The University of Kansas became the second-favorite to win next season’s college basketball men’s championship with the addition of Andrew Wiggins, the top-rated high school recruit in North America, oddsmakers said.
The 6-foot-8 Wiggins, who was raised in Thornhill, Ontario, won national high school player honors this year following his senior season at Huntington Prep School in Huntington, West Virginia. He announced yesterday he’ll attend Kansas, picking the Jayhawks over Florida State, the University of North Carolina and the University of Kentucky.
After losing all five starters, including leading scorer Ben McLemore, from a team that was a No. 1 regional seed in this year’s national men’s tournament, Kansas trailed eight schools with 25-1 odds of winning the 2014 title. After landing Wiggins, the Jayhawks’ odds moved to 10-1 behind Kentucky, according to the Las Vegas Hotel’s Super Book.
“Everyone in Jayhawk-land is overwhelmed and excited,” Kansas coach Bill Self said yesterday. “This was a pleasant surprise because we never had an idea which way he was leaning. He’s a tremendous talent and a terrific kid. Probably an even better kid than he is a talent. We think he has a chance to be about as good a prospect as we’ve ever had.”
Wiggins, 18, is the son of a pair of former Florida State athletes: Mitchell Wiggins, who played six seasons in the National Basketball Association, and sprinter Marita Payne-Wiggins, who competed in the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics for Canada and won two silver medals in relays.
Wiggins averaged 23.4 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shots in leading Huntington Prep to a 30-3 record as a senior. He’s projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA draft.
“He brings athleticism, length, scoring ability and he’s also an assassin, an alpha dog,” Self said. “We definitely need that when you have a whole bunch of young kids.”
Wiggins joins a highly touted Kansas freshman class that includes four other players in the top 40 of Rivals.com’s recruiting rankings: 7-foot center Joel Embiid, 6-foot-7 forward Brannen Greene, 6-foot guard Conner Frankamp and 6-foot-5 guard Wayne Selden.
In addition to McLemore, who is entering the NBA draft after averaging a team-leading 15.9 points as a freshman, the Jayhawks lost seniors Jeff Withey, Travis Releford, Elijah Johnson and Kevin Young from last season’s team that went 31-6.
“It’s been a great recruiting class, but we need to have a great recruiting class because we lost so many guys on a team that did pretty well this year,” Self said.
Kentucky has 4-1 odds of winning next season’s national title, while Kansas moved ahead of Duke, Michigan State, Florida, Arizona and defending-champion Louisville, who are at 12-1. The Jayhawks also jumped past Ohio State and North Carolina, who have 15-1 odds at the LVH Super Book.
Kansas has made the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament for 24 straight years, the nation’s longest active streak and the second best in college basketball history behind North Carolina’s 27-year run from 1975 to 2001.