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The Dagger

Andrew Wiggins picks Kansas, vaulting the Jayhawks into the Final Four hunt

The most anticipated announcement in many years in college basketball recruiting took place Tuesday afternoon in a manner befitting the quiet, intensely private prospect who was making it.

There were no ESPN cameras present to document Andrew Wiggins' college decision, nor was there a live feed of a press conference broadcast over the internet. In fact, besides Wiggins' classmates, family and coaches, the only other person allowed in the gym at Huntington Prep was a lone reporter from the local newspaper, the Huntington Herald-Dispatch.

That small group of onlookers witnessed Wiggins reveal a decision that has been the subject of endless speculation for months among everyone from college coaches to reporters to fans on social media. The top-ranked recruit in the Class of 2013 announced he will attend Kansas for what will probably be his lone year of college, choosing the the Jayhawks over Kentucky, North Carolina and Florida State.

[Also: Twitter explodes in response to Andrew Wiggins' decision]

Kansas had as much at stake of any of Wiggins' suitors because landing the ultra-talented 6-foot-7 forward may elevate the Jayhawks from a borderline preseason top 20 team to one capable of reaching another Final Four.

Even though Kansas is losing all five starters from a team that won the Big 12 and reached the Sweet 16 last season, the addition of Wiggins to an already deep recruiting class ensures the Jayhawks can reload instead of rebuild. An explosive athlete and gifted scorer with ideal size and length for the small forward position, Wiggins is the type of player who could ease the burden on the rest of his young teammates by carrying Kansas offensively for long stretches.

Suddenly, new starting point guard Naadir Tharpe doesn't have to work as hard to initiate the offense and can focus on making sound decisions. Suddenly, promising sophomore forward Perry Ellis doesn't have to be the No. 1 scoring option and can remain a complementary scorer. And suddenly, McDonald's All-American Wayne Selden and the rest of the freshmen can ease their way into their college careers instead of being needed to emerge as impact players immediately.

That Wiggins chose Kansas is a tremendous coup for a Jayhawks program that had to make up ground late to land him. Though the proximity of older brother Nick Wiggins at Wichita State probably helped Bill Self's cause, he still didn't have as many advantages as some of Wiggins' other suitors had.

Both Wiggins' parents were star athletes at Florida State, his best friend, guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, will play for the Seminoles next year and Coach Leonard Hamilton had been recruiting him longer than anyone else. Kentucky also had pursued Wiggins longer than Kansas did and tried to sell him on the chance to be the centerpiece of maybe the most decorated recruiting class ever.

What's most amazing about Wiggins' recruitment is his decision remained a secret until he revealed his college choice despite intense public interest.

Older brother Nick Wiggins said at the Final Four he gets asked where Andrew is going to school at least a few times a day. Host mother Lesley Thomas had to ask her kids to stop asking Wiggins about it because she wanted her house to be a safe zone. And Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford has sometimes had to turn off his phone or screen his calls because he has been bombarded with so many questions about Wiggins.

All the digging by fans, friends and reporters led to few answers. Not only were the college coaches in question in the dark about his decision Tuesday morning, even those in his inner circle were left guessing until he sat down alongside his family at a table in his high school gym and shared that he intended to be a Jayhawk.

Once Wiggins made his announcement and the stress of a laborious decision-making process was finally off his shoulders, those in the room with him said he smiled as wide and carefree as they had seen him in a longtime.

Only in Lawrence, Kansas were the grins any bigger.

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