Images from Wednesday's scrimmage between current and former players including the first on-court appearance from highly-touted recruit Andrew Wiggins.
If only everything were in black and white and a man named Ed Sullivan, not Bill Self, had been on the microphone, one might have thought Wednesday’s Kansas University basketball scrimmage was the scene of a Beatles concert instead of a basketball game.
It’s hard to say which one of the Fab Four best compares to freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins — I’d have to say Paul McCartney, because they both have the baby face — but there’s no doubting that Wiggins, the 6-foot-7, freak-of-nature forward, belongs in the company of the biggest rock ’n’ roll stars ever to invade the United States. He’s that fab. And Wednesday, a small number of KU fans witnessed Wiggins’ long-awaited opening number live and in color.
The second camp scrimmage of the summer likely marked the final time in Wiggins’ likely short KU career that there was no line of fans outside the building waiting to watch him play.
It was close, though.
At last week’s camp game, folks filed into Horejsi Family Athletic Center (capacity 1,300) at a steady pace but did not fill the north bleachers until a little after 3 p.m. This time around, those bleachers were nearly full as early as 2:15 to watch a game that didn’t tip off until 3:45.
Large crowds are something the electric athlete from Canada, by way of Huntington, W.Va., has become accustomed to seeing when he’s wearing a pair of basketball sneakers, and his actions on the floor showed he’s comfortable with that. As if it were part of the set list, Wiggins caught a pass in transition on the Blue team’s opening possession and skied for one-handed jam that stirred the fans like a bucket of ice water had been thrown on each of them.
It was not just the Wiggins highlights that generated that rock-star feel.
Local business owner Miles Schnaer, decked out in a suit and tie, was in the front row of the standing-room-only section taking video with his phone. A UPS man, still in uniform, appeared to have made a pit stop on his route to check out what Wiggins could deliver, and four or five times as many media members and KU staffers as were there a week ago lined the walls behind both baskets. Don’t tell the fire marshall, but a few people even stood in the doorways, craning their necks to get the best view.
Wiggins, who spoke briefly with the media after the game, seemed unfazed by all of it.
“I’ve gotten used to it,” he said with a genuine smile. “The last couple of years, I’ve gotten that a lot.”
Self, a rock star in his own right, seems still to be adjusting to all of the attention his prized recruit is getting.
“This is a different level,” Self said. “It’s kind of weird to me. I mean, we’ve recruited other good players before, but we haven’t had anybody receive this kind of attention. (I know) players get rock-star status, but this could get a little ridiculous if he lets it. He just wanted to come here and enjoy his summer.”
The 11th-year KU coach then went on to utter the names Danny Manning and Wilt Chamberlain. No, Self was not comparing Wiggins to the two KU legends as players. But he was venturing a guess that those are the only two players in school history who came anywhere close to generating the kind of buzz that Wiggins already has in just a few days.
I doubt he’s wrong.