The most hyped high school basketball prospect since LeBron James has finally landed.
As first reported by Grant Traylor of The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington, W.Va., all-everything forward Andrew Wiggins is set sign his letter of intent to attend Kansas:
Andrew Wiggins will be attending Kansas— Grant Traylor (@GrantTraylor) May 14, 2013
A 5-star recruit from Canada, Wiggins' decision has been a long time coming. The four schools in competition for the 18-year-old forward—North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas and Florida State—had long been named prior to Tuesday's decision. The ultimate destination, though, remained a mystery for far longer than anyone expected.
Whereas most top prospects committed in April at the latest, the Huntington Prep star waited until the last possible minute to make his decision. May 15 was the last date prospects from the Class of 2013 could sign a letter of intent, with filing for scholarship papers being the less-discussed secondary option.
It's been a process that has infuriated some and captivated others. But more than anything, this prolonged period has given even the most casual fan an opportunity to get to know Wiggins—or at least his public facsimile.
He's the son of Mitchell Wiggins, a former NBA player, and former Olympic silver medalist Marita Payne—both of whom attended Florida State. Once a member of the Class of 2014, Wiggins reclassified in October 2012 and instantly replaced soon-to-be Duke forward Jabari Parker as this year's top player.
We've all read about Wiggins and his enormous talents, and with the way recruiting has become a never-ending string of effusive praise being thrown his way, we know that he has the rare talents to become a basketball superstar.
Yet we're also cognizant that creating hype is easy. Anyone else remember when Harrison Barnes was the next Kobe Bryant or Tracy McGrady? Or when Sebastian Telfair was walking Through the Fire to revolutionize the point guard position?
Well, yeah...sorry about that.
So to say our hype machine regarding top prospects is a little on the fritz is putting it mildly. We too often speak in loud, boisterous hyperbole, casting unrealistic expectations on human beings just celebrating their 18th birthdays.
Is that realistic? Of course not—LeBron James is one of the 10 or 12 greatest players to ever lace up a pair of basketball shoes. To compare someone like Wiggins to someone like James right now is to compare a promising freshman psych major to Sigmund Freud. And that's all without mentioning James and Wiggins have far different skill sets, other than both players' propensity for jaw-dropping dunks.
But those who take the time to watch film of Wiggins will see—possibly for the first time since James—that Kansas has landed a prep star wholly worthy of his prodigious hype.
Standing 6'8" and weighing 195 pounds, Wiggins' long-term position remains in flux. Most have him pegged rightfully as a small forward for now, but he's about the same size as Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson. This isn't a young man who will necessarily fit into a boxed position (though one should expect Bill Self to play him mostly at the 3).
And perhaps that's what makes him most impressive at first glance. At Huntington Prep, Wiggins played all over the floor and showed the ability to guard wing players and power forwards in a pinch. He's a surprisingly strong rebounder, having averaged 11.2 rebounds to go along with his nightly 23.4 points.
Already having mastered using his athleticism to surprise offensive players, Wiggins' ability to block shots from behind opponents is impressive as well.
Admittedly, we're burying the premise here. Wiggins' biggest calling card is his mammoth potential—the type you see only once in a generation. He's already an NBA-level athlete, throwing down in-game dunks that would have won this year's NBA dunk contest.
The athleticism factor is only matched by his underrated shot-making. Wiggins can stretch out beyond the three-point line or slash to the rim with captivating ease, all while doing so efficiently. He's so good, so near complete at this point that CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman says he's further along than Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love were in 2007:
Andrew Wiggins is so talented he would have been the No. 1 player in the loaded Class of 2007 (Rose, Love, Gordon, Blake, Beasley, Mayo).— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanCBS) May 1, 2013
There are a few wrinkles in his game that will need polishing at the next level. He's not nearly a good enough passer yet, and that could lead to some turnovers if opposing teams start doubling him. And while going 23-11 on a nightly basis is definitely noteworthy, some might feel he left something on the table—that perhaps Wiggins isn't ready to dominate all the time, every time.
But these are both minor flaws. Wiggins' passing is acceptable for now, and he'll learn through trial and error against better competition. What's more, the Jayhawks might be hoping that Wiggins hears some criticism about his questionable motor, as the last time someone called him out, he dropped 57 the next game.
This is a kid that has the talent to not only be an All-American, but to also win the National Player of the Year award. In fact, CBS Sports' Gary Parrish is already preparing to give him the preseason distinction:
I'll take the Andrew Wiggins thing a step farther. He should be the preseason National Player of the Year regardless of where he plays.— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) May 1, 2013
I'm not ready to go that far, but it doesn't sound outlandish. This kid is a superstar in the making, a kid who, barring injury, will undoubtedly be the No. 1 pick in next year's NBA draft. There is absolutely no downside to this moment; it's one that should come with unrepentant glee for Jayhawk fans as they watch Wiggins over his one-year stay in college.
So with Wiggins signed, sealed and delivered to Kansas, there's just one question that remains: Is it November yet?
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