Andrew Wiggins, arguably the most highly touted basketball prospect since LeBron James, will write the next chapter of his lauded career as a member of Bill Self's Kansas Jayhawks.
But while the high school hype machine pegged both players as being a cut above the competition, their respective cuts derive from two starkly different cloths.
June 15, Toronto's one-man aerial assault arrived in Lawrence. In less than a week, he found himself in the eye of a media blitz.
Wiggins' scouting report reveals why—both on and off the court—Kansas' incoming megastar is not the next LeBron James, but simply the first Andrew Wiggins.
The scintillating standout's father, Mitchell, is a former NBA player. Meanwhile, his mother, Marita, is a two-time Olympic silver medalist.
Some athletes simply hit the proverbial DNA jackpot.
Wiggins, on the other hand, looks like he was delivered by "Dr. J" before diving into an Olympic-sized gene pool and dunking the athletic Powerball into a floatable hoop from his mother's baby shower.
His upside is as lengthy as that run-on sentence.
Wiggins' vertical leap doubles as personified athleticism. Exhibit A:
Kansas' incoming freshman routinely springs over opponents of varying height—a byproduct of his 44-inch vertical leap.
A sideline view truly depicts Wiggins' rarefied air.
The above posterization was so intense that the baseline official reacted like a spooked gazelle.
Wiggins doesn't require an airstrip for takeoff, either. He boasts one of the quickest second jumps in recent memory, which often results in the star logging his own putbacks.
However, the small forward's distinct talent isn't confined to the offensive end of the floor. Wiggins attempts to compensate for relatively average strength with his leaping ability, which serves as a defensive crutch when players post him up in the low block.
On the ball, he's a much more effective defender when his player faces the basket.
Julius Randle (No. 30)—Scout's No. 2 overall recruit—and his teammate discovered that firsthand.
Whether through his sneaker-screeching acceleration, ankle-breaking agility or patented spin move, Wiggins' quickness regularly jumps out on film.
One of the constant criticisms of Ben McLemore's game is that he struggles to create his own shot. He's a sniping spot-up shooter and a revered finisher when fed the ball while on the move. But his offensive prowess is subdued when his defender is squared and set.
Wiggins' skill set isn't nearly as deficient in the aforementioned area. His first step often buys him leeway when driving to the basket.
A few subtle tweaks will help Wiggins refine his stroke, which will be necessary before he evolves into a prominent perimeter threat. But he can drain threes with pressure in his face, so his range demands respect.
Only a handful of prospects can drill a three-point buzzer-beater while fading away in the corner.
Wiggins' intangibles score high marks on and off the court; he displays all the tell-tale signs of a coachable leader.
One word is continually linked to the phenom: "refreshing."
He went against the grain and announced his anxiously awaited college decision amongst a close-knit circle of friends and family—no hats or national media.
Two weeks later, he jotted a thank-you letter to the Huntington Prep community, including everyone from the coaches to the janitors.
Outside of the gym, he seems every bit as bright as the spotlight currently cast upon him—he doesn't seek it, but he doesn't sweat under it, either. Ask Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel, who directly questioned Wiggins' drive, claiming, "Andrew Wiggins' work ethic and motor have yet to catch up to his athleticism and raw ability."
Later that night, Gatorade's National Player of the Year remained relatively mum on the issue, but his 57-point effort spoke volumes.
His astute awareness translates to the court as well, as he consistently makes plays while avoiding contact.
Areas for Improvement
Wiggins is by no means a bad ball-handler—given his age and size, he's actually somewhat impressive.
However, he's fairly predictable off the dribble. Naturally, Wiggins favors his dominant hand, which results in the baller exploding to his right on the majority of drives.
As seen in the following clip, help is already waiting in the wings before the star makes his move, resulting in an off-balance 20-foot prayer.
In college, Wiggins will headline virtually every opposing coach's to-do list, and those same coaches will bark at their players to force him left.
While he still occasionally dusts opponents when heading left, he's definitely more susceptible to turnovers.
Players wholeheartedly dedicate themselves to their craft with aspirations of becoming the best. Competition doubles as the fuel to their dreams and the nightmares that awaken them.
However, when competition is stripped from the equation and sycophants become consultants, athletes have been known to lose focus.
The Canadian prodigy is no exception.
A fine line separates selflessness and passiveness—at times, No. 22 wanders into the latter territory.
If the opponent stays within striking distance, Wiggins flips an on/off switch in the fourth quarter and cranks his assertiveness to 11.
Obviously, his team becomes far less potent when he regresses to a middleman for feeding it to the post.
It's not uncommon for high schoolers to struggle with free throws. McLemore only drained 65 percent of his foul shots as a senior; he converted 87 percent as a freshman at Kansas.
It's doubtful that Wiggins—who sank 61 percent of his attempts at the charity stripe—accounts for such a drastic jump.
McLemore was a deadlier shooter and benefited from an additional year of practice (due to his first-year ineligibility). But Self's newcomer has the potential to become markedly improved. Considering his affinity for driving, the free-throw line will look like his second home by midseason.
It's impossible to draw a concrete parallel between Wiggins and any NBA superstar—past or present.
His 6'8", 205-pound frame strikes comparisons to that of Tracy McGrady. He springs with a brisk second jump akin to Shawn Marion and flaunts a vicious Eurostep like Dwyane Wade.
But overall, Andrew Wiggins' game is closest to that of Vince Carter.
When Carter's name breaches conversations, fans tend to remember him for one thing: dunking.
Michael Jordan, Julius Erving and Dominique Wilkins were all generational trendsetters. But when it comes to dunking, vintage Vince Carter was the Vincent van Gogh of the art—Kobe Bryant agrees.
Patellar tendinitis (or "jumper's knee") has curtailed his abilities over the years. But when he played for Toronto—coincidentally, Andrew Wiggins' birthplace—and New Jersey, he posterized virtually every big-name center in the league.
In the 2000 Olympics, he smacked gravity and catapulted over the 7'2" Frederic Weis—what many consider to be the greatest in-game dunk in the history of the sport.
However, despite shouldering a monstrous injury bug, Carter has lasted 15 years in the NBA due to his well-rounded game. In the 2000-01 season (his third), Toronto's sky walker averaged 27.6 points per game, 5.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.5 steals. Throughout his career, he has converted 38 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
Both are good—not great—shooters with impressive range and better-than-average ball-handlers for their position. The two are also coachable and regarded as ideal teammates.
However, Wiggins is quicker off the dribble and packs a few more moves in his offensive arsenal.
Before injuries began haunting his career, Carter's potential served as the only height out of reach from his launching pad—Andrew Wiggins' ceiling is one floor up.
This fall, Air Canada: The Sequel will premiere at a sold-out Allen Fieldhouse.
Statistics provided by MaxPreps.com.
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