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By Nick Jones | @Kernel_Nick
The world’s top-ranked amateur hoops star, Andrew Wiggins, and his Huntington Prep (W.Va.) team will hit the road once again this weekend.
A few days after returning from a trip to the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass., the Express will play a series of games in Ohio.
“It wears you down,” Huntington Prep head coach Rob Fulford said to the Kernel on Thursday. “As a player it wears you down, as a staff you get tired. We just got back from Massachusetts and we are turning around and going again.”
Huntington Prep, which features a 20-2 record this season, will play in the Scholastic Play-by-Play Classic on Friday night, with the event hosted by Withrow High School of Cincinnati.
Scores of UK fans are expected to attend the event in an effort to encourage the recruit to decide on a collegiate career with the Cats.
When Huntington Prep played twice at Marshall County Hoopfest earlier this winter, fans decked in blue and white chanted “We Want Wiggins” and “Go Big Blue” during both games.
Friday’s event gets under way at 6 p.m. with a contest between Summit Country Day and Dayton Dunbar, which precedes Withrow vs. Covington Catholic at 7:30 p.m., with Huntington Prep facing Aiken, Ohio, in the 9 p.m. finale.
Following the late-night contest Huntington Prep will travel to North Canton, Ohio, for two games in the Dunk 4 Diabetes showcase at Walsh University.
On Saturday, the Express will face an interesting challenge against Mentor (Ohio) at 9 p.m.
“Mentor is really, really good. They play a difficult style to guard.” Fulford said. “They put five shooters on the floor and spread you out. They shoot about 50 threes a game. So it’s one of those things where if they get hot, you are in for a long night.”
But Fulford’s praise for Cardinals did not stop there.
“With their different style, they are like one of those NCAA tournament teams that no one wants to play,” he said. “And unfortunately we have to play them Saturday.”
The last game of this road trip, before heading back to West Virginia, will be against Cleveland Benedictine on Sunday.
That game is scheduled to get under way at 5 p.m. The wear and tear from all the travel this season has left Fulford mulling a different scheduling strategy in seasons to come.
“We are rethinking how we are doing scheduling for the future. We are going to try to do more home-and-homes and less showcases for next year.”
The change may be in the best interests of his players, as No. 1 ranked Andrew Wiggins has spent much of the season trying to recover from various illnesses.
“He had the flu and then he kind of got over that. Then he got bronchitis and it has just been one thing on top of the other,” Fulford said. “And again, the travel has not helped.”
Although Wiggins still holds on to the top spot in the 2013 class, his jump shot has been off compared to where it was over the summer, and even last year.
Speculation has surfaced that the recruiting and decision-making process is weighing him down and hindering his on-court production.
“I think some, but he just has not been healthy,” Fulford said when asked if the process is affecting his star player. “He hasn’t felt well for a month and not playing up to potential in some games.”
Still, do not expect a decision to come from the 6-foot-7 forward anytime soon. Wiggins has made only one official visit so far, despite having four schools battling it out to secure his services.
UK, North Carolina and Kansas have yet to welcome Wiggins on an official visit to campus, with only the alma mater of his parents, Florida State, being visited so far.
“Unfortunately he was not ready to take the visits in the fall because we didn’t know whether he was going to be a senior or not,” Fulford said in reference to Wiggins decision to reclassify from the 2014 class to 2013.
With Huntington Prep’s final regular season game scheduled for March 9 against Capital City Prep (D.C.), Wiggins plans to go on official visits to Lexington, Chapel Hill and Lawrence soon after.
“He is going to take his visits,” Fulford said. “We are going to try to squeeze them in whenever we can. We have got so many things going on until March. But then he’s going to have to plug visits in on top of the McDonald’s All American game and on top of the Jordan game.”