NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. - Jabari Parker never even got the opportunity to defend his title.
It was set up by Nike for Friday afternoon at the Peach Jam, the most anticipated event of the all-important July recruiting period: Parker, the top-ranked player in the Class 2013, against Andrew Wiggins, the clear-cut number one player in the Class of 2014. The heavyweight bout that trumped just about every heavyweight bout down here in recent memory.
But Parker was a no-show down in North Augusta. He was back home in Chicago, nursing a foot injury sustained months ago. So instead of Parker, the 6-foot-7 1/2, 200-pound Wiggins was forced to settle for the No. 2 player in the senior class on Friday night: Julius Randle.
It was mass destruction.
Randle is a beast. He's about 6-foot-8 and likely checks in at around 235 pounds or so. He's big, strong, athletic and just flat-out dominates every forward he goes up against on the summer circuit.
But not Wiggins.
Wiggins made Randle look ordinary, as if he was just another Top 100 player. I will confess that I'm a huge Randle fan, but he was outclassed -- in every manner.
I felt bad for Randle on this one because he didn't have a chance. Wiggins started slow, but by the end of the game he had racked up 28 points, grabbed 13 boards and done a magnificent job turning Randle into a non-factor for most of the contest. Randle finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds, but the numbers were misleading. Wiggins wanted the defensive challenge against Randle and used his length, quickness and athleticism to continuously frustrate the big Texan.
With that performance, just about everyone present at the Riverview Park Activities Center walked away with the same thought: This kid has to be the best player in the country, regardless of class.
"I think I'm the best," the soft-spoken Wiggins said following his team's 81-80 overtime win. "I'll put myself in front of everyone."
I won't disagree, but it's a shame that Parker didn't have anything to say about it. Wiggins has a higher upside than his cohort who holds the top spot in the class ahead of him (Note: Wiggins is actually older than Parker), but Parker is a terrific player who can do a multitude of things on the court. He can score in a variety of ways, makes his teammates better, he rebounds and also defends.
But Wiggins is off the charts.
There were times when he looked part-Kobe, part-Scottie Pippen and part-D-Wade. This kid is able to do it all. In fact, I'm fairly convinced that even Michael Jordan would have been intelligent enough to take this kid with the number two overall pick if he were eligible for this past June's NBA Draft.
He's somewhat shy, but extremely likable off the court. Quiet, but articulate. Most have already pegged him to spend one college in Lexington with John Calipari, but the dark horse is Florida State, the alum of both his parents (his father is former NBA player Mitchell Wiggins).
Let's be honest: There's no way that one head-to-head matchup should determine the best player in the country, but most recruiting gurus agree that Wiggins held the edge over Parker as the top amateur basketball player in the world heading into July. Parker is regarded as a tough kid, but he decided not to give it a go this month in an effort to get healthy. It's a shame.
Instead, those down here were forced to settle for Wiggins vs. Randle.
Fans and coaches lined the court, sometimes three or four deep. It may not have been the showdown, but it was nice consolation prize. Wiggins had gotten the better of Randle, at least numbers-wise, on both occasions they previously went up against one another. But his team had also come up short.
This time he won both accounts.
"It was the key matchup, everyone wanted to see Andrew vs. Julius Randle, so that's what I gave them," Wiggins said (I'll admit; already using himself in the third person turned me off a bit).
But this wasn't a matchup for long.
Even when Wiggins was struggling (he missed his first four shots from the field), he was still clearly the superior player. He is dangerous in the open court, can make shots from deep, slithers and explodes to the basket in the halfcourt and showed he can be a lock-down defender.
Wiggins vs. Parker didn't happen Friday and that's a shame -- but I'm still fairly certain I watched the best amateur basketball player in the world.