Last year at this time, there was still plenty of mystery and misinformation surrounding head coach Rob Fulford's program at
Huntington Prep (W.Va.)
. Was it the latest shady diploma mill? A post-graduate team? A vehicle for an ambitious coach to further his career?
Turns out none of those tags apply. A forthright Fulford, loaded roster and glossy win-loss record has helped Huntington Prep gain legitimacy. Former players have made the transition to college without prolonged academic investigations and promoters lined up in the offseason to get the Express at their events this winter.
How much credibility has the success afforded Huntington Prep? The Express open the season as the No. 1-ranked academy program in the nation by MaxPreps.
"Our goal is to win the national championship," Fulford said. "I think our guys understand (what kind of potential the team has). This is not a place to come and concentrate on yourself. This is a team concept and we don't just roll the ball out."
In terms of Huntington Prep's general model, it's not all that different from Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)
– a basketball-focused college preparatory program housed within a preexisting school. In this case, Huntington's St. Joseph Central.
Helping – immensely – the Express go from puzzlement to powerhouse is the presence of senior wing Andrew Wiggins
, who was recently installed as the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2013 after fast-tracking his hoops career and jumping up from the 2014 class.
The 6-foot-7, 205-pound Wiggins posted 23.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game a year ago, helping Huntington Prep go 24-2. The only losses came to post-graduate power Tilton School and high school national champ St. Anthony.
Regarded as the top amateur basketball prospect in the world, Wiggins' recruitment is beginning to heat up with Florida State, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio State and Syracuse at the forefront.
"It's been pretty busy around here," Fulford said. "It hasn't so much been Andrew's recruitment, but moreso the 2013 or 2014 drama. Anytime Kentucky and their media is involved, it's hard to keep up with it."
While Wiggins is just beginning to sort out the recruiting process, another Huntington Prep star came to a final decision Thursday. Dominic Woodson
, a 6-9, 290-pound senior center, made a verbal commitment to Baylor.
Other Division I pledges on the Express roster include sharpshooter Xavier Rathan-Mayes
(Florida State), 6-9 shotblocker Moses Kingsley
(Arkansas) and point guard Travon Landry
And then there is sophomore Montaque Gill-Ceasar
, a 6-5 forward and native of Canada who may land a spot in Huntington Prep's starting five.
"He's kind of the next big thing out of here," Fulford said. "He's athletic, can score, shoot, defend – he's so much better than anticipated. He's made Andrew better as far as competing. There has been days when he gets the better of Andrew."
Huntington Prep's road to the national championship will include a trip to Florida for the City of Palms Classic Signature Series and matchups against defending Tennessee AAA champ Memphis East
, Arlington Country Day (Jacksonville, Fla.)
, Wesleyan Christian Academy (High Point, N.C.)
, La Lumiere (LaPorte, Ind.)
, New Hampton School (N.H.)
and a high-scoring Mentor (Ohio)
outfit.See next page for complete preseason Academy Top 10