Huntington Prep is one of the top ten basketball programs in the nation (currently ranked #2) and are home to the top high school level players in the world, including last year’s graduate, Andrew Wiggins. All students are considered NCAA Division I prospects and are recruited by some of the top programs in the country. Recently, I had the opportunity to catch up with Huntington Prep Head Coach, Rob Fulford. Here’s what he had to say as the 2013-2014 season gets underway (2-0).
(Brian Rucker – R) Coach Fulford, what do you love most about coaching? Is it your love of the game or the fact that you want to see these future college and potential NBA stars succeed in life?
(Coach Fulford – CF) I love the day to day grind of making kids better on and off the court. It’s very rewarding to have a positive impact on young kids – to have the opportunity to mold them into young men. Every kid has different challenges in life, whether it’s getting out of bad environment, or a kid that just needs better day-to-day coaching/competition. I find it very gratifying to help kids reach their goals. Sitting back and watching your former players on TV, knowing you helped them along the way, it puts a pretty big smile on your face. That’s what I love about coaching.
(R) Huntington Prep has established itself as one of the newer powerhouses in high school sports. Does it make you nervous playing on such a high scale (TV, big tournaments, stiffer competition) than what you’re used to?
(CF) I’ve always had nervous energy before games. As a player, even when I knew we were going to win by 30, I would puke. Now as a coach, to avoid the embarrassment in front of my players, I choose not to eat on game days. It’s not the most healthy solution, but my winter diet is great. We’ve created a very high standard here at Huntington Prep, nationally. We actually have a bigger following throughout the US than we do in Huntington or West Virginia, so there is added pressure because all eyes are on us.
(R) How soon are you able to notice someone’s potential ceiling? Whether they will cap out in high school at Huntington Prep, in college, or to have the potential to suit up in the NBA?
(CF) Potential is a dangerous word in athletics. I tell our guys all the time, the word potential only means you haven’t made it yet. At our level, we’re dealing with pretty high level players, so there’s a lot of potential, but not all are going to be professional basketball players. Kids think it’s easy to reach the NBA and that is a very disturbing trend. Every kid that is recruited at a high level thinks they can play in the NBA. The percentage of guys that actually make it is very low. You look at the last 5 years and the statistics of former college All Conference guys – and even All Americans that don’t make it – is eye opening. I try to make these guys understand they better have a backup plan just in case.
(R) I saw that Huntington Prep currently has 4 of the Top 75 players in the country for the class of 2014. Which one (if not all) of these kids are you most excited to see at the next level?
(CF) We have a really talented group of Seniors. It’ll be fun to see them get better this year and I look forward to watching all of them over the next few years to see how they continue to develop.
(R) As you know LuDawgs is the best fantasy site on the web for fantasy sports discussion. Have you ever played any fantasy sports games (NFL, MLB, NBA)? And did you know that they now have college basketball fantasy games? Crazy right?
(CF) I’ve never participated in a fantasy sports league. But, if there is now a college basketball fantasy league, I am taking Wiggins!
(R) I am sure everyone in the whole LuDawgs Community wants to know – how was it coaching Andrew Wiggins on a daily basis? Is this kid really going to be the next LeBron James?
(CF) Andrew was great to coach because he wanted to be coached. He was a team first guy and held everyone to a higher standard. I don’t like comparisons to other people. It hasn’t been fair to Lebron that people have compared him to Jordan. There won’t be another Jordan. Lebron is the best player in the game right now and any elite prospect is going to get compared to the best. But Andrew and Lebron are totally different players. I think the hype that both had coming out of high school is the biggest similarity. Both Lebron and Andrew were the show and everyone wanted to see it.
(R) What’s the craziest or wildest thing you’ve seen Andrew Wiggins do in a game (or practice)?
(CF) He made 2 or 3 ESPN Top 10 plays every day, so it is hard to pinpoint just one. Andrew has such a high basketball IQ and makes so many instinctual plays that you just find yourself looking around at other coaches and shaking your head, like “Damn, did he just do that?” We had a great 2 years with the best high school basketball player this decade and it was fun to watch.
(R) You know, I’m a Kentucky graduate. Why in the world did Wiggins choose Kansas? Do you think it’s a great fit?
(CF) Kansas was a great fit for him. He really liked the staff and the team at Kansas. Obviously, the tradition of Kansas basketball and the fact that his brother is close at Wichita State had a impact. He and Coach Self really hit it off on a personal level. Self did a really good job of getting to know Andrew the person, not the player. That set the Jayhawks apart.
(R) Where can the members of LuDawgs.com find out more about Huntington Prep for this upcoming season?
(CF) You can visit our website at www.huntingtonprep.com
(R) – Thanks, Coach! We’re all looking forward to following along this season. Very best of luck to you, your staff, and obviously your squad.
From the Huntington Prep Wikipedia Page:
Some of the former players playing in college currently are Andrew Wiggins (Kansas), Xavier Rathan-Mayes (Florida State), Patrick Strake (Texas Tech), Dominic Woodson (Memphis), Carlos Arroyo (Chowan University), Travon Landry (New Mexico State), Tanveer Bhullar (New Mexico State), Williams Gabriel (New Hampshire) Moses Kingsley (Arkansas) , Justin Coleman (Louisville/Marshall University/Illinois State), Maurice Aniefiok (Ole Miss/North Texas), Sim Bhullar (New Mexico State), Jeramiah Davis (University of Cincinnati), Aleksandar Kesic (Iona University), Charles Lee (Cleveland State), Ibrahima Djimde (Illinois/Coastal Carolina), Negus Webster-Chan (Missouri/Hawaii), Stefan Jankovic (Missouri), Elijah Macon (West Virginia), JaVontae Hawkins (South Florida), Manroop Claire (Hawaii/Seattle) along with more to come every year.