Ames, Iowa — Admit it. You’re starting to understand the fuss over Andrew Wiggins.
Even the creative Iowa State student hecklers armed with acidic tongues and strong spirits in Hilton Coliseum conceded as much Monday night as Wiggins covered so much space in the air, moved so quickly on the ground. He stunned them into silence.
They let him have it at the beginning of the night, all right: “Hey, Wiggins. You’re the most overrated basketball player in history.”
Then, just in case he didn’t make himself clear, the wise guy added: “Ever!”
No, he’s not. He’s 18, still figuring it out, still making mistakes. His handle can’t always keep pace with his blurry moves. His three-point touch comes and goes and comes back again. His finger rolls sometimes roll off the front of the rim. In time, he’ll fill out, get so much stronger, tighten his ball-handling, improve his jumper.
Already, he’s the team’s best defender, oh-so-hard to guard and now so tough to keep off the boards.
He’s so far from his ceiling, yet his head was so high above the rest Monday night that he came away with a stunning 19 rebounds to go with 17 points in 38 minutes.
The verbal darts faded during KU’s 77-70 victory against Iowa State because it’s a little more difficult to use the tongue when the jaw has dropped to the floor.
Wiggins entered his electric evening with a career-high of 11 rebounds. He picked up his 12th with 2:52 left in the first half. By halftime, he had achieved his second career double-double. Had he made 2 of 5 three-pointers (instead of one) and mixed in one more board, he would have had a 20-20 night. Even someone with perfect vision couldn’t have seen that coming.
Afterward, Wiggins revealed that one of his daily conversations with his chief basketball adviser helped.
“I had a talk with my father,” Wiggins said. “He was emphasizing rebounding, saying rebounding was the key to winning, so I tried to emphasize that out on the court.”
Rare is the teenager wise enough to know father knows best. Mitchell Wiggins, a former first-round draft pick, played for four NBA teams. Wiggins the son dominating the boards gave KU one more way to get better.
“We’re just practicing hard every day and the chemistry is coming together well,” Wiggins said of KU’s recent improvement. “Before the pieces of the puzzle weren’t really together, but now they’re coming together fluently.”
The pieces of Wiggins’ game are just starting to coalesce. He’s inching closer to a ceiling he won’t reach for years.