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Young Canadian basketball star Wiggins philosophical on life in the spotlight

CHICAGO - Andrew Wiggins sat patiently for the better part of an hour Tuesday, answering every question thrown at him. The quiet basketball phenom from Vaughan, Ont.

CHICAGO - Andrew Wiggins sat patiently for the better part of an hour Tuesday, answering every question thrown at him.

The quiet basketball phenom from Vaughan, Ont., is getting a crash course on life in the spotlight at this week's McDonald's All-American Game. And love it or loathe it, he's developed a philosophical view on it.

"A lot of people don't get the opportunity to do this, so I think I'm blessed that I'm getting all the attention," Wiggins said.

The 18-year-old from Vaughan, Ont., is the headliner for Wednesday's game as the top prospect from the 2013 class, and was in high demand on the always-chaotic media day at United Center.

Reporters approached in waves, asking: When will you announce your college decision? How are you handling the pressure? Oh, and about that college decision...?

The six-foot-seven Wiggins, who boasts a 6-11 wingspan and a smile almost as wide, said he's become used to — if not entirely sold on — the attention. His parents, he said, have been great resources — his dad Mitchell played in the NBA, while his mom Marita Payne-Wiggins is a two-time Olympic track medallist.

"They were professional athletes, they've been here before, they're experienced, they're wise in every aspect of being an athlete," he said. "Whenever I need someone to lean on, they're always there for me."

He's received advice from LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

"Just take it one day at a time," they told him. "Just keep playing hard, practising hard."

The All-American Game brings together the top young boys and girls in the U.S., and treats like them stars. Adidas unveiled a special edition "CrazyQuick" red and yellow shoe for the game. Tuesday night they were to be feted with a formal dinner, their suits and gowns purchased for them. Splashed across the side of the bus they ride to and from the arena: "McDonald's All-American Game: Basketball's Rite of Passage."

With Wiggins, however, you get the feeling that when it comes to the attention, he could take it or leave it.

"He's the most selfless star that I've ever coached," said Roy Rana, who coached Wiggins on Canada's junior team. "Low maintenance. He doesn't need the spotlight all the time, but when the time is right, he's fully ready to accept responsibility, and do whatever he needs to do to help his team."

Wiggins had fans spilling out onto the court and former superstar athlete Bo Jackson bowing in reverence with his perfect score in the slam dunk contest the previous night, throwing down a spectacular through-the-legs reverse 180.

"Pretty unbelievable isn't he?" said Freddy Johnson, coach of the East team, and the most successful coach in North Carolina high school history. "He's got all kinds of skills. Whoever gets him is going to get one of the best players in the country."

His all-around talent and boundless potential have some saying he's the next LeBron James. Someone dubbed him "Maple Jordan."

Wiggins laughed at that Tuesday.

"I'm not from Maple though, you know. I'm from Vaughan, I'm from the city above Toronto," he said. "But you know, it's a good name.

"It's always good that people look up to me, support me and show me love. I'm just thankful to be from Canada, be part of it and just rep where I'm from."

Kennedy Meeks, an outgoing 285-pound centre from North Carolina — Wiggins' polar opposite in personality — has become a big fan of the Canadian over the past few days.

"He really kills people with his smile," Meeks said. "He's really mellow man, I really haven't met a player like him, how creative he is on the court, how laidback he is, but at the same time, explosive."

Julius Randle, a forward from Texas, said: "He's just a humble kid and lets you know his focus is on getting better. He's a hard worker and a humble kid for sure."

Randle compared Wiggins to Kobe Bryant or Tracy McGrady, while Meeks said "I compare him to Andrew Wiggins. I don't think he really models his game after anybody. I just think he's good as a player. He does things that normal people can't."

Meeks and Randle would both love to see Wiggins at their schools next season — Meeks has committed to North Carolina while Randle signed with Kentucky, two of the four schools Wiggins is considering.

They've both let him know how they feel.

"If I give him a good pass in practice or scrimmage, throw him a lob, I'll say, 'Make sure you come to Kentucky, you'll get this all the time.' I say little stuff like that," Randle said, laughing. "But I don't get into any serious conversation, put pressure on him to come to Kentucky."

Meeks said Wiggins would be a great teammate.

"Of course. . . with his athleticism, the way he gets to the basket, how good he is as a person and of course because he's from Canada, I never played with somebody from Canada before, so I think it would be interesting."

Wiggins, who also made official visits to Florida State and Kansas, is one of just two of the 25 All-Americans who haven't announced their college destinations.

But don't ask Wiggins why he's taking his time or when he'll make a decision.

Asked about his timeline several times again Tuesday, the Canadian answered "I don't know."

Wiggins clearly wants to put that those thoughts on hold as he focused on Wednesday's game. The small forward, who averaged 23.4 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks for Hunting Prep this past season, could become the first Canadian to win MVP honours at Wednesday's All-American game.

"That would be another good thing for Canada, give everyone in Canada hope and faith that someone else can do it (after) me," he said.

UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad won last year's John R. Wooden MVP award. Among other past winners: Kevin Durant (2006), LeBron James (2003), Kevin Garnett (1995), and Shaquille O'Neal (1989).

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