Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Column: Wiggins still can, and will, improve

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins puts up a shot prior to tipoff against Oklahoma State on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins puts up a shot prior to tipoff against Oklahoma State on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Andrew Wiggins inspires a wide range of opinions about the way he plays basketball.

Why? So much talent, yet so much room for growth. Advertised so loudly by so many in what amounted to an arms race of superlatives.

Expectations mushroomed when Wiggins was featured by national magazines — ranging in emphasis from sports (Sports Illustrated, ESPN) to fashion (GQ) — newspapers and websites.

He didn’t ask for that, but when coach Bill Self told him the exposure would be good for the program, he obliged.

Anyone disappointed in Wiggins should remember he’s not the one who said he was the greatest thing since the invention of the Reese’s peanut butter cup, which he’s not. Nobody is.

In the aftermath of Monday’s 10-point victory vs. Baylor, Self offered his most unguarded assessment to date of Wiggins.

“I think he’s done well,” Self said. “I think that there’s another step he could take. He leaves me wanting more, so when people say certain things, I can’t be upset they’re saying them because he leaves me wanting more too.”

Self knows there is so much more in that long, 6-foot-8 body that moves so quickly, especially close to the hoop, when it looks as if he’s been shot out of a cannon.

Self’s next words put a road block to any thoughts that by “wanting more,” he solely meant more effort.

“I also think this: He’s also playing on the perimeter, he’s playing guard,” Self said. “He’s never played guard before. There are so many things going into it that have allowed him probably to be not as comfortable as what a lot of people would expect him to be immediately.”

That helps to explain why his handle lacks polish, which is why he doesn’t drive to the hoop as often as someone with his insane quickness should.

His guards skills are young and so too is Wiggins, 18. Physically, he’s on the slender side. Emotionally, he seems so well-grounded, his eyes and memory unpolluted by the sort of experiences others endure that can make them grow up too quickly.

“I think he’s so naive in so many ways,” Self said. “I don’t know that he thinks about that he’s everybody’s Super Bowl when they get a chance to play against him. I don’t know if he feels that. We tell him that, but I don’t know if he feels that yet. ... I do think there’s another step he can take.”

He will, and since Wiggins has such a long stride, when he does take that next step, complaints about the team’s leading scorer and best perimeter defender should fade to an inaudible whisper.


Bernard Gregory 8 years, 10 months ago

Hopefully that Coach Self tells all the guys what he told Frank on his first visit and that is that you will never be the best player that played for Kansas that honor goes to Wilt.This should take some of the pressure off the 5 star players to just be the best that they are.

Jonathan Allison 8 years, 10 months ago

I think that you could be right. With TCU as a tune-up and ISU coming to town next week we could be approaching a corner. If Wiggins can turn the corner soon, then look out world! Another date that I am looking at is Feb. 8 which looks to me like it starts almost a whole new conference.

Robert Brock 8 years, 10 months ago

I attended the KU/TCU game at Daniel-Meyer last year, thinking it was a tune-up.

Jeremy Paul 8 years, 10 months ago

Robert, I was thinking the exact same thing when I read that. Nothing is a tune-up.

Brian Mellor 8 years, 10 months ago

Ha, instead it was Twilight Zone. That was just a weird, weird game.

Suzi Marshall 8 years, 10 months ago

Last years 3 game streak, including the TCU game, should be a warning to this team. I was also at the TCU game last year and will be again this Saturday. Row 25, top row. That is one funky HS gym for a Big 12 program.

Titus Canby 8 years, 10 months ago

I hope coach reminds the kids about last year's TCU game. You can't take anything for granted. I see this as a revenge game.

Brian Mellor 8 years, 10 months ago

Maybe a "setting the universe into order" game. I can't see it as revenge. That would imply that our loss that day had much to do with TCU. It was all on our guys, and their total disjointedness and lack of confidence. They were just flat out spooked, I think, by the OSU loss.

Benz Junque 8 years, 10 months ago

Wiggins is fitting into the KU team concept just fine. In fact, that is probably WHY he isn't lighting it up as much as people hoped for. The kid seems dead set on not taking any bad shots or pressing too hard and making mistakes. He does not take contested jumpers and he doesn't drive to the rim unless a lane is easily there. I don't have a problem with that.

KU has faced a ton of zones, which by nature make driving to the rim more difficult. Add in the fact that the KU bigs have been getting doubled a lot when they get the ball in the post and haven't consistently kicked the ball out of the double very fast and it only makes it harder to get the ball in time to have a driving lane.

Wiggins is playing GREAT defense, folks. He is shutting down whoever he is guarding. This team desperately needed that. I do wish he moved a bit more without the ball to try to help create some openings, but that will come as the rest of the KU team learns to move the ball better and faster when facing various types of defenses. KU in general tends to move the ball side to side more than they move players side to side. He's doing fine. Just needs to keep attacking as soon as he sees the chance.

Ron Prichard 8 years, 10 months ago

"Anybody who bought into the media hype is either naive or stupid." With almost anyone else, I would agree with you, but with Wiggins, I think that is a statement you only make with hindsight. It's easy to act like Smarty McSmarterson and that you knew better than everyone else when you are looking back. However, Wiggins came in with more hype than any incoming KU freshman in history. Everyone believed the hype to a certain extent. Wiggins was supposed to be hands down the best freshman in college basketball in the last several years.

We have seen what Carmelo did at Syracuse. We saw what Beasley did. We know what Durant did. Why couldn't Wiggins do that? To an extent, Wiggins has been great, but there is more there, and Self knows it. You can call me and every other fan on her stupid or naive, but I would bet that if you asked Self where Wiggins would be right now, he would have expected a lot more. The opposite could be said for Embiid. You knew he was going to great, EVENTUALLY. You thought Wiggins was going to be great NOW. When I say you, I mean you, me, and even Self.

So, while I think Wiggins has been good, he hasn't been great. I think he will be great, I just hope it starts later this season and not when he is in the NBA. If you are the one person that anticipated exactly this from Wiggins, congratulations. If you are like the rest of the basketball universe, well, that's not such a bad group of people, so don't call us all idiots.

Benz Junque 8 years, 10 months ago

"We have seen what Carmelo did at Syracuse. We saw what Beasley did. We know what Durant did. Why couldn't Wiggins do that?"

Why couldn't Wiggins do that? Because Kansas is not a one man show. They have capable scorers at every position and stress ball movement for easy shots. All of the players you listed were on teams where the offense was "give the ball to that guy and let him make a play". That's not Kansas basketball and will never be under Self.

Suzi Marshall 8 years, 10 months ago

Keegan...reallly ...."greatest thing since the invention of the Reese’s peanut butter cup" Are you serious? Think of those with alergies to peanut butter and those poor souls that don't like chocolate. Also it does not contain carmel or any kind of nut.

By the way, I'm thinking Wiggins and Embiid should stay another year.

Kye Clark 8 years, 10 months ago

"he's playing guard." Self said.

This is puzzling to me. I understand that often the talent & size of that talent on the roster lends itself to a 3-guard line-up, but if 6-8 Andrew Wiggins isn't playing the small forward, then the position just doesn't exist in Self's offense. Am I missing something there? If he isn't playing the small forward/3 position, why not?

Ron Franklin 8 years, 10 months ago

I think he is playing the three, but I interpreted this when listening to the clip that he played 4/5 prior and has low post skills, not perimeter skills. Self is completely stacked at the 4/5 so to not take minutes from Perry, Wiggins is playing the 3. My interpretation anyway....

Benz Junque 8 years, 10 months ago

It doesn't matter whether you call him a 3 or a 2. Both positions play the same role in this offense. You're either a guard or a forward according to Self. The players in each pool basically interchange amongst themselves according to match up.

Joe Ross 8 years, 10 months ago

Honestly now, Wiggins should stay another year. I am the same person that said that Ben McLemore should definitely go, so I hope that gives me a little street cred in selfless opinion. McLemore had one year on the court, but 2 years in the system. He played that amount of time against great competition like Thomas Robinson, Jeff Withey, and others. And there are all sorts of other intangibles that make some kids ready to make the jump and others not that i wouldn't even have the intelligence to address. Even if Wiggins does perform to expections for the two months remaining in his season, I don't know that his confidence level is ready. Let's face it, Wiggins has off-the-charts potential. But you want that potential to begin to be polished at the college level. Here's what's crazy. Wiggins might even have a scoring average that's higher than McLemore's. I don't know that to be true, but less say that it is. Even in that case, that particular number is NOT what should drive the decision to stay or go. In ALL cases such as these--including Embiid and Selden--one should start by asking how near is the player to his potential (80% is a good number), how ready are they mentally in terms of confidence, how knowledgeable are they in terms of the position they are playing, and is there a financial need? The answer to every one of these questions for all three players comes down to STAYING. Maybe with the exception of Selden and his financial need. Wiggins is, in fact, probably the furthest from his potential than any of the others. This guy has freakish ability to take over games and he's just not there yet. Now people will call me crazy for saying he should stay when he's probably a top 3 pick, and yet Wiggins has pleasantly surprised before with the ability to make a heady choice over the glitz and glamour of Calipari's recruiting machine in choosing Kansas over Kentucky. Part of the problem is that I suppose few people are whispering in his ear the possibility that staying might be good for his game. People are sometimes sacrificed on the altar of others' good intentions. I don't want Wiggins to be a lamb.

He needs to stay.

kellerman411 8 years, 10 months ago

What about Wiggins game would improve if he stayed at Kansas? He already destroys people in isolation. This is what he'll have in the NBA. He is struggling with these college zone defenses which he won't have to face at the next level. Unless he falls out of the projected top ten, there is no reason to stay.

Joe Ross 8 years, 10 months ago

EVERYTHING could improve, Jason! And everyone in the nation who knows anything about basketball agrees. Therefore I wont waste time making the case about room for improvement in his game because it argues for itself. Now if you want to argue the merits of whether or not he is ready as he is, we can debate that.

kellerman411 8 years, 10 months ago

The risk of going too early is that you don't make it in the league or you slip in the draft. Wiggins will be on an NBA roster for a long time, I'm confident of that. So, he's going to have his chance to develop either way. This year, he is very, very young and has a lot of hype behind him. He was almost a legend coming out of high school. If he declares after this season, he'll be a very high draft pick partly because of this hype. However, if he comes back to KU next year, now it's a different ball game. Pressure is on. He will have to show drastic improvement in order to keep his stock from plummeting. After seeing what college zone defenses do to him, I just don't see him making his future brighter by coming back to KU. Trust me, not everyone agrees with you.

Joe Ross 8 years, 10 months ago

I certainly trust that not everyone agrees with me. I alluded to that when I said some would call me crazy. And whether his future is brighter by returning is debatable (obviously you know I think it is, but...); one thing that is NOT is that Wiggins readiness for the NBA would be less of a question this time next year as opposed to now. The money will still be there. He would still matriculate into the league. I find it very difficult to make the argument that the jump is in his best interest right NOW. I do respect differing opinions.

Ryan Shelton 8 years, 10 months ago

I hate to say this, but I agree with Jason's point. He should go after this year if he wants to do what's best for himself. I have a vague memory of Jacque Vaughan quoting Robert Frost at a presser, staying for his senior year and popping his ACL (or something similar.) Vaughan lost out on millions for not striking when the iron was hot. I have a huge deal of respect for Vaughan for wanting to graduate, and he has definitely landed on his feet, but from a personal standpoint, it bit him.

Therefore I suggest a compromise. Wiggins stays at KU for his sophomore year and insures his body for whatever the rookie maximum NBA salary is, like what Matt Leinart did at USC!

Benz Junque 8 years, 10 months ago

Vaughn tore ligaments in his wrist over the summer in a pick up basketball game. He was drafted #27 overall in the next draft. I don't recall him ever being projected much higher than that. I could be wrong, that was a long time ago.

Joe Joseph 8 years, 10 months ago

For some reason, people tend to forget that athletes can continue to develop and hone their skills while in the NBA. Maturation and development don't always end once a player decides to leave college.

That said, I agree that Wiggins would probably benefit from another year in college. Financially, however, I could never advise a kid to turn down millions of dollars.

Joe Ross 8 years, 10 months ago

Jay Bilas argues the potential benefit in Joel Embiid's staying. Why? I mean, Embiid could "...continue to develop and hone (his) skills while in the NBA", lest some of us forget. Here's the issue, Joe. It's more advantageous to get the reps in college against lesser competition so you can nail down the fundamentals, and THEN take your game to the NBA and further develop there. But combining two steps into one--especially when that one large step is in the NBA--is just nuts if your game still needs a lot of work. You say you would never advise a kid to turn down millions of dollars. No one is doing that. The money and the NBA will wait and will continue to be there. Jay Bilas also argued that very point when addressing Embiid and whether or not to make the jump. He's not the Bible, but he speaks truth in that regard.

Benz Junque 8 years, 10 months ago

How many teams play zone defense in the NBA? ZERO. Learning how to play against it in college isn't going to do anything to help him prepare for the NBA.

Embiid's case is completely different. The skills Embiid needs to add (any shot outside of 2 feet) are skills that he NEEDS to playy in the NBA.

Wiggins will be a better NBA player than he is in college. His game is better suited for the NBA type of play. In five years he will be the next Paul George.

Joe Joseph 8 years, 10 months ago

Not sure it's fair to speak in absolutes. Some athletes may benefit more from an extra year in college (Wiggins, Embiid may be of that variety), but others may benefit equally or more from banging with the best in the business on a daily basis. Playing and practicing against the best exposes weaknesses and mandates improvement. That's not always the case in college.

But I'll agree to disagree.

Joe Ross 8 years, 10 months ago

Fair enough. A gentlemen's disagreement! I like it.

Matthew Pyle 8 years, 10 months ago

Joe, I agree. NBA has no silly restrictions on practice, etc.

Kye Clark 8 years, 10 months ago

The thing that I didn't realize is that even though I knew about his reclassification, I had never thought of him in terms of him as supposed to be a high school senior this year. He is so incredibly young! Another year of college and he would still be leaving for the NBA at the same time as college OADs.

The question is though - where does he feel is the best place to develop his game. Remember, he reclassified because he thought another year against high school competition, playing the high school game, would not be beneficial to his development. With the goal of becoming an NBA player, or even further a standout at the NBA level, in mind, where is the best place to develop? I think maybe you were a little dismissive of Jason Keller's point, or at least that it is debatable. To me the difference is does he need to work on things at a fundamental level, or at a competitive level? If the thinking is that he needs to work on fundamentals - ball handling, jump shot mechanics, etc., then the better place to develop is college. But the case can be made that if he needs to be developing his game, specifically the aspects of his game that will be his bread & butter at the next level (taking people in space, or isolation as Jason puts it), then doing that more often against NBA level talent is most likely the best place to develop.

Now there are certainly a myriad of other factors that would eventually determine whether Wiggins develops as he should - playing in the right system, the teammates around him, confidence, etc., but I don't think it's a cut & dried as saying he has to be "polished" at the college level or that he has to ascend to 80% of his potential before he should leave, because it's not a given that college is the best place to get there.

Joe Ross 8 years, 10 months ago

RE: "The question is though - where does he feel is the best place to develop his game."

We agree!

Suzi Marshall 8 years, 10 months ago

I stayed at the Oread during the OSU and BU games and got to spend some time with Mullens and several other scouts. They all said, ALL of these guys (Wiggins, Embiid, Parker etc) should stay another year but if they came out, they would take them and teach them what is needed. Their was alot of agreement that Wiggins and Embiid would get killed the first year or two in the league. Both need to get stronger and work on their Js and handle. A particular thing about Embiid discussed was his reluctance to shoot or take it to the rim when we broke the press. We had several 2 on 1s but only once on the alley opps slam did we take advantage of it.

Erich Hartmann 8 years, 10 months ago

Sick and tired of people overly judging Wiggins. He does lead his team in ppg, for the season. The TV announcer during the KState game (either Fraschilla or Mustyberger) said it best: "...actually Wiggins should still be in high school...he reclassified because he was way ahead academically, and it was an option for him to move up a year..." So we are busy wanting more, more, more from a kid who should still be in high school (chronologically + who knows mentally), while he is already taking it to grown men upperclassmen at the college level as best as he can.

So, we are busy judging a kid who has maybe as much potential (at a different position) as Embiid. McLemore was great, but he spent a year in Selfball, and our first view of BMac was in his 2nd year of college. I'd like to compare Wiggins' 2nd year with BMac, because right now it is an imperfect comparison. Physical age and physical + mental maturity (about all things basketball & mindset on-court) are things that take time. Look at MickeyD Perry Ellis last year, and he is as bright as they come, yet it took him time to assimilate what's needed at the college level. Give Wiggins a break, and try to enjoy his last 2.5mos in a Jayhawk uniform. I support him and his family no matter what. Great kid+family & at a great program. Give him time. Let him have some college fun.

Joe Ross 8 years, 10 months ago

I actually agree with most of what you say. Surprise!

Erich Hartmann 8 years, 10 months ago

Regarding Selden + Embiid + Wiggins as a group (along with Mason), I think Self is showing he can integrate frosh VERY well. There will be up/down games for each because simply they are frosh!!. Try to enjoy this run, folks. It will be over before yall blink...

Yolanda Gay 8 years, 10 months ago

Wiggins needs several years of improvement. He's not strong enough to take it to the basket with authority. When he dribbles, he loses the ball. He needs a mid-range jumper. He can't rely on open 3 pointers and put backs.

I wonder why Self plays kids out of position. I know his emphasis is what's best for KU; but if the purpose is to get them ready for the next level, why not play them where they will be playing in the NBA?

If Wiggins does goes to the NBA, he'll be in the D-league or sitting on the bench getting mob up minutes. Like someone said earlier, if the money is there and he wants to go, that's fine. It should be his choice.

Ron Franklin 8 years, 10 months ago

Because the purpose isn't to get them to the NBA. The purpose is to win, because that's what Self does: Wins.

Benz Junque 8 years, 10 months ago

Wiggins will not be in the D-League or getting mop up minutes if he goes to the NBA next year. Come on. The teams likely drafting the Top 5 all SUCK.

1) Milwaukee 7-33: Current starter at SF: Ersan Ilyasova at SG: Gainnis Antetokounmpo. They are both terrible. Wiggins would start Day One. 2) Orlando 11-31: they don't ned a SG having drafted Oladipo last year. They would take Parker or Smart or Embiid before Wiggins I think 3) Philadelphia 13-28: Have James Anderson from Okie State at SF/SG: Wiggins would start over him in a heartbeat. 4) Utah: Wiggins would have to "beat out" 33 year old Richard Jefferson to be a starter at the 2/3 spot. Jefferson would be long gone.

Ron Prichard 8 years, 10 months ago

"He needs a mid-range jumper."

Other than his ability to transition and his natural physical abilities, that is currently the best part of his game. I don't think I have seen him miss any mid range shots this year. Threes, yes. Layups/dribble drives, yes. Mid range jumpers? No. Remember THE shot against Duke?

Benz Junque 8 years, 10 months ago

LeBron James couldn't shoot a reliable jumper until about two years ago. I think he was OK.

Erich Hartmann 8 years, 10 months ago

Finishing order of BigXII (projected), fun intended:

Jayhoax, ChokieState, Choklahoma, KSuck, IoWeakState, Tayhoss, TubbyTekkies, Faylor, WhoVA, TCwho.

Ron Prichard 8 years, 10 months ago

“I think he’s done well,” Self said. “I think that there’s another step he could take. He leaves me wanting more, so when people say certain things, I can’t be upset they’re saying them because he leaves me wanting more too.”

Self is so unbelievably smart and good at what he does it is just amazing. He knows Wiggins has been good. He is KU's best lock down defender, he has all the physical talent in the world, he has shown flashes of greatness. However, Self doesn't want Wiggins to score 17 with a stat line of 1-5 from three and 12 free throws. Self wants 17 points with 2-3 from three, 3 free throws, and 4 dunks/short jumpers. Finish at the rim. Be strong. Be assertive.

Self knows that is the Wiggins that is lurking just under the surface but just hasn't shown himself consistently. Rarely this year has Self made any public comments that could be even seen as slightly critical of Wiggins. He has pumped him up again and again. I am sure in practice he is as hard on him as anyone, but not publicly. But I think Self senses it is time for Wiggins to take that next step and he is turning up the pressure--ever so gently--to try and get a response.

I may be in the minority, but I see so much more in these comments from Self than just an answer to a reporter's question. He is a master at motivating his team and getting the best out of each player. At different times, he has worked on Selden, Greene, Tharpe, Ellis (last year), and now Wiggins. I think you will see major improvement in the next few games.

How scary will KU be then? I feel like Peter Griffin when he laughs like he thinks he's the only one in on the joke and he just can't wait to see the reaction.

Kye Clark 8 years, 10 months ago

I don't think Self minds Wiggins getting his points at the free throw line. That, in and of itself, indicates he is being aggressive and has probably attacked the rim a few times. The only thing that I think would be better is making some of the shots "and 1"

Benz Junque 8 years, 10 months ago

MJ got the 50/50 calls that Wiggins isn't getting right now. I have seen dozens of drives to the rim where Wiggins had the ball taken that would have been called fouls if it was Jordan.

Suzi Marshall 8 years, 10 months ago

I lived in Chicago during those years and was a hard core MJ/Bulls fan. in addition to all the 50/50 calls, he got most of the 1/99 calls as well. Wiggins hasn't gotten anyting and the resulting turnovers has probably done alot to discourage him from driving the ball more.

Caleb Longbine 8 years, 10 months ago

I think they should let these guys go to the nba after 1 year but the nba should withhold big millon dollar contracts for these 1st round draft picks until a guy is playing at least 10 min a game on a roster. im tired of seeing guys like xavier henry dispear for 3 years before he really starts showing up in the nba. the nba isnt for development thats when its show up or get out.

Benz Junque 8 years, 10 months ago

The NBA needs to get the OAD rule bumped out to three years so that these kids can get their games and their bodies better developed so they are ready to play right away in the NBA. The additional rigors of the NBA schedule broke Henry's body down and his game was not nearly developed enough to contribute at the NBA level.

These kids would be better off in the long run staying and developing. If they aren't players such as Rose, Durant, Griffin who are going to be All Styar caliber players withing their first 2-3 years then they should stay in school. These guys coming out early could develop their games, impact the NBA right away and be ready to sign a BIG contract when their rookie contracts end.

It's not the rookie contract that is the big money, it's the one AFTER their rookie contract where you can get up into those max dollar ranges.

Look at Embiid. He is the big, hot name right now but he isn't even close to ready to be an NBA player. He has ZERO game away from the rim. Outside of the fluky 3 pointer he hit, has he made a single jumper? If he jumped to the NBA right now, I do not see him even getting starters mionutes for a few years. The next thing you know you are at the end of your rookie contract and you are leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table because you haven't been able to show anything yet.

He would be very wise to take an additional year and start preparing himself for life as an NBA player. Not just on the court but off the court. This year has been all about learning the basics; next year would be a more focused NBA prep year. He doesn't ahve a drivers license; he has no clue about proper nutrition, his game has major holes in it. there are a lot of things to add before he is ready to take this all on his own shoulders.

Caleb Longbine 8 years, 10 months ago

yeah if im thinking right joel has knocked down a 3 from the top of the key and like 2 shots from the circle this year but thats it away from the rim. if we got him and perry both consistently about to step out and be just as dangerous from 17 ft as they are 3 that will make us really hard to stop. that would also do away with the zone which wiggins struggles to play over.

Mike Barnhart 8 years, 10 months ago

In 2006 Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer all skipped the NBA draft and returned to Florida to DEFEND their national title. Horford and Noah's parents were former athletes with money in the bank.

I think Embiid and Wiggins have similar family situations to Noah and Horford... just saying!

Benz Junque 8 years, 10 months ago

Wiggins isn't coming back. I have a gut feeling that Embiid might, though.

Ty Mar 8 years, 10 months ago

Wiggins is doing great for being forced to play out of his position. Self's teams are not designed for outstanding talent like Wiggins! Like some have said above, the small forward position seemingly does not exist in Self ball. KU ball under Bill Self is respectable but you're not going to see the OAD highlights you see on youtube or from the days of Julian Wright, it's going to be pass pass pass, shoot, rebound, pass pass pass pass, hook shot and a dunk in transition every so often.

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