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Friday, February 28, 2014

Keegan

Column: Andrew Wiggins the right choice for Big 12 Player of the Year

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins slaps hands with teammate Joel Embiid after Embiid's dunk against Texas during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is forward Perry Ellis.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins slaps hands with teammate Joel Embiid after Embiid's dunk against Texas during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is forward Perry Ellis.

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Liars figure. Figures lie. Sheer numbers don’t tell the story in reaching the right conclusion as to Big 12 Player of the Year.

“With three games left, it’s starting to get down to it, but I do think everybody should refrain from drawing any conclusions on what they think until the season’s over,” Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self said Thursday. “There are still a lot of things that can happen between now and then that could tip the scales one way or another.”

Nah.

Even with 17 percent of the Big 12 season remaining it’s difficult to imagine anything happening that could prevent Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins from winning the honor.

Defensively, he routinely holds his man well under his scoring average. It’s not uncommon for him to ask onto the other team’s hot shooter in mid-game so that he can shut him down.

Offensively, if he looked to score as much when a game already has been won as he does when one is on the line, he would have no problem leading the Big 12 in scoring.

As it is, he’s the leading scorer on the team that has a three-game lead on the pack with three games remaining.

“He’s had the best year on our team to this point,” Self said. “He’s been the most consistent and best performer on our team. That’s pretty good when you really don’t have upperclassmen to teach you how to do it and you have all this expectation and hype. At least from the outside looking in, to me it looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders to start.”

He hasn’t looked that way in a long time. Wiggins has shrunk his world and the expectations of others live in worlds outside his. He has improved by becoming more aggressive, by realizing that when he drives to the hoop, one of three things will happen and two of them are good. On the positive side, either he’ll score on a dunk or layup or he’ll get fouled. The third thing that can and does happen is he’ll be flying too fast and will either turn it over or take off one dribble too soon and miss the shot.

Such a quick first step and such a long, quick stride leave defenders in panic mode and they foul. He shoots .759 from the line, so that and the fact he forces teams into the bonus so early combine to make that result almost as productive as a basket.

“He’s handled it exactly the way he should have handled it based on who he is,” Self said of the hoopla. “He’s been really, really good. He’s been himself. He hasn’t tried to be something he’s not. And he’s not bought into what everybody else is saying about him.”

Teammate Joel Embiid, West Virginia’s Juwan Staten, Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane of Iowa State all have had terrific seasons. Kansas is 3-0 against WVU and ISU.

Embiid, like Wiggins has a huge positive impact on his team at both ends, but Wiggins has been a slightly more consistent force.

“No disrespect to Jo, but it’s a lot easier when there’s less pressure,” Self said. “Now, Jo feels the pressure Andrew’s been feeling this whole time. I think Andrew’s done really well.”

Wiggins is extremely competitive and drives himself to another level when a game is on the line or when someone has insulted him, which can be lost on those who focus on his easy-going personality and quiet body language.

“Every day he may be the most polite kid we’ve ever had here,” Self said. “He is so nice. And he’s nice to everybody. Sometimes you might question, ‘We don’t want him to be nice. Nice is OK, except for two-and-a-half hours a day.’ That’s not it. I think sometimes the way we see him in certain situations it looks like maybe he’s disinterested at times. Maybe he’s coasting, or what somebody else says should fire him up verbally when he talks to the media. None of that stuff affects him.”

It’s somewhat surprising, considering how young he is and how much room he has left to physically develop, that Wiggins is this good already. How well he has blocked out the ridiculous superlatives said of him leading into the season is less surprising. Nothing about the way he handled his signing announcement screamed self-important. Quite the opposite.

Before the season, Marcus Smart made sarcastic remarks about all the hosannas sent the way of Wiggins before he had played a college basketball game. Wiggins never threw a verbal counter-punch.

“He just plays,” Self said. “He doesn’t worry about defending himself. He doesn’t worry about talking about anybody else. He doesn’t do anything except, ‘Hey, let’s just go play.’ But I know it registers. And I know those things are used to motivate him.”

Such motivation almost always works for Wiggins. Almost always. When he had a chance to make Smart pay for his comments, Wiggins scored a season-low three points against the Cowboys in a two-point victory in Allen Fieldhouse. The rematch is Saturday in Stillwater. My guess is Wiggins will score more than three points.

Comments

Jonny Swift 4 years, 11 months ago

I agree 100% with this article. Maybe for the first time ever on one of Keegan's articles

John Randall 4 years, 11 months ago

Ridiculous talent, even better attitude. Rare, very rare combination.

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 11 months ago

The game, ESPN Game Day, this Saturday in Stillwater will be HUGE for OSU. The cowboys have managed to put themselves on the bubble and are in a fight for their NCAA Tournament's life. They will have a jacked sold out crowd. Kansas, on the other hand, has little to play for other that pride and a great practice chance to improve.

Speaking of practice, I hope the team looks at these next 3 games as hard, high quality practices. Wiggins needs to continue to work on his drives/finishes and release on his J. Embiid needs to work on his 13-15' J from the elbow. Ellis needs to work on getting himself comfortable earlier and his D. Frankamp needs to take the open Js because he his blowing his chance to shine when given the opportunity. As it stands now, Frankamp will probably probably occupy the far end of the bench during the tournament if he doesn't show a bit more. The biggest thing to improve upon, as Self said, is the whold team needs to work on the D and try to consistantly reproduce the UT effort.

Glen Miller 4 years, 11 months ago

Kansas has little to play for?? What about playing for the name across their chest. To anyone who is proud of their school, just that in itself is huge. How about playing for each other and their coach? Unless you've been in a locker room, you probably don't quite understand how much playing on a team with your brothers means to you. Besides, coach Self played at OSU and you know if they beat us he has to hear it.... I would venture to say his players don't like letting that happen. How about the fact that ESPN College Gameday is going to be there and the fact that this game is on prime time where all the lights shine bright? How about that #1 seed that we are chasing that almost assuredly would disappear with another loss. How about clinching the Big 12 title outright if we win this game, regardless of what Texas or Iowa State do? I'm not sure how all of that registers as little on your map. We will be ready, I promise you that. We might not win the game, but it won't be because we just don't care. If you have watched this team and really paid attention as I have this season, you'd understand that these kids don't like to lose. Especially when the whole world is watching.

Ian Emerson 4 years, 11 months ago

It's a fact jack that OSU talked all the crap pre conference and now that their season is a disappointment they I'll be looking to really lay a smack down on us. By beating us they will get Into the tournament. Only problem is although this KU team is young they have a liscence to kill. I see this team coming out to prove a point to every OSU player and fan that they don't deserve a spot in the tourny.

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 11 months ago

I said "other than pride," which is no doubt huge factor playing at Kansas. All the points you make are valid and are rolled up in the pride factor. I know plenty about playing or fighting for your team.

We can all get a chuckle out of Smart's statement that the last game in Lawrence was an OSU "moral victory" ...., which led to a 7 game loosing streak and on the outside of the NCAA Tournament. Benz....no doubt celebrating the Big 12 victory on the OSU floor would be sweet and nice pay back. I'd like to see if Selden or Tharpe can do a backflip on the OSU court!

Glen Miller 4 years, 11 months ago

I guess if you'd like to bottle it all up into one word, then pride could work.... it just makes it sound insignificant and ho hum to our players and I don't think that's the case. It's almost as if you don't think we have anything to play for or anything to gain from this game...... We have much more to gain with a victory than pride.

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 11 months ago

We are not under any sort of desperation situation, like OSU. No doubt, like everyone else, I’d LOVE for us to win it at OSU. I want to see our guys give it their all to win, but we play very conservative and close to the vest. I’d like to see us expand our comfort zone to build confidence, take some risk and more completely use our athleticism and depth. For example, when

       a)   Embiid takes a pass on the high post, take the J to build confidence  he can hit that shot;

        b)  Wiggins likes to drive then pull up for an 6-8’ J.  I’d like to see him take this upcoming OSU pressure situation to both drive all the way to the rim and jam it rather than the stretch finger roll…or work on the release on his 3 rather.   I love his short stop and pop but he’s got that down

       c)   Tharpe…bounce it in the paint, draw the D, then put up some lob dunks or kick out for a 3.  He can force that kind of thing.

       d)   The whole team… press forward on D by taking 
            i..Some risk to get in the passing lanes then get it down court
          ii.   The ball harder to the hoop when we break a press. Far too often, we break the press then wait to run a set O.

No way will ISU or UT win out or the Hawks lose out. Frankly, I don’t see much difference between being a 1 or 4 seed. We need to push our ceiling at get to the UT game level consistently. We can afford to take some Ls, so long as we can get to and hold peak performance. Seriously, can you name a college team that could have beat us playing like the UT performance?

Benz Junque 4 years, 11 months ago

Screw pride, how about the opportunity to hoist the Big 12 trophy in the visitors locker? After the talk and the backflip, it would be very nice for KU to have clinched sole possession of the Big 12 title on Okie State's floor.

Mark Lindrud 4 years, 11 months ago

Nothing to play for? We want the Big 12 Title out right and we need more wins. To beat OSU and win it with no chance to tie is enough. Not to mention we are still fighting for a 1 seed in the tourney. Nothing to play for? We have lots to play for.

I will agree that Frankamp needs to get more consistent with his shot because often times when he is out there the defense leaves him alone because he won't shoot.

Walter Bridges 4 years, 11 months ago

Sorry Mark..if I read your post first I wouldn't have posted.

Walter Bridges 4 years, 11 months ago

Let's not forget KU is still in the hunt for a #1 seed. I don't think it will happen w/7 losses AND clinching the Big 12 outright while all but ending OSU's season would make for a nice reason to celebrate on their home court.

Pride SHOULD be reason enough but there is more than that on tn the line.

Robert Brock 4 years, 11 months ago

The team that is playing for "pride" is Oklahoma State. They will be playing with Hair On Fire and the Hawks had better be careful or they will get run out of Galliger-Iba.

Embiid and Wiggins need to step it up a notch. If not, look for the Cowboys to win by ten or more.

John Randall 4 years, 11 months ago

The Cowboys have shown a tendency to pack it in early when losing badly, but on their home court, with PO(last)Y settled back in, I don't see it happening tomorrow. On the bright side, in every Jayhawk loss we saw them coming back at the end of the game. There is a much better chance of a barnburner going to the wire than either team just letting the other have their way. I think I'll stock up on popcorn and tune this one in.

Tony Bandle 4 years, 11 months ago

Thank God this game will be over soon and I can stop repeating myself:

1] Without Cobbins, the paint is open season for Jo Jo, pound it in there EVERY play.

2] Stop Smart at the head of the key, don't let him penetrate and make him beat you from the outside.

3] Fear The Forte - just the opposite of Smart, stay with him like a coat of paint and force him to drive or pass.

4] if Andrew plays like the last meeting, we lose...if Andrew plays like he has recently, we win..pretty simple formula really.

5] Respect the other guys.. Nash, Williams and Brown are capable of having big games...don't lose them on the court.

Armen Kurdian 4 years, 11 months ago

Just me, I hope he doesn't get it. I really want him and JoJo to stay another year. Yes, they could be top picks in the draft. But please invest another year in yourselves guys. Don't be dominating 75% of the time. Be dominating 100% of the time. Sure, yes, if the whole team comes back next year, we'll finish 38-0 with an average margin of victory of 20 points. But I really want to see you guys get stronger, smarter, and learn under Coach Self. You'll add millions to any contract you ever sign.

Aaron Millsap 4 years, 11 months ago

Keegan on Wiggins: "The third thing that can and does happen is he’ll..take off one dribble too soon and miss the shot."

Yes, I love Wiggs' game but I've been saying this since November! The two long strides from about 18 feet out are a good option to have in the open court or when splitting two defenders, et cetera, but I've been begging my TV all season for him to take one more dribble and finish at the rim on the ascendance of his jump (as opposed to finishing while on the way down). He would have so much more ability to finish through contact if he still had upward momentum at the point of contact. The upward motion has much more force behind it (legs) than the descension, which is powered only by gravity, leaving his trajectory more vulnerable to outside influences (defenders). I'm no scout or basketball savant but this seems obvious to me. I know part of why he does it is it's easier to protect the ball in traffic. To me it's akin to his spin move. It worked great in AAU ball and there's still a time and place for it going forward, but he needs to pick his spots with both maneuvers. I wonder if his trajectory going to the rim is the main reason scouts were seemingly unanimous in raving about the quickness of his second jump...land earlier, back up earlier. It certainly paid off at Texas Tech. That's all I've got for now on Wiggins and want to reiterate that I love his game, just an observation. In a follow up from a previous post, I've been liking what I've seen from an intensity standpoint from Tharpe and Selden on defense in recent games. I still think the scouting report is to attack off the dribble with whomever they're guarding, so that needs to be their focus in preparing for postseason play. Looking forward, I'm not super confident in the outcome Saturday, to say the least. Kansas has reason to be fired up for the game but OSU should have the emotional edge due to gameday, revenge, seeding to avoid KU on Thursday of the Big IXI tourney, and most importantly playing for their NCAA birth. On top of that, 50-50 calls will resoundingly go the home team's way, as is almost always the case with Big IXI officials. I never get responses on the few posts I make. Is this thing on? Do you have to say something clearly idiotic to incite the peanut gallery? Rock chalk fellow fanatics.

Garrett Coleman 4 years, 11 months ago

I don't get a lot of responses either man, justdon't take it personally and keep posting! I def agree with you on the point that he needs to finish he has that upward momentum. I Yell a lot at my tv for these guys not finishing better at the rim especialy Perry Ellis but what can you do? These guys are young and still learning. Rock Chalk!

Otavio Silva 4 years, 11 months ago

After our win against OSU on Sat, our whole cheer leaders squad should do ONE coordinated back flip!

But, wait, after what happened yesterday when New Mexico State vs Utah Valley game end in Fight as Fans Storm Court After Game; maybe we shouldn't! Let's just be classy, and cut the nets (while Self does the back flip :)

Otavio Silva 4 years, 11 months ago

Aaron, do not take personally if people don't respond to your comments. Let it be! Keep Calm, Rock Chalk on, Jayhawks. Go KU!!

Jayhawks, Stay the course to the bigger prizes: outright champions on Sat; then Big 12 tournaments champions in March; and National Champion in April!! ;)

Tony Bandle 4 years, 11 months ago

Do you think the Hawks would actually cut down the nets when they win in Stillwater??!!!

I AM SORRY BUT THAT STRIKES ME AS TOTALLY CLASSLESS!!

If we bitched about Smart back flipping on our court for a whole year, I can only imagine the blowback we would get for such a move.

My apologies to all if I sound old school but cut down the nets in Allen so that the fans can appreciate the moment in person...technically, that's where they clinched the title last Saturday, anyway.

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 11 months ago

NO, NO, NO....that's the way it works. If and when we win the title outright, we cut down nets...anywhere. If it happens on OSU's court, so be it. Maybe Smart will be able to take a moral victory away from the event.

It's such poetic justice. Smart chose OSU over KU, he did a backflip on our court after the OSU win. It is only right to cut down the nets on his court.

Like what Self said, if you don't want the other team to celebrate then don't lose the game. It is the right and traditional thing to do.

Garrett Coleman 4 years, 11 months ago

I completely agree Suzi. If our guys show up and take care of business then they should be allowed to celebrate. Even though we clinched a share on Monday winnign it outright tomorrow will mean more. Also I think Wiggs would love to cut down the nets on Smarts court after not really showing up in the first matchup and Smarts trash talk before the season.

Jack Wilson 4 years, 11 months ago

Just my two cents .. I agree with Oak. Simply out of respect, I would never cut the nets down on another team's court. But it also works for this situation.

The best thing, seriously, is to simply walk off the court like we've been there, done that. Which, of course, would be true. Further, being cool is the best response to any claimed slight by an opponent. It demonstrates a clear aura of superiority. We don't need to celebrate publicly. We just don't need to do anything. We're above it all. That sort of response creates the better mindset heading into the NCAA tourney. We've got much bigger fish to fry. There's just one set of nets worth cutting down.

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 11 months ago

HEM....We'll be attending the game. If we win, I'll post picture of the Hawks cutting down the next for you. Winning the Big 12 title, especially for the 10th straight time is a big deal. Self has mentioned all year long our objective is to cut down nets .... Big 12 and NC.

Jack Wilson 4 years, 11 months ago

Only as long as the Big 12 nets are simply practice for the real thing ...

Rodney Crain 4 years, 11 months ago

You cut down the nets when you win the championship outright. Anywhere. Superiority is demonstrated by doing what you should do when you deserve to do it. Whatever OSU takes from us doing that on their floor is their issue. We take the nets, and the trophy and head back home.

Erich Hartmann 4 years, 11 months ago

After KU cuts down the nets in Stillwater, WWTBPD? (whatwilltboonepickensdo?)

Titus Canby 4 years, 11 months ago

I'm with Oak and HEM. You don't cut down nets on the opponent's court. That's classless. If you were p.o.ed at Smart's flip, imagine someone cutting down the nets on our court. First, let's hope we win, which will be really tough knowing OSU is fighting for their lives. Then, if we do win, let's celebrate in the relative privacy of our locker room, and back in Allen next week. Have some respect for the other team.

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 11 months ago

There must be some sort of compromise. Maybe Self will let the players on the court to cut the nets when everyone clears out. If we win, we have earned the right to cut them down.

Could you imagine how PO'ed Hawk fans would be if a team like Missouri ever won a conference championship in AFH and cut down our nets. Did something like that may have happened late in Ted Owens coaching days with OU or some other school?

Mark Lindrud 4 years, 11 months ago

We don't cut the nets there, classless. Come home, invite the fans and cut them down. Celebrating at home is the right thing to do.

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