Friday, November 22, 2013


Opinion: Wiggins provides much more than highlights


Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self says Friday's 88-58 win over Towson was first time all year team's looked athletic

KU men's basketball coach Bill Self talks about his team's offensive onslaught after 88-58 win over Towson.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Tarik Black, Andrew Wiggins & Joel Embiid discuss playing fast and having fun after 30-point win

Tarik Black, Andrew Wiggins & Joel Embiid discuss playing fast and having fun after 30-point win.

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Kansas 88, Towson 58

Box score

Subtle isn’t a word that comes to the minds of tongues-hanging spectators when an Andrew Wiggins highlight video plays on the big board. Amazing, freakish, did I really just see that? Did he really get that high above the rim? Nothing quiet about the gifts he flashes on those plays.

The great ones produce more than highlights. They produce, period. And they do it efficiently, in transition in both directions, in the half-court on both ends. They do it within the framework of teamwork. They make smart decisions. Wiggins is on the road to greatness, and he’s the first one to say he’s not there yet.

“I need to run the floor hard every time I’m out there, from baseline to baseline,” Wiggins said after he helped Kansas University run Towson out of town, 88-58, Friday night in front of the customary sellout crowd that was treated to an amazing first half of basketball. “I know I need to push the ball and be even more assertive than I already am. I think today was better than my other games, but I can still be better.”

You can’t fix something unless you acknowledge it needs fixing. He’s halfway there.

Wiggins was assertive enough to lead the team with 16 points to go with seven rebounds. I had an inkling his favorite stat on his efficient line in the box score would be the number “4” under the offensive-rebound column, and asked him.

He answered with a big smile and a small word: “Yes.”

He’s so quick and alert, he is able to reach over and snatch rebounds right from hands in which the ball is about to land.

Wiggins routinely holds his man to single-figure, season-low scoring outputs. In this case, that single figure was the same one relentless point guard Frank Mason wears on his jersey: zero.

“I think my defense is underrated,” Wiggins said.

It might have been before he asked to guard en fuego Jabari Parker in the Duke game and cooled him off, but it won’t be much longer.

“I think he can guard,” KU coach Bill Self said. “His man, I don’t think he scored tonight.”

Jerome Hairston attempted just two shots, didn’t get a rebound or an assist and turned it over once in 13 minutes.

Jerrelle Benimon, a 6-foot-8, 245-pound senior who played his first two seasons for Georgetown, was the man Kansas needed to slow down Friday. He produced game highs in points (21) and rebounds (10), but the only stat he produced when guarded for three possessions by the 6-8, 200-pound Wiggins was one turnover.

Wiggins asked his coach if he could guard him because, “He was scoring, and I just wanted to see how I’d do on him.”

Self let him, he cracked, “just to show our big guys he is guardable. He’s a good player.”

Not many athletes as long as Wiggins are as quick afoot.

“He’s quick enough to pressure the ball, but he’s long enough he doesn’t have to pressure it,” Self said. “He’s hard to get around. He can be a lockdown defender in time. Hopefully, it’s not that far away.”

Wiggins was just as efficient at the other end, making six of eight field goals, his only three-pointer and three of four free throws. He didn’t turn it over and had an assist and a blocked shot.

Wiggins scored 14 points in a first half played at a pace that would have impressed Stanley Redwine, coach of KU’s national-champion women’s track and field program. He took just one shot in the second half.

“It came in the flow of the game,” Wiggins said of his offense. “I didn’t rush anything. We all play with great chemistry.”

His eight field-goal attempts were the most on a team that scored 88 points. How’s that for sharing the ball?

“It’s just our nature,” Wiggins said. “It shows how our team is playing for each other. Nobody plays selfish. We all play unselfishly.”

Sometimes unselfish means taking control of a game that needs to be grabbed by the throat. When Perry Ellis needed help, Wiggins stepped to center stage and scored six points and snared a rebound at each end during KU’s game-ending 15-4 run against Duke. He clearly liked the big stage that night in United Center.

“I do,” Wiggins said. “I do. I do. I love moments like that. Big crowds. Big-name people in the gym.”

Informed that Wiggins said he liked that nobody on the team attempted more than eight field goals, Self said: “That’s who he is. He’s the type of kid that I really believe in a game like this tonight, that’s the way he should be. But in games we’re struggling to get baskets, he needs to take 15 or 20 shots.”

It doesn’t look as if there will be many of those nights, but when there are, Wiggins will be willing, and with a variety of tools in his bag, he’ll be able to put that many shots up. Joel Embiid is the most obvious, but not the only unfinished basketball player improving at a rapid rate for Kansas.


Suzi Marshall 7 years, 3 months ago

Since the Duke game, Wiggins D has been spectacular! If you have a chance to rewatch, do some stops and watch how he always knows where his man and the ball are at all times. He drifts in the passing lanes and closes on his man to shut down angles to the basket or for a shot.

Whoever came up with that Maple Jordan nickname knew what they were talking about. MJ, who at times would physically abuse and humiliated opponents, was the best defender I’ve ever seen play the game. Jordan never had a bad game. Whenever he had an off night shooting, i.e. 5-20, he’d double down on his defensive play .... and always seemed to double his points by at the line. AWigg is developing along remarkable similar lines. Those guys that say Parker and that KY guy are more advanced at this stage are nuts.

Jesse Johnson 7 years, 3 months ago

I agree Suzi. People who have been comparing him to Lebron and Durant have been comparing him to the wrong player. He is much more similar to Michael Jordan. He doesn't have a beast of a body like Lebron and he's not a pure sharp shooter like Durant. He's the type of player that uses his freakish athleticism and quickness to make plays. I looked up MJ's stats and realized that he really wasn't a fantastic 3 pt shooter, only 32.7% for his career. In fact his 3 pt % was under 20% in his first four years (which includes his two highest scoring years). Likewise, Wiggins isn't a sharpshooter but he is a playmaker and can still knock down the occasional J when needed. Of course it is way to early to know to how much of a degree he will play like MJ in his career, but from a stylistic standpoint he is much more like him than Lebron or Durant.

Tom Keegan 7 years, 3 months ago

I worked in Chicago during the first three Bulls titles. I wonder if Wiggins might be a little more like Pippen than Jordan. Really long, really quick, great finisher. Maybe 65 percent Pippen, 35 percent Jordan.

Suzi Marshall 7 years, 3 months ago

I was there during that time (Naperville). Like you, we went / watch ALL the games. Pippin was an excellent defender but Wiggins has that insane athletic ability and love for the big stage like Wiggens. Think back to MJ when he was at UNC. That team has alot of talent and MJ rarely led the team in scoring. MJ devoloped that demonic demand for excellence from his teammates after a few losing seasons with the Bulls, i.e. '84-'88 .... before the Detroit wars. I'll bet you a beer Roy also saw those same qualities in Wiggs!

Suzi Marshall 7 years, 3 months ago

You make a really good point. I used to wonder what kind of exposure Pippen would have gotten had he gone with a big time college program. Upon reflection, I still see more Jordan in his game...51 percent Jordan, 49 percent Pippen. I've never been tempted to compare anyone to a blend of those two guys. Wiggins is a unique player that seems destined to make his own mark.

Titus Canby 7 years, 3 months ago

I was in Naperville during the 90s too. I've also been trying to make the comparison between Wiggins and Jordan. The main difference I see is that Jordan was a great shooter, which I'm not seeing in Wiggins yet. But I can't remember, was Jordan a good shooter when he first came into the league?

Titus Canby 7 years, 3 months ago

Oops. I should have read your stats, Jesse. Thanks for that. It's amazing how I remembered that incorrectly. I guess Jordan just made the dramatic shots - like Wiggins' step-back in the Duke game.

kellerman411 7 years, 3 months ago

Wiggins is still a mystery for me. His motor is getting better but he's still taking possessions off. I wonder if he is just getting lost for a minute or if he understands where he is at fitness wise and plays accordingly. If he would have played 100% for the 30 minutes he was out there, he would have had 25 easily. I think he is finding other ways to lead the team with defense and rebounding which I love but I just think that if he wants to be number one in the draft, he'll need to show he can play hard for an ENTIRE game. True super stars like Lebron and Kobe guard the other teams best player, score all the points and NEVER leave the game. Everything is there with Andrew except the motor at this point. It's still way early but I just hope he understands that he is no where near his ceiling and is playing no where near as hard as he'll have to play later down the road.

If Bill gets him to understand this, KU gets another national title.

Mike Riches 7 years, 3 months ago

Great article! I'm so glad you focused on how Wiggins' athleticism benefits this team in so many more ways than scoring, offensive boards and defense being a couple great examples. I would love to see Wiggins guard Marcus Smart later this year...

An 18-year-old with this much poise and humility, to go along with his freakishly amazing talent, is such a rare treasure! This is going to be a fun year!

Tom Keegan 7 years, 3 months ago

Wiggins guarding Marcus Smart. Interesting. I've always pictured Wayne Selden on him, but if that doesn't work, Wiggins makes sense.

Colby Hebert 7 years, 3 months ago

No slight to Wiggins I love him, he may be the best player KU has had in my lifetime. but Embiid is the one who has really caught my eye watching the first sliver of the season. In basketball years he is barely a junior in high school and not just a freshman as we know it. He does things you cannot teach. He moves like a guard. His instincts and passing really amaze me.

Wiggins biggest threat to go number 1 might be a guy wearing the same uniform. If Embiid goes for 10 and 10 every night by the time March rolls around, and the potential with Embiid..... The scouts will see it because they are at the games because of Wiggins. If you look real close Selden is really really good too. A stat stuffer guard like Marcus Smart, they do more than just score, they get steals, rebounds, assists, and are banging inside on the bigs as well.

I would rather do without Wiggins than Embiid on this team.

I think this may be the best team I have seen at KU since I have been following Jayhawk basketball, and by March it may be one of the best teams in the history of college basketball.

A few other surprises, Conner has quick feet. He needs games to be longer or us to have less guards because it is almost unfair he has to sit so much. Even Bill Self admitted to apologizing to him for not playing him much the second half of a game.

Mason can penetrate. He might end up our starting point guard.


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