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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Keegan

Opinion: Andrew Wiggins has the tools, but the hype’s unfair

Kansas guards Andrew Wiggins, left, and Naadir Tharpe laugh on the bench during the second half of an exhibition game on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guards Andrew Wiggins, left, and Naadir Tharpe laugh on the bench during the second half of an exhibition game on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Andrew Wiggins didn’t ask for expectations to soar higher and faster than he does flushing lobs.

His made-for-basketball physical tools played a small part in others selling him as the next Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning, LeBron James, Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, you name a superstar, some magazine will link him to Wiggins. The hyperbole surrounding his game is as much a sign of the times we live in — Madison Avenue meets cyberspace meets college basketball recruiting, where tomorrow forever is better than today because today never is quite perfect.

No teenager could be good enough to justify all the hoopla, so there is no point in measuring him against it. Certainly, all but the mean-spirited hope Wiggins doesn’t feel as if anyone will consider him a failure if he doesn’t earn first-team All-American honors.

Measuring him against the wall with a pencil to mark the spot, he actually appeared a notch above most five-star recruits listed at 6-foot-8. If anything, he looked a bit taller than 6-8 Perry Ellis. With a 7-foot wingspan, the quickest first step in the gym and the most explosive jump, Wiggins has all the parts. Yet, at the moment he amounts to a Double-A phenom working his way toward the big leagues. Nothing wrong with that.

Michael Jordan was Mike Jordan when he released that jumper against Georgetown his freshman season and Michael Jordan once it dropped. Everything, even his first name, changed with the shot that won the national title for North Carolina. What is forgotten is he averaged 13.5 points that year.

Times have changed since 1981. Given how early superstars are ordained, it’s almost surprising Wiggins didn’t earn a No. 1 ranking in the prenatal class of 1995, considering his father played in the NBA and his mother was an Olympic track medalist for Canada.

Rankings equate to empty calories. The only voices Wiggins need heed are the nourishing ones of teammates and coaches.

“He was definitely nervous,” said Naadir Tharpe, who looked so comfortable running the team in Tuesday’s exhibition victory against Pittsburg State. “It’s only right for him to be nervous.”

That doesn’t mean Wiggins doesn’t need to change. He’s 18. Nobody knows it all at 18, other than a know-it-all snot, which from my distant view does not appear to fit Wiggins. (So far, only members of the national media have been granted one-on-one interviews with Wiggins, the first KU player with whom such a policy has been used.)

“We want him to be much more aggressive,” Tharpe said. “He’s kind of laid-back, but that’s also a good thing because he tried to find his teammates and he’s not a selfish dude at all.”

When team-building, it’s easier to turn laid-back into aggressive than selfish into team-first. My guess is Wiggins will exhibit eagerness to please teammates, the strongest of all springboards toward stardom.

Comments

Dave Weroha 5 months, 2 weeks ago

For inquiring minds who want to know, to reliably compare Wiggins against former college elites, the last elite 1-and-done player was Kevin Durant. Through Durant's first 5 games below, his performance can be the measuring stick for Wiggins:

Alcorn State - 26 pts: 8/13 FG, 3/6 3PT, 1/2 FT Chicago State - 25 pts: 6/15 FG, 2/5 3PT, 7/8 FT Michigan State - 23 pts: 7/19 FG, 1/8 3PT, 6/7 FT St. John's - 39 pts: 9/17 FG, 5/6 3PT, 6/6 FT Nicholls - 23 pts: 8/15 FT, 1/4 3PT, 4/4 FT

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Jeffrey Nelson 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Keegan whenever I want to read something that's either pointless or poorly written, you never disappoint. I loved this article.

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Keith Richards 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Get over yourself Keegs. Honestly you are lucky you still are employed at the paper. You are one of the worst sports editors ever, who has succumbed to writing opinion pieces because you are too lazy to do any reporting. Can't wait for the day when you are replaced by one of the guys that actually works hard underneath you.

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Bruce Beckum 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Wow Keeg's. My main takeaway from this piece? You're pissed because you haven't gotten an interview with him yet. I can understand that. All the big national folks and even those pesky Canucks? Must be galling. But while this piece is literally true (almost impossible to live up to the hype this kid was subjected to), the tone of this article is that Wiggins is a failure already. After one exhibition game. Btw, Keeg's, I've been a defender of--if not an apologist for--your work for some time.

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Craig Kristi Alexander 5 months, 3 weeks ago

I'm not concerned at all about Wiggins. Both he and Wayne had nerves like most freshman and acted like it. Once they get in their own groove, this will be a fast team that has lots of highlight reel dunks.

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Ethan Berger 5 months, 3 weeks ago

From the replay I watched yesterday, there is one thing Wiggins posses that we haven't had in a long time. A guard/forward who can create his own shot off the dribble. I wondered what his mid-range game would be like, and I liked what I saw. He has some of the quickest offensive feet that I've seen. His defense needs work, but of course it does, he's 18 and played 1 game. But my goodness he has greatness written on him. He just needs to make sure that he doesn't take off games in the head and if he does, we have the best coach for handling that. O and his vertical is insane.

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Robert Brock 5 months, 3 weeks ago

If you watched his EYBL play, you know what he is capable of doing on the court. Right now, he needs to know how to fit into this program. He will do what it takes.

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Brett McCabe 5 months, 3 weeks ago

I was really curious to see what Wiggins looked like on the court. I was actually impressed. You could see that as the nerves started to subside and his instincts started to take over that the kid can absolutely play. What I really liked was that he could get to the rim, which is a skill that will only get better as the season progresses.

The whole team looked tight and they won by 50. That tells you something about the talent level and the depth - even the Pitt State guys mentioned that the depth was overwhelming.

Yes, it was Pitt State. I didn't expect him to drop 30 simply because, as mentioned above, he's still an 18-year-old kid. There was plenty to like in his game, though.

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Ryan Houston 5 months, 3 weeks ago

I know Wiggins didn't ask for all the hype. That being said, he didn't look like a guy that could step out on a NBA court Tuesday night, and dominate a game. He did score 16 points, but you also have to remember that it was against a division ll team. Which I wouldnt start chalking up anything about his scoring ability yet. I would expect Wiggins to average around 16 points a game. But, we may see some 25 - 30 point games, on a good shooting night. Compared to MacLemore, he wasn't as highly flying and impressive his first game. Even though Mac was a red shirt freshman. Which would bring me to my main point. Wiggins needs another year with Self. He needs to let his body mature a bit. He did show very small glimpses of his potential. He needs to work hard, harder than ever to get NBA ready in just 1 year.

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Joe Ross 5 months, 3 weeks ago

This is a poorly timed article. The conclusion is that the hype is unfair. I know that Coach Self has made that statement (or rather that the comparisons with Wilt and Lebron are unfair), but coach may be trying to alleviate the pressure, which he himself acknowledged can take players out of their game. The hype may be justified, and Wiggins may meet or even surpass expectations. We don't know one way or the other. Why? Because we're one game into a season. Derrick Rose, John Wall, Kevin Durant, and others have all had similar pressure placed on them, and it didn't take any of them long to adjust to the game. At least give Wiggins a chance! It sounds to me like this is a reaction piece to Wiggins' scoring a very quiet 16 and not doing the high-flying act that we expected or saw in other players like McLemore. As he settles in, you may hear of Wiggins dropping 20 a night. Let's get to January at least and discuss whether or not he was over-hyped.

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