St. John’s star recruit will be suiting up for the University of Connecticut next November.
Doug Wiggins, the guard who verbally committed to play with the Red Storm, reneged with the Queens school and committed with its archrival, the Huskies, last week.
A ton of fuss is being made over how UConn (or as some people are calling it now, Con-U) and its coach Jim Calhoun run a dirty program.
And those people have a point.
Huskies guards Marcus Williams and A.J. Price were suspended earlier this fall for stealing laptop computers from fellow students. Calhoun fought √¢?” and literally begged √¢?” administration to allow them to play this season. Eventually, Williams was suspended for half the season and Price was suspended for the whole season.
Was Calhoun and Connecticut unethical in still recruiting Wiggins when St. John’s already had him verbaled? Absolutely.
Is it done all the time by many other college basketball coaches? Sure. Doesn’t make it right, but it happens.
But people around here who point the finger at Connecticut for being a dirty program must have an extremely short memory. Isn’t this the same school where players were expelled and suspended for soliciting a prostitute? Isn’t this the school that paid a two-bit scrub (Abe Keita) who’s only value when he was here was to commit a few fouls per game? Didn’t St. John’s have a player kicked off the men’s basketball team when he got arrested for possession of marijuana? All of these things happened three years ago or less.
Granted, there is a new regime here in place. Norm Roberts and his staff would not let those events repeat themselves, one could almost guarantee.
However, one thing Roberts will not be able to prevent is a situation like this one with Wiggins, at least not in the near future. Wiggins, a East Hartford, Conn., native, was not heavily recruited last year when he made his verbal with three Red Storm. The speedy point guard blew up over the summer, playing AAU ball. He is now rated a top-100 prospect. Without surprise, UConn took great notice. And the thought of playing on one of the best teams in the country right in is backyard was just too enticing for the high school senior.
“It was my decision,” Wiggins told the Connecticut Post. “I had to do what’s best for me. I had the opportunity to attend my dream school, so I’m going to take it. It’s a great program. It’s a winning program. Before making my decision, I came to realize that I want to be part of a winning program. They’re a great team.”
He’s not wrong.
UConn won a national championship in 2004, while St. John’s was still licking its wounds after the infamous sex scandal that happened in February of that year.
Winning is the best recruiting tool. Just ask Roberts. He recruited top talent as an assistant with Illinois and Kansas before coming to St. John’s.
Something Red Storm, which was 9-18 last season after a 6-21 year in 2003-04, has not done lately is win. The team has not won a road game in two seasons.
But, ironically, most teams can’t win without a blue-chip player. That’s the catch-22.
Stud recruits don’t want to come to losing programs; losing programs have a hard time winning without those same recruits.
St. John’s has the right staff, the right coach, in place to be a good team for a long time. That is not the problem.
“I have nothing against St. John’s – I even think they have the better coaching staff,” Wiggins told the New York Daily News. “But when I decided to verbally commit, I wasn’t as sure as I could be.”
Now Roberts and company need to make kids sure. They need that one top high school recruit to take a chance, make the decision that they would rather be on an up-and-coming St. John’s squad instead of a team with a pedigree like Connecticut. They need a player who would trade wins for potential and playing time.
That player just won’t be Doug Wiggins.