UM recruit Wiggins shines brightest at Capital Classic

Recent news about the Maryland basketball program hasn’t been too good.

Coach Mark Turgeon’s Terrapins endured a difficult, injury-plagued season that wound up with them missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years.

Once the season ended, three of the team’s top players – Bruno Fernando, Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson – declared themelves eligible for the June NBA Draft. Jackson plans to sign with an agent, and will not return. Fernando and Huerter could be back, depending on where they’re projected to be drafted.

Andrew Wiggins, center, poses with fellow Maryland basketball recruits Jalen Smith, left, and Serrel Smith right, following Friday night’s Capital Classic at Catholic University
Andrew Wiggins, center, poses with fellow Maryland basketball recruits Jalen Smith, left, and Serrel Smith right, following Friday night’s Capital Classic at Catholic University (photo by John McNamara).

On Friday night, though, Maryland recruit Andrew Wiggins, a 6-foot-6 swingman, offered offered some hope there may be better days ahead.

He shone brightest among all the stars at the 45th Annual Capital Classic at Catholic University. He scored a game-high 30 points on 13-for-17 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds in a 102-92 victory for the U.S. All-Stars.

Wiggins scored half of his points in the first dozen minutes, getting the U.S. team off to a fast start. Wiggins’ performance included a 4-for-4 effort from 3-point range and a couple of stunning slam dunks on offensive rebounds. He also had a pair of assists and blocked a shot in 28 minutes of play.

“I’ve been seeing that for the last two years,” said Keith Gatlin, the 1980s Maryland point guard who coached Wiggins at Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point, North Carolina. “He’s a better kid than he is a player and he’s a fabulous player … I can’t say enough about him – his growth and how he’s bought into our program. He’s been special.

“What he did in front of a lot of people who are Maryland fans was really special for him. I couldn’t be more happy for the young man. He really keeps growing every month.”

“It was really fun,” Wiggins said. “I’ve actually played up here in the D.C. area before and they’re really engaged in the basketball games. I love the energy of the crowd, when you’re bringing oohs and aahs for every single bucket that you make. It was really exciting and boosted the way I played.”

Wiggins said he had one more all-star game to play in, a local affair down in North Carolina. He plans to head for College Park on May 26, the day after he graduates from high school. He’ll take some summer school classes and start getting ajusted to the college environment.

“I want to get into the weight room, get a little bigger, start working on my shot,” he said. “Just get acclimated to the college life as soon as possible.”

During the course of the game, which featured only occasional defense, Wiggins showed an accurate outside shot, brought the ball up the floor several times and hit the boards hard. Gatlin doesn’t think anyone should get too concerned about what posiiton he’ll play at Maryland.

“I see him as a basketball player,” the coach said. “When you put him out there, he can just play. He can defend, block shots, make shots. He’s just a basketball player. I think for what Maryland is trying to do, he’s good at the two two (shooting guard) or the three (small forward). It makes no difference.”

Serrel Smith, a guard from St. Petersburg Florida, who will join Wiggins at Maryland, finished the game with two points, three assists and four rebounds in 22 minutes for the U.S. squad. Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-10 center from Baltimore’s Mount Saint Joseph High School who’s also headed to Maryland, was on the U.S. roster but did not play because of a slight muscle pull suffered earlier this week.

Luther Muhammed of Hudson Catholic in Jersey City, New Jersey added 21 points for the U.S. squad. Muhammed, bound for Ohio State, will likely match up against Wiggins and the Smiths during the Big Ten schedule in the years to come.

Bishop O’Connell product Xavier Johnson (Nebraska) and Georgetown Prep product Jared Bynum (St. Joseph’s) led the Capital All-Stars with 13 points apiece. Shaddiq Bey (Sidwell Friends/N.C. State) added a dozen points and Myles Dread (Gonzaga/Penn State) contributed 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals in 28 minutes.

In the preliminary game, the District All-Stars nipped the Suburban All-Stars in another wild one, 102-101. A tip-in by Devin Flowers (Potomac School) decided the game at the buzzer. Kenneth Tyree, a 5-foot-8 guard from Friendship Tech Prep, was the game’s leading scorer with 23 points. But the MVP Award went to Navy-bound Richard Njoku of St. John’s, who finished with 20 points, 15 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.

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