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July 6, 2012
It's no accident that the No. 1 high school basketball player in the class of 2014, Andrew Wiggins, is one of the most naturally gifted. The son of former NBA player Mitchell Wiggins and Canadian Olympic sprinter Marita Payne, he was born with the DNA of an athlete.
However, it's taken more than good genes to transform the 6-foot-7 wing, who will be a junior at Huntington (W.Va.) Prep this fall, to develop into the best player in his class. Whether it's been at Huntington, with his CIA Bounce summer team, or for the Canadian junior national team, Wiggins has been putting in work.
"We all know that he's an unbelievably gifted athlete," Huntington Prep head coach Rob Fulford told Rivals.com. "He's started to hone in on his skillset. He's gained muscle, gotten quicker, gotten bigger and his jump shot has improved a ton.
"He just has elite athleticism and the skill is starting to catch up with that. He makes plays where we can put as many things out there that we want him to work on, cones, managers or whatever that we can, but it's just instinct."
Wiggins retained his No. 1 spot in the latest class of 2014 rankings, released Friday. Born and raised in Canada before coming to the United States to play his high school ball, Wiggins is also very grounded and constantly working on his skill - both physically and mentally.
"He's very coachable, which makes it easy," Fulford said. "He listens and he's a humble kid who wants to get better.
"When you are the No. 1 player you have a huge target on your back and people are coming to your games and they are going to nitpick you. He has to get to a point where he knows that every night he's expected to be the No. 1 player and can't take plays or practices off."
Not only is Wiggins the best player in the class of 2014, he's in the argument for best player in high school ball regardless of class. Speculation continues to grow that he will eventually take steps to graduate with the class of 2013 - something Wiggins has thus far denied he's planning to do.
"I told him that as a coach, I'd selfishly like to have him back for 2014," Fulford said. "But that's not what it's all about. It's about the benefit of the kid and whether or not he's better off going to college or playing another year of high school basketball."
While Wiggins maintains a strong hold on the top spot in the class of 2014, there are others who are coming after him. Moving into the No. 2 spot is 6-foot-11 center Jahlil Okafor from Chicago Whitney Young. He trades spots with the now No. 3 player, Noah Vonleh, a 6-foot-8 combo forward from New Hampton (N.H.) Prep.
Apple Valley (Minn.) High's Tyus Jones is the highest-ranked point guard at No. 5 nationally while another Chicago standout, 6-foot-8 forward Cliff Alexander of Curie High School, has bullied his way to No. 4 while putting the nation on notice that he's here to compete.
"One thing with Cliff is that he's a hard worker and challenging himself to get better," said Mike Oliver, who is Alexander's high school coach at Curie and summer coach with the D-Rose All-Stars. "Cliff got started late playing basketball. He wasn't always one of those kids that had his attention on it. He didn't really start playing until after the eighth grade and heading into his freshman year. So he's had to work real hard to get the notice of these other guys in 2014."
A dunking machine who specializes in physical, aggressive play around the rim, Alexander has attracted attention from Michigan State, Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana, Illinois, DePaul, Kansas, Florida State, Georgetown and more.
With all of that attention and the lofty rankings, though, Alexander isn't content and is motivated to be the best. He's using Wiggins, his classmate and fellow Chicagoan Okafor and the nation's top player in 2013 Jabari Parker as measuring sticks.
"He wants to try and take that throne," Oliver said. "That's one of those things that is driving him and helping him come out of nowhere. A lot of guys are going to these camps and tournaments for a vacation and he's going there to make a name for himself.
"I told him you are no longer the chaser. You've become the chased now and it's going to be even more hard work."
Of the top 100 in the class of 2014, there are currently 15 five-star prospects. Making the biggest jump to five-star status are 6-foot-7 small forward Malik Pope from Sacramento (Calif.) Capital Christian, who moved up to No. 14 from No. 28, and Baltimore (Md.) St. Frances forward Dwayne Morgan, who rose from No. 23 to No. 15.
As with the Rivals150 for the class of 2013, the class of 2014 features six ranked players who are currently competing with USA Basketball's 17-and-under team in Lithuania. Jahlil Okafor is the highest ranked at No. 2, while Tyus Jones checks in at No. 5. Other ranked Team USA members are No. 7 Dakari Johnson, No. 8 Justise Winslow, No. 17 Stanley Johnson and No. 25 Joel Berry.
So far, only five of the top current top 100 in the class of 2014 have made college commitments. Indiana-bound power forward Trey Lyles is the highest ranked at No. 9 nationally. The Hoosiers also hold a commitment from the nation's No. 47 player, shooting guard James Blackmon. Louisville (No. 32 Quentin Snider, Virginia (No. 34 B.J. Stith), No. 48 Drake Harris (Michigan State), Missouri (No. 70 Anton Beard) and No. 93 Marcus Stroman (South Carolina) hold the other commitments.
Checking into the 2014 rankings at No. 32, Snider isn't just headed to Louisville to play the point, he's the highest-ranked newcomer to the rankings. He's followed by power forward db]Jakeenan Gant[/db] from Georgia at No. 39 and Texas center Elbert Robinson, who enters the rankings at No. 40.