Images from a day of practices and press conferences prior to the Jayhawks' Friday tipoff against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self talks Eastern Kentucky, the NCAA tournament, Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins on Thursday afternoon at Scottrade Center, site of KU's Friday afternoon game against EKU.
St. Louis — Nobody had more cause for celebration when Kansas University and Wichita State were sent to St. Louis to start this season’s NCAA Tournament than members of the Wiggins family. It became unnecessary for them to decide which son’s team to watch in person. Andrew, a freshman, leads KU in scoring. Nick, a senior, is seventh man for the Shockers.
Andrew and Nick were able to spend a little time together Thursday outside the Wichita State locker room.
“Here’s what I can tell you about those guys,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. “They really love each other. They are like best friends.”
A few other Shockers stopped to say hello to KU’s Wiggins, who has made trips to Wichita to see Nick play. Nick has been to Lawrence to watch Andrew.
When somebody asked Andrew if he thought Kansas fans in Scottrade Center would be cheering for the Shockers, he didn’t pretend to be a mind-reader.
“I’m going to root for them regardless,” he said. “I want them to go as far as possible. That’s my brother’s team. I want them to keep winning.”
Nick expressed the same sentiment and even allowed himself to look down the road, all the way to the final exit ramp. The only way the schools could meet in this tournament would be to play in the national-title game.
“That would be amazing, something the world would not want to miss,” Nick said. “It would definitely make Canada proud.”
Then and only then would the brothers put their love aside and treat each other as enemies. Might a little trash talk even flow back and forth?
“Definitely,” Nick said. “There’s always trash talk. There’s trash talk when we play video games, so I know there’ll be trash talk when we’re out on the floor. It wouldn’t be him as my little brother. I’d look at him as being a Jayhawk until the final buzzer sounded, and then we’d speak our words to each other. It would be a great atmosphere.”
Mitchell Wiggins Jr., a junior, was on the other side of the state and competed in the NAIA Div. II national-championship tournament for Southeastern University of Lakeland, Fla.
“Me and Mitchell used to beat up on him,” Nick said of Andrew. “We always played rough. You never want to let your younger brother beat you. You know how that goes, man.”
Nick was asked: What do you do better than your brother?
“I communicate better sometimes,” Nick said. “Sometimes he’s kind of shy. That’s just him. He’s just a humble kid. He’s not very outspoken, but the few words he says, I feel like he gets his point across.”
Andrew said that he considers Nick’s two greatest assets as a basketball player to be confidence, and “he’s a great shooter.” Nick’s three-point percentage has slipped from 41 percent a year ago to 24 percent this season, but Marshall said the defensive improvements he has made have been so significant “it’s about a wash.”
Nick’s view of his brother’s strengths are pretty much the same as everyone else’s.
Those Andrew Wiggins plays that make you wonder if you really saw what you just saw or whether he has an identical twin brother who rebounded his miss on the other side of the lane, even Nick shakes his head at them.
“His second jump is something that I’ve never seen before,” Nick said. “… When he was at Huntington Prep, I’d watch games online when I could. I’d see him miss a shot, and he’s the first one back up, ready to dunk it in. It’s amazing to see. Very athletic. Very bouncy. I’ve heard people say he’s like a deer when he runs the floor because he’s so fast, his legs are so long. Just an amazing athlete.”
And still a teenager, a younger brother to an older brother who at some level forever will be protective of him.
“To be as young as he is to get all the publicity and media attention, I feel like he handles it very well,” Nick said. “My family just tries to support him, tell him not to read all the articles. That stuff could either pick you up real high or bring you down real low. If you have a bad game, you’re the worst player. If you have a good game, you’re the next Michael Jordan. It’s all up-and-down stuff. We just tell him not to focus on that.”
Andrew described Nick as, “a great person, cool to be around, down-to-earth, funny.”
Nick said he feels no jealousy toward his younger, more famous brother, and didn’t seem to be in any hurry to stop talking about him.
“I’m very happy for him,” Nick said. “I’m very proud of everything he’s accomplished and is going accomplish in the near future. He’s just a great kid. How could you be mad at that?”