s who of NCAA tournament success past and present. And as any North Carolina fan knows, you can go ahead and add Kansas to that list too because the NCAA will continue to match us up with them in the Tournament until they disband. To be a star on the biggest stage, Wiggins has to be on the biggest stage.
He can’t do that at Kentucky. Sure, there’s a lot of hype surrounding John Calipari’s program right now. But did anyone watch last year’s NIT flame-out fiasco? It’s not like those players weren’t the top recruiting class either! Having great players doesn’t guarantee success. You have to have a great TEAM. Kentucky just hasn’t shown that, there’s too much ego. After all, Calipari just isn’t the kind of coach that people give him credit for. The reason he gets so many players to the NBA isn’t because he develops prospects into NBA stars. It’s not his own doing. These guys are ALREADY NBA-ready players. He just babysits them for one semester. If they didn’t have to go to college, they wouldn’t. The one reason they probably stay? Money. Yes, I said it! Think about it. What other coach has gotten so many Final Fours vacated? Right, Calipari stands alone. There has to be something going on. Of course he wasn’t “implicated” in any of the charges, but that’s a weak excuse. Neither was Butch Davis, or Cam Newton, but don’t tell me those guys didn’t do anything wrong. There was money exchanged. And the sin of omission is just as bad as the sin of commission. You can’t claim ignorance if it’s your job to know. If anything, John Calipari is guilty as charged with the utmost gross negligence. It’s his program. He should know what’s going on. Is he a bad coach? Absolutely not. It takes talent to get to the level that he’s on. Is he a nice guy? Maybe, I’m not sure, I’ve never met him. But he isn’t the Midas of the NBA draft. Kentucky isn’t guaranteed a title next year. Williams and Self are the better coaches in this bunch anyway.
But Kansas just doesn’t seem like a great fit for Wiggins either. The Big 12 is weak, and no, Marcus Smart’s return doesn’t change that. It only makes it a two-horse race. Kansas will probably walk through the conference again like they always do, because there’s really no competition outside of a few teams. The Jayhawks also lost a lot from last year’s squad. They just don’t have the veteran presence of some of the other teams on Wiggin’s list. Not to mention that there’s an ongoing scandal surrounding last year’s top player Ben McLemore now. Does Wiggins really want to be associated with that? What if the NCAA comes down hard on the Jayhawks in his only season? Don’t get me wrong, Bill Self IS a great coach. I’ve seen that enough times by watching his team beat my team in the NCAA tournament. But why go to a place that he really has no connection to? No family, no history, and really, a weaker roster than some of his other choices. It just doesn’t make sense.
Which brings me to Florida State. If he was going to go there because of his family connection, why didn’t he just decide that a long time ago? That would have saved a lot of people a lot of time, and a lot of money. It makes you wonder. One thing the Noles have going for them is a very similar schedule to North Carolina. In fact, they get to play North Carolina while the Tar Heels have to play an FSU team that looks weak with the loss of sharpshooter Michael Snaer. But if that wasn’t enough, Wiggins’ best friend Xavier Rathan-Mayes has already signed on to move to Tallahassee. So maybe that is enough for Wiggins. I’m a family guy, so I can totally respect that. I’d even cheer for him when he wasn’t playing North Carolina. But even with Wiggins, the Noles aren’t a Final Four contender. Sure, they’d be better. A LOT better. But they just don’t have the firepower, or experience needed to go all the way.
So what will he do? We’ll find out tomorrow afternoon. I hope that whatever he chooses, he’s happy. Certainly, everyone hopes for that. As a North Carolina fan and graduate, I’d love for him to come to my school. But if he didn’t, I wouldn’t regret it. I just hope he wouldn’t either.