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Monday, January 21, 2013
Hoophall: Huntington (W. Va.) 55, New Hampton (N.H.) 47

By Chris Bradley

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. –- All the talk going into Saturday night’s star-studded showdown between New Hampton (N.H.) and Huntington Prep (W. Va.) was about Haverhill native and Huskies forward Noah Vonleh squaring off with Huntington's Andrew Wiggins. However, the two rarely played each other one-on-one over the course of Huntington’s 55-47 victory.

Vonleh had two fouls called on him early in the first half, and struggled with foul trouble throughout the game, forcing him to the bench and creating opportunities for other New Hampton players to step up and keep the Huskies in the game.

Huntington star Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 ranked player by ESPN, was by far the Express’ most consistent player on the offensive end, finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds. He didn’t see the foul trouble that Vonleh had, as he spent a majority of the game guarding New Hampton point guard Travis Jorgenson.

The Express came out with reserve forward Patrick Strake in the lineup to defend Vonleh. A hard-nosed, defensive-minded player, Huntington coach Rob Fulford didn’t want to put Wiggins in a situation where he could get into foul trouble.

“Early on we wanted to see how the refs were going to call the game. We went with Patrick Strake, who doesn’t start, ever, but he’s physical,” Fulford said. “We didn’t want them to get Andrew down on the post early and get a couple cheap fouls, which in turn, happened the other way.”

New Hampton was able to keep it close early, thanks to a big first half from 6-foot-8 forward Tory Miller, Jorgenson, and super athletic guard Lincoln Davis. Even with Vonleh only playing eight minutes in the first half, the game was tied at 28 at halftime.

Kansas City connection: Jorgenson and Miller, both from Kansas City and AAU teammates on KC Pump and Run, have been friends since sixth grade. Needless to say, they were very complimentary of each other after the game.

“Personally, in my opinion I’ve always said this but I think [Travis] is the best PG in the country. That’s a bold statement,” Miller said. “I’ve been playing with him for so long though, that’s just what I think. He’s the toughest point guard I know. He didn’t even sit tonight; usually he’s in the entire 40 minutes."

Jorgenson, a senior, led the Huskies in the scoring column with 13 points, but his ability to hit big shots was exactly what the undermanned New Hampton needed. He knocked down three treys, and constantly looked to feed the Huskies’ big men inside. Even in a losing effort, his play was a bright spot for New Hampton coach Pete Hutchins.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all, I have supreme confidence in him, he’s outstanding,” Hutchens said.

Miller checked in with a double-double for New Hampton, giving them a presence inside that they desperately needed considering that Vonleh only played about 16 minutes total. Whether Vonleh was in foul trouble or not, playing against Huntington was an opportunity that Miller had very much been looking forward to.

“[Wiggins] knows how to get in the lane, he can shoot it if he’s open. He’s a really good player, extremely athletic guy, he was a real cool guy when I talked to him after the game,” he said.

Playing in his first national televised game was as exciting an experience for Miller as it was for his family back home. He proudly announced after the game that he had 87 unread text messages from people back home in Missouri, assumingly all congratulating him on his play on national TV.

“Oh man, [playing at the Hoophall] is a blessing," Miller said. "It was fun, even though we didn’t win it was fun to go out there and play against the number one player in the country. There’s nothing like it, honestly. Packed house, nationally televised, all the people back home from Kansas City watching. It’s fun man.”

Courting Wiggins: A lot of hype will go into the next few months leading up to Andrew Wiggins’ college decision, but Fulford made it clear that very little will change until then.

" Kentucky and Florida State are the leaders in the clubhouse. John Calipari already has five top 100 commitments in the 2013 class, and if he can add Wiggins to his super-talented recruiting class, then said class could very well go down as the best recruiting class ever seen in college basketball.

" The bloodlines are there with Florida State, Wiggins’ father played hoops for the Seminoles before going to the NBA, while his mother was a trackstar at Florida State. Xavier Rathan-Mayes, one of the top shooters in the 2013 class, committed to Florida State this past fall; Rathan-Mayes and Wiggins are close friends from their time as AAU teammates for CIA Bounce, and now continue that close relationship as teammates at Huntington.

" North Carolina could be closing in strong, Fulford said that Tar Heels coach Roy Williams has come to see Wiggins play on four separate occasions this season.

" Kansas is involved, but how involved they are has still yet to be seen: “[Bill] Self has been in once, so I’m not really sure where that’s at,” Fulford said.

Banged Up: New Hampton was pretty thin at forward against a significantly bigger Huntington squad. Sophomore forward Jeremy Miller was out with a concussion that he suffered about a week and a half ago, Hutchins said Miller didn’t make the trip to Springfield, and instead stayed at school for the weekend. In addition, Huskies’ junior forward Mike Auger played with a significantly sprained ankle.

“He got a badly sprained ankle a week ago, and he gave us some huge minutes when he really couldn’t [tonight]. He overcame a lot of adversity,” Hutchins said.

For Huntington, Fulford said that Wiggins has been fighting illness for that past couple weeks between schoolwork, the constant media frenzy wherever he goes, and being on the road.

“He’s been sick for over two weeks," Fulford said. "He’s had the flu, and then that developed into bronchitis so he’s not 100 percent. He’s still hacking, but he played well, he always steps up in those games.”