Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Opinion: Wiggins’ growing pains worth it

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins hangs his head while heading to the bench after a string of Jayhawk turnovers against Villanova during the first half on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013 in Paradise Island, Bahamas.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins hangs his head while heading to the bench after a string of Jayhawk turnovers against Villanova during the first half on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013 in Paradise Island, Bahamas.


Andrew Wiggins played one lousy basketball game in the Bahamas. During the three-game Battle 4 Atlantis, he was no better than Kansas University’s third-best freshman, ranking behind Joel Embiid and Frank Mason. I have two words to say about that: So what?

It’s not as if he’s the first talented basketball player to experience bouts of inconsistency during the first post-high school November of his career.

The tougher the coach, the more shocking the transition to college basketball. Bill Self is no softy. Many watching the tourney on TV noticed Self appeared to mouth the word “soft” to Wiggins at one point.

Wiggins joins a long list of Self players, past and present, to hear that label sent their way. They grow tired of hearing it, realize the coach isn’t going to dumb down his standards for anyone, stop fighting him and do it his way more consistently as the season progresses. They tend to like the result of everyone doing the things that keep words such as “soft” and the gentler euphemism “casual” from flying off Self’s tongue.

Nobody is exempt from getting blasted for shying from contact when crashing the boards or chasing loose balls, putting style ahead of substance when on the way to dunks, not running hard in transition in both directions every single time, things like that. For most players coming out of high school, those things aren’t second-nature until bad habits have been cleansed through daily feedback behind the closed doors of practices and the fishbowl of games.

Everything Wiggins does, the good and not-so-good, is magnified because of his inflated fame and thanks to talent outbursts so loud they feed the hunger to see more, more, more! Now and forever, for crying out loud!

Rare is the athlete who blends so much length and quickness as Wiggins. Consequently, about 70 percent of what Self likes to call “50/50 balls” should be possessed by Wiggins if he goes after them with the same fervor as an average small forward.

All of that makes Wiggins the perfect candidate to take advantage of Self’s coaching style, which includes a variety of ways that challenge each player to prove his mettle.

It will come as a shock if Wiggins doesn’t improve a great deal over the course of the next few months, an exciting proposition considering the extent to which he already has made positive contributions.

He hasn’t shot well yet (.493 overall, .333 from three), another common first-November occurrence, yet he’s still averaging 14.3 points, second on the team to Perry Ellis. He ranks third in rebounding (5.6), behind Joel Embiid and Ellis, first in steals and has the best plus-minus number on the team with a plus-14.8. Most of the 72 minutes Wiggins has sat have not come at garbage time. Without Wiggins on the floor, KU actually has been outscored, 138-132.

As for whether he deserved the No. 1 ranking he received from, those rankings no longer project what player will be the best freshman. They basically skip the one year the top prospects play in college and already look to them as NBA prospects.

So far, Kentucky’s Julius Randle and Duke’s Jabari Parker have been the best freshmen in the country.

The best guess as to the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft? Embiid. Why not take him first?

It’s way premature to label Wiggins a disappointment.

One month into his one-year college career, he remains what he was in high school, an outstanding prospect. Watching him turn into an outstanding basketball player over the next few months will make for fascinating viewing.


Nicholas Cederlind 4 months, 2 weeks ago

I have no idea what this article is supposed to be about. Are we supposed to pretend that Wiggins WASN'T recovering from the flu during these last two games?!? Shame on every member of the media trying to unconsciously grieve for their fallen hype machine by blaming Wiggins...


Colby Hebert 4 months, 2 weeks ago

I would take Embiid at 1 if I had the pick.

The draft can be overrated too, did Jordan go 1?

I am not too worried about Wiggins. Once conference play starts these guys will all have been tested. By March they will not be "freshman" anymore either. I love this team!


Erich Hartmann 4 months, 2 weeks ago

No worries with Wiggins. I respect his trying to play "team" basketball...its just that the whole team is still trying to learn Selfball, and find its chemistry. Self's youngest team ever pulls off a Duke win, then loses to an unranked, smallball team like 'Nova. Yep, that's the frosh rollercoaster. You can even see a frosh rollercoaster in Mason's play (his Duke game vs. his UTEP game). Frosh.


Mike Adams 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Comparing Xavier's freshman season to Jordan's as some kind of barometer is the funniest thing I have read in a LONG time. I hope that was a joke.


Beau Woolsey 4 months, 2 weeks ago

I am really hoping Boston gets it's next legend from KU in this draft. I'm seeing a lot of the Lakers getting selden which would be like the opposite of Paul Pierce and maybe some luck going his way. Because Paul grew up a huge laker fan and was drafted by celtics and selden huge Celtic fan getting drafted by lakers.


Yonatan Negash 4 months, 2 weeks ago

First and foremost, I love Andrew Wiggins and I have no doubt he'll show up soon or later. Like most of you, I'd prefer sooner then later.

My thoughts take it or leave it. Andrew Wiggins needs to be more involved, more assertive, demand the ball, take over games, be the go to guy.

As much as I appreciate the plays of our point guards, the ball needs to go through Andrew Wiggins; he needs to touch the ball every time. Take at least 25 shots.

I predict 30 points, 8 rebounds against Colorado Saturday. It's time for AW to show up big, put up big numbers and regain the #1 spot.

It’s about time for AW to get a little selfish, self-seeking, self-centered, egotistic, egocentric


Tony Bandle 4 months, 2 weeks ago

We will know a lot more about this team come Sunday morning, December 15th after games at 35th ranked Colorado, at 16th ranked Florida and in KC against 28th ranked New Mexico..teams with an accumulated record of 19-3.

Throw in Georgetown, Toledo and San Diego State and that upcoming opponent overall record swells to 34-6...hardly a cupcake schedule.

My point is we better keep improving because the road doesn't get any easier!!!


Rodney Crain 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Wiggins will be fine, he just needs to be a little more selfish or aggressive if you want. The way fouls are being called this year he can make a living at the free throw line by taking his man to basket more, that first step is world class. It is much more difficult for him when they go zone or some form of zone.

About thinking Wiggins, Selden, or Embiid will be here another year, I just don't see it. Unless it becomes a Brandon Rush kind of deal. Even then we would have to be lucky they don't sign with an agent if they get injured after the season.

We need to play with more energy and make some shots, which I think we are capable of.


John Fitzgerald 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Mr Keegan,

I've said time and time again that Embiid should and will be the number one pick in the NBA draft next year. The way he moves is unlike any 7 footer Ku has had and he's a smooth shooter as well. He makes some silly mistakes but that's the easy part to fix. Thanks for reassuring me that I'm not the only one to think Embiid will be taken number one.


Yolanda Gay 4 months, 2 weeks ago

In the past, I've always gotten my hopes up because of the accolades (sp?) given the recruits we eventually sign. I kept thinking 'wow, we signed another player like Kevin Durrant. Someone that can take over a game'. Not any more. Just because someone was great in high school doesn't mean nothing. Some can transfer that success to the next level and others can't.

It may be that the player had great success in high school because he was playing against inferior players. When I see a player good and successful against players who are also on scholarship on other teams, then I believe.


Aaron Paisley 4 months, 2 weeks ago

This is the first time that Andrew Wiggins has truly had to work to be the best player on the court and he's figuring out how to do so. If he doesn't figure it out, it will be disappointing because we've all seen moments of what he can be. I will also say that Bill Self's high-low system in general is not the most conducive for athletic wings to really thrive in. I don't think Wiggins scoring numbers are all that far off of what Brandon Rush did while here either.

As for Benz claim that nobody will average 20-10 under Bill Self, go check out Wayne Simien's numbers in 2004-05 and see if you still agree that nobody will average 20-10 under Self. And HEM, I don't see Embiid starting this season barring injury. I think we're at the point of the season where the rotation is pretty well being set and it will be Black starting and Embiid coming in after Black picks up his 2 fouls. The fouling out in 12 minutes against Nova is a concern for Embiid and the brain cramp by Mason at the end of the UTEP are why Self is hesitant to trust freshmen with huge minutes. Doesn't mean that aren't capable, just means there's higher risk playing those kind of players in moments like that.


Jack Wilson 4 months, 2 weeks ago

I think folks underestimate what X did because they expected dominance. It's the expectations game. Top player we automatically equate to a Carmelo Anthony standard. X was our second leading scorer behind Collins and averaged 13.4 per game and shot over 40% from 3. My only real complaint with X was that he didn't seem to want to scrap for rebounds.

Try this .. as freshman, Michael Jordan averaged 13.5 ppg (vs. X's 13.4), and Jordan averaged 4.4 rebounds per game vs. X's 4.4 .. pretty much the same stats. I know, different era, North Carolina had more talent Jordan's freshman year, etc. But interesting anyway.

As I posted above it is way too early to judge Wiggins. Not slamming his prior coaching, but this may be the first time he really gets his rear kicked by a coach. Some players .. many players .. might go into a bit of a shell initially as a reaction to that. Wondering if this is what they signed up for. Totally natural. But then, if the player chooses the right path, things will come together. They will get it. Then the coaching and a** kicking makes sense.

I have always felt that Self is not an OAD friendly coach. He has always favored experience and comfort with players, so to speak. But that seems to be changing (or evolving). The guy is starting 2 freshmen now. A third (Embiid) will be starting. And it would not be surprising to see Mason unseat Tharpe at some point. Would we have believed that just two seasons ago? I don't think so.

We have an incredible stretch here of four challenging games. While I'm interested in how Wiggins performs, there's a lot of other things that will shake out on this team through that stretch.


Robert Brock 4 months, 2 weeks ago

I hate the NBA. I want Wiggins, Embiid, and Selden to learn to play basketball at KU and have success ASAP. Coach is teaching them the all-around game and Hudy is getting them stronger and in great shape. That is going to produce results by the end of this season.

I couldn't care less about who is drafted 1st, 2nd, or 3rd by "The League."


Beau Woolsey 4 months, 2 weeks ago

I look at it like this Wiggins can either be Selby, Xavier, or he can be wiggins. Selby was a disaster, Xavier was good but was not constantly great like he could have been, or Wiggins could be Wiggins and dominate college basketball. I think wiggins partly chose Kansas to prove that latter. A lot of his UTep shots were very close, once his three starts falling he will be destroying opponents. On a side note I am really mad that Wiggins has only dunked with two hands, coach should bench him for lack of style.


Sean Doherty 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Regardless of your post, Doug, I was going to post this anyways. It's just ironic that you posted what you did before what I'm about to say.

In my opinion as a backseat jockey of a coach, i.e. no experience whatsoever, I believe I have a valid opinion as to why one and done's don't work in HCBS's system.

Look at how Self plays the game. I want to make this quick so i'm not going to list all the tangibles. Self's system takes too long for one year players to pick it up. Plain and simple. Bill Self plays a type of system that literally takes 1+ years to become accustomed to it and to learn the ins and outs of his system. It's not rocket science here people. Self plays ball to win it all. And to win it all year in and year out, you need a deep, hardcore system of stingy defense and serious plays. It just can't be learned and followed through properly in one year. Simple as that. Self is not the type of coach who does well with one and done's. He requires his players to play his system, which takes years to learn and perfect. On the other hand, we can look at Coach Cal. He basically just lets his players do what they are used to doing. He gives them the freedom to do what they want, which is how they know how to play. Granted, this gives the players very little preparation for the next level though. All Cal has to do is let them play their offensive game and hopes he can get them to jell together. Completely different than what Bill Self does with his teams. If players had to stay for 3 years, mandatory, Bill Self would be the uncontested champion of the Era. As it stands now, you just can't get all of Self ball into 18 year old's heads. It takes to much time. Imagine a player like Wayne Selden staying for 5 years like Travis Releford did. Imagine the possibilities of something like that happening with multiple top 20 players.


Doug Cramer 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Maybe someone that has a deep understanding of conjunction with watching Self's coaching tactics the past several years...can explain why number 1 high school picks don't come right out of the gate soaring with dominate performance in this program.

Xavier Henry and Josh Selby come to mind. Neither really dominated the game like many of us believed. take guys of that caliber...and keep them in Self's system for 3-4 years...then they tend to blossom. T-Rob comes to mind. Morris Twins. Mario Chalmers. Sasha Kaun. Arthur. Could even make a case for Taylor. His senior season seemed MUCH better than his first 3.

I hope Embiid and Selden hangs around for another 2-3 seasons before moving on to the NBA. It would have done BMAC some good if he would have stayed.

Playing multiple years under Self is an investment to ur NBA career in my opinion.


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